Monday, December 29, 2008

Point - Counterpoint, Part 2

The debate in the previous post was continued during a dinner last night that I had with my antagonist, Jack Connelly. As you can see, the discussion continued beyond the dinner.

The Aftermath... My Black Bear Hunting Excursion: [on Route 9 in Boston] went so-so. I think I got the bear in the knee. The bear acted as though it was only a nick. [The rabbit I ordered was good.]

The Bear attributes to me thoughts and feelings I do not have. The Bear seems to want to stay seven steps ahead of me. Says to me: 'Well that's the only logical conclusion of what you just said!'.... - when it's neither 'logical'.. nor 'the only'.

I came to a realization while chewing on my rabbit: The Bear wants me to put all my chips on either Black or Red. i.e. With the Bear, 'playing a number' is a very bad thing. e.g. I should not think that, on the whole, Regan, Bush-I and Clinton were good Presidents and that GeoW & JimmyC were not so good. Instead, I must chose sides.... either I'm a good-guy Dem - or I'm a dirty, no-good, low-down, tax-adverse Republican. [Note: I liked Geo-I... even after he broke his 'read my lips' promise.]

Seemingly, because I refuse to pick a side resolutely, the Bear tags me as "judgmental". I enter a plea of Guilty to the Bear's charge - I am judgmental. I judge our government's actions - case by case - based of what I perceive to be the merits of each action - or lack thereof... without regard to party. I - as most Americans - will continue to do so.

Note to Bear: Re: your earlier comment on 'being mugged by a bureaucrat': Let me harken back to the Greek philosopher who opined: 'Anyone under 25 who is not a liberal has no heart. And, anyone over 25 - who isn't a conservative has no mind.'

Along my judgmental lines, the House, out of which all spending comes from [unless someone held a Constitutional Convention when I was asleep] ... has been in the control of the Dems for a while. As such, BarneyF, whom I've long, long admired, needs to get used to being in responsible charge. And needs to begin governing effectively - and not just complaining/ finger-pointing. [p.s. You, too, Bear - Stop 'apologizing for the Republicans'. I can tell you as many Administrative horror stories from the Clinton days!]

Thanks for the Tom Friedman article..... on the whole, it seems to state the obvious.

p.s. I never remember professing to be a socialist in the 60's or 70's - seems you've been attributing things to me for some time. That said, if you want to put the tag of 'Marxist' on me... then or now, I may agree. There is a serious difference. Karl Marx had a clue - and gave room to capitalism... Lenin, Stalin Mao, et al... who professed 'socialism' did not. [These latter folks being the one's who were not in favor of a secret ballot.... a la President Obama?]

p.p.s I was not referring to the two page 'bail-out' bill/ act, but to the two page application to get the 'do-re-mi' !
[That's what I read... a two page "Application".]

p.p.p.s. Bear, If Congress cannot get a $700B spending bill right.... other than to make it hundreds of pages more.... - what is it you expect they can get right? Hmmm.. maybe it is time for a Constitutional Convention... - or at least a Presidential Line-Item Veto? [If not under President Obama... - then when?] -- Before or After the next Tea Party?


Next topic to juxtapose? -- FDR sounds a bit like Judge Bork & VP Cheney here.
FDR's Court Packing Speech Mar 1937 --


Great dinner last night as always....until that family moved in next door forcing us to moderate our tone.

Let's start with the factual issue. I won't put words in your mouth. Here's your statement verbatim:

Along my judgmental lines, the House, out of which all spending comes from [unless someone held a Constitutional Convention when I was asleep] ... has been in the control of the Dems for a while. As such, BarneyF, whom I've long, long admired, needs to get used to being in responsible charge. And needs to begin governing effectively - and not just complaining/ finger-pointing. [p.s. You, too, Bear - Stop 'apologizing for the Republicans'. I can tell you as many Administrative horror stories from the Clinton days!]
First off, there is no constitutional requirement that all spending comes from the House. Here's the relevant passage from the Constitution (Article 1, Section 7):

Section 7. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.

Spending bills fall under the category of "other Bills." So, neither Barney's Committee on Banking nor the House in general have any unique Constitutional status as to the sequence of legislation on anything other than tax bills. All those bills come out of the Ways and Means Committee.

And the Democrats have been in charge for all of two years, after six years of complete Republican dominance in Washington, with a Republican President who can veto anything they do. I don't think they can be assigned significant responsibility for our current plight.

Secondly, while you may dispute my information on this, I can say without fear of contradiction that, in Washington, Barney Frank is considered one of the most effective and constructive legislators in the U.S. Congress, House or Senate, by practically all close observers of Congress. These include Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, academics, think tankers and the media. These opinions are based upon observations of him chairing committee hearings and markup sessions and negotiating legislation that actually gets enacted, not based on media interviews, during which he can be impatient, arrogant and rude. The fact is that he enjoys the respect, if not always the affection, of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He gets things done. This is a fact, whether you accept it or not.

Here's how he's described in the Almanac of American Politics, the political Bible in Washington, which is edited by Michael Barone, a well known conservative commentator:

“Frank listens to others’ arguments and engages them in his inimitable rapid-fire delivery. In the 2006 Washingtonian poll of staffers, he was voted the brainiest, funniest and most eloquent member of the House. He is admired even by Republicans for his intellectual rigor and honesty; at the same time he is a wily political operator. He does not profess to be a political theoretician, though few in the House exceed him as such.” Almanac of American Politics 2008

More broadly, I've been thinking since dinner about the real source of our differences and here's my theory. While we differ philosophically, of course, our deeper dispute is a forest versus the trees situation. It was telling when I asked you what political leaders you respect and your first answer was specific acts by specific leaders. When pressed, you then identified Reagan and Clinton. But even then you based your judgment on very specific achievements, not on their broader philosophical approach. I imagine you in a forest sitting on your - yes - judgmental perch, declaring that you like that tree, but you don't like that tree and, based on some information you've received, you are disgusted with a tree in the next forest that you've never seen personally.

In my mind, the more important questions are the approaches politicians and parties take to governing, not this particular decision or that performance in a press conference. I will acknowledge that Reagan had some good qualities and would even acknowledge that his handling of the Soviet Union was effective (although I would argue he was most effective in taking yes for an answer from Gorbachev, against the wishes of his more reactionary staff). But the "forest" of the Reagan presidency set us on a path that has led to this moment of crisis. Because government "is not the solution, it's the problem" we have starved our public infrastructure and schools, vastly increased the division of wealth and diminished our ability to compete economically in the 21st century, all on the altar of lower taxes.

One final point, as to Marx, my recollection of his view was that he "gave room to capitalism" only to sow the seeds of its own destruction. Mao, Lenin and Stalin sought to short circuit the process and go to socialism before capitalism ran its course. And FDR saved capitalism by using government authority to smooth the edges of capitalism and thereby prevent this process from leading to its inevitable destruction, as per Marx's forecast.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Point - Counterpoint

The following is an excerpt from a 20 year political debate I have been conducting with a very close friend from my old neighborhood. Actually, the debate has intensified in recent years as he has moved to the right while I have arguably moved to the left. Mainly, we debate for the sake of debating. God forbid we ever find agreement.

Still looking learn what's going on in the confusing world of economics?
Still looking to give Paulsen & Congress a break - because 'they are trying' ?
Still want to 'save Detroit w/o conditions' - to show we care?
Perhaps, wondering a bit about where the 1st 1/3+ of a TRILLION - of our kids money - went?

If the attach'd cartoon wasn't so accurate, it might be funny.
On to more 'effective/ strategic' regulation.

Send in the next Trillion and 1/2.
--> Where do I get in line?

:-)) J

PPS Got a notice from the [a government agency] yesterday. Certified mail. Thick envelope. Took me 20 minutes to read, re-read and then some time to realize that what they were telling me was: what they told me over the phone two weeks ago ---> that they would NOT be freezing our bank account afterall. [A very cold note - w/o apology.... after I spend 2 hours pointing out their mistake. This is becoming a more regular occurrance.]

OOPs! ... Gotta go... It's now past time to fill out another NEW government form.
The newest one in MA - to show what a good employer we are w/ regard to Health Insurance.
It's being done under a threat of many thousands of dollars in penalties and fines.
Instead of once a year... the new thinking is: 'Get 'em to do it once a quarter! Yeah that's the ticket! We can yank in more money, faster that way!"

If you think I'm exaggerating - see the revisions to the reporting requirements of the MA Universal Healthcare law!

PS We are one of the good-good-good guys..... Far above any penalties... etc.
Yet..... here I am.... another bureaucrat's form..... on their time-table.... under threat of retribution...

BILL - HOW & When the heck does this Stop?


I profoundly disagree with you about the attached cartoon. It is not only accurate, but hilariously funny. Thanks for sending.

On to politics. I find it deeply ironic that, in the same message, you complain about the lack of accountability on the bailout. Then move on to complain about all the government forms you have to fill out. How do you think the government imposes accountability? It's by forcing people to report what they are doing. That is usually accomplished through the use of "forms." I'm sure if Congress demanded a raft of reports on the bailout, they would have been criticized for requiring a bunch of bureaucratic crap that would probably have slowed the injection of capital into the system and thereby be blamed for its failure. The fact is, they can't win.

Here's a Tom Friedman column that has something for both of us. I agree with it totally. I would simply go further to say that the conservative, anti-government philosophy that has ruled our politics for the last thirty years has wrecked our country. Because of that philosophy, we haven't invested in the kinds of things that will keep us competitive in the future, i.e. infrastructure, education, research and development, etc. We've been told that the private sector does everything better. And while the private sector has focused on quarterly profits (real and imagined), the country has gone to hell in a hand basket. Unfortunately, until recently, the decline has been too gradually to notice. Now, everything has come home to roost and everyone is noticing. Hope it's not too late.

As to your apparent view that everyone, absolutely everyone, is screwing up, I just think a little humility is in order. This is uncharted territory. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt to people whose motives are pure and hope they combine good motives with the judgment and intelligence to do the right thing most of the time. That's why I glad Barney's in the center of this. And, it's why I continue to believe we that have, in Obama, someone uniquely equipped to handle this situation.

I may be wrong, but I don't presume to have an alternative.


Bill Black

Bill, point-by-point/ high level....

FIRST - [personal matter]

SECOND - Yes, the cartoon is accurate - but it points out 'an on-going sad state of affairs.' Nothing funny about that.

THIRD - $350B given out by Congress to several organizations on the basis a one-time TWO PAGE application - without any need to explain what they did with MY & MY KIDS DOUGH ... because their management failed. And THEN I, despite my doing 'the right thing' - before being told to do so - and succeeding at it.... must now fill out a VERY DETAILED 12 page form quarterly... and at considerable cost.... meaning money taken out of my people's pockets... in the middle of severe recession...

And you find my DISGUST surprising? Wow!

I never said anything about a 'raft of reports'.... that said... perhaps you think the 'little guy' is better equipped to fill out rafts of reports? Under threat of severe penalty? [Did I tell you of [a government agency] swooping in and seizing over $30k of our working capital two years ago... after we complied with every single request they made [600 hundred pages+ at a time] ... multiple times? Yes, we did get our money back.... after nearly two years of dispute.... and after engaging attorneys and accountants, and my time and others in the office. At the cost of a several thousand uncompensated dollars in expense... and nary an apology (save the finger-pointing back-and-forth within [a government agency]).]

You ever hear of the Boston Tea Party?

That little diddy I sent you about having to read and re-read another threatening letter - that actually said 'all is forgiven', is but one little thing from the government... that's going to break the camel's back.

As to your view that people in government 'ought to get the benefit of the doubt'. please start subscribing to a local/ small business newspaper or two. Or for that matter turn on CNN once and a while - of late even they are getting the drift. [and a "DC drift" it is!] Humility? How about some effective, strategic government regulation? Congress putting its head in the sand - even in these tumultuous times - doesn't work for me.... even if Georgey-Porgey is going along.

Look out! I may be hunting Black Bear over dinner :-)


p.s. Sadly, regarding Barney of late.... he still seems to be on the campaign trail. Whether he's on CNN or Fox, every paragraph seems to start with a 'finger-point' across the aisle. Someone needs to tap him on the shoulder and explain that the election is over ... and it's now time to begin governing.... a la President Obama.

p.p.s. Again, I'm becoming more and more impressed w/ Obama [and his wife]. Which I could never say about her highness who said - after she & Bill were in office - 'damn the small under-capitalized, if they go under, they go under ' // -- and later 'I dodged the bullets' - aka -- HillaryC

p.p.s... No one noticed !!! I told you in an earlier email... I noticed Considerable Pressure was being put on banks, at least locally, during their mergers, to make loans they did not want to make.... but made in any case to curry local favor. Was front page of the Boston Globe! --> Tip O'Neill and his friend RR had it right.... 'politics is local'..... DC has got to get this.


You remind me of those Republican congressman (and there are many) who make an exception for their intense opposition to all social spending to support federally funded research on a disease that has struck some member of their family. Their policy preferences are driven by the lens of their own personal experience.

Your understandable outrage at the abuse you've taken from a government agency has apparently overwhelmed your political views. I remember Jack the socialist from the late sixties and early seventies. It's like the old line (paraphrased), "a conservative is a socialist who's been a bureaucrat." And I just want to apologize to you, on behalf of the conservative Republican philosophy under which this agency has operated for the last 8 years, for all the grief you have endured. Actually, if I were a conspiratorialist, I would suggest that the behavior of this agency was the inevitable result of a philosophy of government that is either indifferent or hostile to the idea of competence. The average Republican officeholder would hear your tale of woe, nod sympathetically and say, "See, we told you government is incompetent." A responsible Democratic officeholder would try to fix the problem, dedicated as they are to the belief that government as a force for good in society.

But let's get all this anecdotal stuff out of the way. I hereby stipulate that government agencies misbehave and I oppose any government action that has caused you unfair pain and suffering...and expense. Now, can we get back to arguments based on principles.

As to Barney, a continuing irony. You fully utilize your right of free speech to declare every government action with which you disagree as the result of corruption or stupidity, but you deny Barney the right to criticize Republicans when they are not acting in good faith. I'd like to see the specific quotes that lead you to believe that Barney is acting as if the campaign is still going on. The fact of the matter is that Barney put his career at risk to help a Republican President whom he loathes dig out from an economic mess that this president created. This is no exaggeration. Barney did a poll two weeks before the election that showed his re-election was uncertain because of his leadership on the bailout. That's a fact. He is an outspoken man who calls them as he sees them. His reputation in Washington among responsible Republican legislators is that he is someone who works constructively across the aisle. But, yes, he does issue pointed barbs to make his political points. His most recent famous barb actually annoyed both the outgoing and incoming administrations, i.e. "Mr. Obama overstates the number of presidents we have right now." No, Barney is no Obama. I admire them both. But they are different people with different roles in this crisis. As I've said, I trust Barney's motives and intelligence implicitly and I don't want him to muzzle himself. I want to know what he thinks. I've always found that both educational and entertaining.

And you have to give up the canard that the bailout was based on a two page bill from the Treasury Secretary. Yes, Paulson sent a two page bill, which the Democrats expanded into a 200 page bill that included as many safeguards as were possible in the short, crisis-driven atmosphere in which the bill was passed. You can argue whether those safeguards were sufficient. But you can't argue that they didn't try to impose them.

Bill Black

Real Smart Guys Investment Bank

Check out this presentation that gives the best explanation of the current financial mess that I've seen. Very funny, but very accurate. It's mentioned in the post above.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Magellan Tour

It is always hard to get back into the blog rhythm after you've been away. But, I'm back, blogging from Hong Kong on an interesting trip that will have taken me around the globe in 5 days when I'm done.

I have pictures and videos and which I plan to assemble and post on my 12 hour flight from Hong Kong to Chicago. This post is for the purposes of getting back into the swing of things. I'm getting picked up for the airport in 20 minutes. So, this'll be it for now.

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Opie Endorses Barack

The Andy Griffith Show is one of my all time favorite shows. I love this.

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Barack and his Grandfather

This picture brings a tear to my eye. Damn those Republicans for trying to turn him into some "other."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Western Pennsylvania

This presumably true story appears in the FiveThirtyEight blog. I'm not sure what to think about it. Part of me is horrified, the other, in a strange way, gratified. These are proud racists who don't realize that they are not racists anymore. That's good, isn't it?

So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Kmiec

My new favorite conservative:

Catholicism transcends party. In Catholic terms, neither ticket is perfect. But with right intent, either can be supported by a Catholic in good conscience — always being ready, as St. Peter counseled, to "give an explanation to anyone for the reason for your hope, with gentleness and reverence."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Garrison Keillor on Sarah Palin

What a writer. Here's a sample:

It was dishonest, cynical men who put forward a clueless young woman for national office, hoping to juice up the ticket, hoping she could skate through two months of chaperoned campaigning, but the truth emerges: The lady is talking freely about matters she has never thought about.

Read the whole piece.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Edinburgh Discussion

I would like to relay what was probably the funniest moment of the evening during the discussion in Edinburgh. It was during the question period after the opening remarks.

A questioner asked where to get information beyond the mainstream media if someone wanted to be deeply informed. I explained that I get much good information from blogs and there are blogs on both sides of the aisle that I would recommend.

I said, "My favorite blogger is Andrew Sullivan who is interesting because he's a gay Republican Catholic who is head over heels for Obama."

Sir Christopher leaned into his microphone and said deadpan in a stage whisper, "So to speak..."

The audience erupted and I turned red.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Inside Sarah Palin's Brain

Click on the picture to enlarge it and take the time to follow the whole chart. Hilarious.

Thanks to Aden Renkie.

Edinburgh Discusion of the American Elections

A discussion on the U.S. Presidential debate, hosted by the Fleishman Hillard Edinburgh office, was held last Wednesday evening in the stunning Signet Library in Parliament Square in Edinburgh. It was a lively affair due mostly to Sir Christopher Meyer, former British Ambassador to the United States and a member of the International Advisory Board. His witty observations and telling anecdotes delighted the crowd. I did my part as the American politico, assuring the audience that Fleishman Hillard was completely non-partisan, in case my personal Obama sympathies peeked through.

The panel was chaired by The Right Honorable George Reid, a very proper Scotsman right out of central casting. You can hear him at the beginning of the video. A fascinating man who served in the Scottish National Parliament, among many, many other things.

My favorite question noted that many Americans were unschooled in international affairs, even though the entire world had such heavy stakes in this election. “We feel like we’re on a roller coaster, run by the Americans, and they don’t even know we’re aboard!”

Thank you to Michael Stanton-Geddes, budding cinematographer and currently serving in the FH Brussels office, for the following brief snatches from the event. It’s about 5 minutes long.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Edinburgh Castle

I'm about to hop a plane, so I don't have time to elaborate, but here's a little slide show of my visit to Ediburgh Castle. Details to follow.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Not Like Those Americans!

Conservative Party Leader David Cameron made brief unscheduled remarks to the conference today to comment on the financial situation. Very moderate tone, even statesmanlike. But, twice during the speech he vowed not to be like those Americans with all their partisan wrangling.

There I sat in the audience slumped in my chair with head bowed in shame, an real life example of bad political behavior.


Well, whaddya know? Change is the mantra here, too. Except they have a "plan" for change.

I went to a so-called "fringe" event today where a panel discussed what policies needed to go into a conservative "manifesto" for the next election. Funny how political debates with British accents sound so elevated. Still, the discussion confirmed what we know, which is that the British Conservatives are more like American moderate Republicans. I think our mainstream Republicans would be considered religious kooks over here.

Opus Restaurant

I had a delightful dinner at Opus Restaurant in Birmingham. It was clearly the hot spot for the evening. I was joined by Ben Thornton and Scott Dodsworth from the FH London office. At the next table was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who gave a firey speech a the convention earlier in the day. He mocked Gordon Brown over his economic policies, which are showing the same signs as the banking collapse in the U.S.

The conversation at our table was lively. We concluded that Western civilization is doomed. Time to learn Mandarin.
Posted by Picasa

At The British Conservative Conference

I'm blogging from inside the Annual British Conservative Conference. Conservatives here are very different from American conservatives. The best evidence is that there are booths for the British Humanist Society and the British Secular Society, both commited to advance the cause of non-religious people in England. Such booths at a Republican meeting in the U.S. would probably invite prayer vigils for the souls of the damned individuals working at them.

In fairness, you wouldn't see such booths at a Democratic meeting either. Here in Europe, the Enlightenment goes on, much to the frustration of Pope Benedict.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 29, 2008

Birmingham, England

I have just arrived in Birmingham, England for the Conservative Party Conference. Here's a shot from my hotel, the Radisson. Guess what? They are going through exactly the same financial crisis we are facing, except that here it's the conservatives attacking labour in the same way Democrats are attacking Republicans in the U.S.

My driver here was a big Labour supporter from Nigeria. He had the convention on the radio and we were listening to a speech by the shadow chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, and was shouting at it. "The Tories are heartless!!" he shouted.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Debate Reaction

Here's my quick take on the debate Friday night. It's half of a "red and blue" discussion that I've posted on my company web site. I'll post the other "combatant's" comments when I get them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Obama as Don Corleone

Another reason to love Barack. Asked his favorite movie, he says, "The Godfather." Then proceeds to do a quick imitation of Brando as Vito.

Watch CBS Videos Online

For the record, it wasn't a "caretaker" that came to see the Don, it was an undertaker.

I endorse his other movie picks, as well.

Quote of the Day

Regarding McCain's lies:

Despite having its claim exposed in nearly every media outlet, the McCain campaign continued to assert it anyway, day after day, dozens of times in all. It was as if Bill Clinton had persisted in his claim that he did not have sexual relations with that woman even after the appearance of the semen-stained dress.

Jonathan Chait, New Republic

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lisbon Treaty

This is a little outside the scope of this blog, but I would invite readers to look into events in Europe, specifically Ireland, regarding the Lisbon Treaty. Click here to learn more about it. It's a very consequential treaty that streamline the operations of the European Union. Regular readers of this blog will recall an earlier reference to the treaty from the visit we made to the home of one of the leaders of the "No" coalition.

Ireland's no vote shocked all of Europe and some feared it threatened the future of the EU. I have a good friend, a passionate Irishman, who strongly supports the treaty and was deeply disappointed, and to some degree embarrassed, by the vote.

I offer his pithy status report below:

re Lisbon - they will throw us a few crumbs. Declan and the IRA will declare victory and that they now feel they can support the treaty. We will vote Yes and then get back to being at the centre of Europe again. Just like the economy is now good for Obama, its good here too for Lisbon as we realise we cannot stand alone and that we are no longer as attractive to foreign investors because we are no longer the shining light of Europe - having shot ourselves in the foot ( as the Irish have been inclined to do for hundreds of years )

Kmiec's Account

Here is Douglas Kmiec powerful account of his experience of being denied communion for endorsing Obama. An impressive man. I do not understand how a priest devoted to a Church among whose primary teachings is the virtue of humility can be so arrogant.

Here are his "Catholic" reasons for supporting Obama:

Condemned for announcing to the world that I intended to vote for a man who I thought lived the Beatitudes. A black man; a caring man; a talented man. A man different from my conservative self and yet calling me to find the best of that self. A man who, in so many ways, asks to care for the least advantaged as he seeks the public responsibility to carry with him, as if it was his own burden the plight of the marginalized and unemployed worker, the uninsured, the widowed mother grieving over a son lost in Iraq. Their hurts, far worse than mine. It was wrong to be damned; to be excluded from the grace of the sacrament of the Lord Jesus Christ, and all I could think was the old Tolstoy folk wisdom "God knows the truth, but waits."

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I usually like Dan Balz of the Washington Post. He seems like a straight ahead reporter without the ego of people like Dana Milbank. But he has a line in today's paper that is just shocking. In a piece mostly devoted to the problems that McCain confronts in the election he says:

As in the primaries, he has been reduced to basics, and they have served him well over the past two months. His best hope of winning is to make the campaign a test of character.

Has he not been paying attention? Can he still suggest that McCain possesses the superior "character" in this race? With all the deceit and hypocrisy pouring out of the McCain, how can he possibly run on "character?"

Come on!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lies to Date

Here's a nice encapsulation of McCain's lies. Doesn't include the Palin lies, i.e. the Bridge to Nowhere, earmarks, etc. I expect there'll be an updated version. But it's worth watching all the way through.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Way to Beat McCain

I just thought of a way to beat John McCain. Let's start a whispering campaign that he has an illegitimate black child. Can't miss. Would probably win us Mississippi. Kind of sleazy, but why not? I would be will be consistent with the kind of campaign he's running against Barack Obama and it just might work.

Oh wait....That's been done the people currently running McCain's campaign!

(note that the Globe article cited above was writing by campaign chair, Rick Davis. Wonder how he's getting along with Tucker Eskew?)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Douglas Kmiec - Catholic Obama Supporter

Douglas Kmiec was a familiar legal expert during the Clinton impeachment. He would argue the case in favor of impeachment and, as far as I was concerned, defend the indefensible. I considered him an unprincipled hack who would conjure up sophisticated legal rationales for anything and everything the Republicans chose to do on that and other issues. I frankly didn't know that he was also a prominent Catholic.

Now, I learn he has endorsed Obama and atributes his endorsement to his dedication to Catholic teaching. Of course, that forces me to totally re-evaluate my opinion of him. I now realize he is an honorable scholar.

It's times like these when I have to ask myself, am I the political hack?

Could it be????


Here's his very persuasive answer on the question of abortion in a column by the Times Religion correspondent, Peter Steinfels:

Q. Given those views, why do you support Barack Obama?

A. There is a widespread misconception that overturning Roe is the only way to be pro-life. In fact, overturning Roe simply returns the matter to the states, which in their individual legislative determinations could then be entirely pro-abortion. I doubt that many of our non-legally-trained pro-life friends fully grasp the limited effect of overturning Roe.

Secondly, pundits like to toss about the notion that the future of Roe depends on one vote, the mythical fifth vote to overturn the decision. There are serious problems with this assumption: first, Republicans have failed to achieve reversal in the five previous times they asked the court for it; and second, it is far from certain that only one additional vote is needed to reverse the decision in light of the principles of stare decisis by which a decided case ought not to be disturbed. Only Justices Thomas and Scalia have written and joined dissenting opinions suggesting the appropriateness of overturning Roe.

So given those views, the better question is how could a Catholic not support Barack Obama?

Senator Obama’s articulated concerns with the payment of a living wage, access to health care, stabilizing the market for shelter, special attention to the needs of the disadvantaged and the importance of community are all part of the church’s social justice mission.

Applying this to the issue of abortion, the senator has repeatedly indicated that he is not pro-abortion, that he understands the serious moral question it presents, and, most significantly, that he wants to move us beyond the 35 years of acrimony that have done next to nothing to reduce the unwanted pregnancies that give rise to abortions.

Interestingly, Kmiec has been denied communion by at least one priest for his apostasy. He has become a hero of mine.

Fighting McCain

John McCain loves a good fight. He even loves a bad fight. Is that what we need in the White House? More fighting using other people's blood?

Good column in the Times today by Rachel Kleinfeld. Key quote:

Senator McCain’s temper, renowned in Washington, may occasionally be principled when he is speaking as one of 100 senators, but it’s dangerous in higher office. A man who enjoys fighting as much as John McCain does, who is combative in his personal relations within his own country, that is not a temperament we need in the Oval Office. He wanted Thursday’s speech to be about character — and Americans should pay attention to his. A reckless man is a danger in a volatile world.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I "Heart" Campbell Brown

This is the best interrogation of a McCainiac I've seen on Palin. She's relentless. Josh Marshall called it a "live vivisection"....and it was.


The selection of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP is the most depressing development I've seen in politics in a long, long time. I'm depressed, not as an Obama supporter, but as an American. The fact that this decision by McCain is not seen by every thinking person as a cynical, dangerous and hypocritical move by McCain just makes me very sad. I fear that it is further evidence of our ultimate decline as a country. Democracy reveals both the best and worst in a society. In this time of global crisis, a time that McCain call one of transcendant threat, the fact that the thought of "President Sarah Palin" doesn't terrify every thinking American is deeply, deeply depressing.

I though Richard Cohen got it right:

Probably the most depressing thing about Palin is not her selection but the defense of it. It has produced a parade of GOP spokesmen intent on spiking the needle on a polygraph. Looking right into the camera, they offer statement after statement that they hope the voters will swallow but that history will forget. The sum effect on the diligent news consumer is a feeling of consummate contempt for the intelligence of the American people -- a contempt that will be justified should Palin be the factor that makes McCain a winner in November.

The best example of an outright lie offered by a Republican in defense of Palin is Governor Pawlenty saying on NRP that the fact that she is a woman had nothing to do with her selection.

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's Biden

Note the date and time. I have not received the text message. Reliable sources tell me that Obama will announce my guy, Joe Biden, as his VP pick.
Woo hoo!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Barak at 34

This video almost makes me cry. It's an interview with Barak Obama in 1995 about his book, Dreams of My Father. He's the same then as he is now, sincere, articulate and thoughtful. To think that McCain and his gang of bullies and no-nothings are having success caricaturing him just makes me sad. God help us. We'll get the president we deserve. I'd like to think we deserve Obama, but I'm not sure.

Spiritual Interlude

I supposed, given the purported purpose of this blog, I should occasionally include some spiritual content. This morning, I was listening to a podcast of the NPR program, Speaking of Faith. The guest was theologian Martin Marty. He was asked to name the most influential theologians of the 20th century. His first answer was Reinhold Niebuhr. The program then offered a reading of a quote from Niebuhr with which Marty concluded a speech he gave at the White House in 1998. Here it is:

"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true, or beautiful, or good, makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My New Favorite Quote of the Campaign

In the Libertarian Reason Magazine by David Weigel:

McCain's goading Obama to make this trip stands tall and proud as one of the dumbest blunders of the campaign. He couldn't have helped the Democrat more if he'd challenged him to a slam dunk contest.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Here's the interview that brought me over to the Biden for VP camp. I love his tough-minded approach.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Get over it!

Michael Kinsley takes the Clinton "dead-enders" apart with his usual incisive wit in this week's Time Magazine. Here are the consequences of their pique if it means the Democrats are split and McCain wins:
But there is no easy way these folks can vent their anger at Chris Matthews. So they are taking their revenge on people without health care, women who need abortions, and others who they (if they supported Hillary) must think will be harmed by a Republican victory in the fall. That'll show 'em.
Please, God, don't let us do it again.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

John Templeton

One of my fascinations is the relationship between science and religion. I reject the view that the two approaches to knowledge are incompatible - or even contradictory. Billionaire John Templeton established a foundation to explore these issues. He died last week at age 95. There's a great post on Templeton on a Washington Post blog I just discovered called On Faith. Here's a revealing quote from Templeton. Humility is a truly lost quality in our current culture.

"I grew up as a Presbyterian," he told Business Week in 2005. "Presbyterians thought the Methodists were wrong. Catholics thought all Protestants were wrong. The Jews thought the Christians were wrong. So what I am financing is humility. I want people to realize you shouldn't think you know it all.
I wonder where he is right now?

Friday, July 11, 2008

McCain's Economic Team

Think about the previous post on McCain's management style. Now, factor in this insight from David Corn regarding Phil Gramm's "foot in mouth" moment and imagine the internal turmoil that we could expect in a McCain Administration.

So the joke runs deeper than McCain claiming that a man who literally speaks for him doesn't speak for him. It shows there's policy chaos in McCainland. After all, here's a campaign--led by a candidate who once said he didn't know much about the economy--that has one top economic adviser essentially blaming another top economic adviser for economic woes that the second top economic adviser won't acknowledge. Really makes one yearn for a McCain administration, doesn't it?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

McCain's Management Style

I love this quote in a post about turmoil in the McCain campaign:

As the former McCain advisor puts it, 'McCain's style is, call everyone into a room, say you guys work it out, and then turn off the lights. And then throw in a knife.' The question going forward for Murphy -- or anyone, for that matter, who wants to run the McCain campaign -- seems to be whether he can grab that knife before somebody else does.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Scalia's Hypocrisy

E. J. Dionne is peerless in finding hypocrisy in our current Supreme Court. Here he focuses on the gun rights decision and nails the contradictions in "originalist" Scalia's ruling. Shameless.

But I also hope this decision opens people's eyes to the fact that judicial activism is now a habit of the right, not the left, and that "originalism" is too often a sophisticated cover for ideological decision-making by conservative judges.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


As often happens when I blog while traveling, the trip ended before my blogging ended. So, I'll try to catch up quickly.

After traveling back from Galway, we re-entered the warm bosom of the Saunders household in Dublin on Saturday. John had arranged for us to see Riverdance that evening. He warned us that the best he could get were some "obstructed view" seats. Right. Turns out we were in the Presidential Box, right next to the stage. There was about 15% of the stage that we couldn't see, but the proximity was extraordinary, as you'll see from the following clip. It's a bit long and I had some "buffering issues" when I played it. But gives a good sense of the show.

As it happens, John and Jean Saunders are very close friends with the creators of Riverdance. The producer, Moya Doherty, worked with Jean many years ago and they've remained close. John's contribution to Riverdance was apparently his comment when the idea was presented to him, "Nobody's going to want to set for two hours watching Irish dancing." The rest, as they say, is history.

Here's the clip. The occasion clapping shadows are my wife, Rita, and daughter, Bridget.

Monday, June 30, 2008


This was our destination after crossing the Shannon, the home of Declan Ganley. I didn't mention his name in a previous post out of concerns for his privacy and security. Then Danny got into a discussion with a local florist in which he mentioned that he was staying with the Ganleys and the florist said, "Oh, they have a marvelous home." So, clearly, where they live is no big secret.

Declan made his fortune in the telecommunications business. He bought this home when he was 26 years old. As mentioned below, it was once owned by the singer, Donovan. Declan has gained recent fame through his leadership of the campaign in Ireland that succeeded in persuading the Irish voters to vote no in the recent referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

He's a tremendous host, a brilliant reconteur and an all around great guy. The video below shows the house from the front and back. It also shows our bedroom (which also had Al Gore as a guest), as well as the "snooker room," where the men retired after dinner to discuss politics. Also shown is the indoor pool and both families (except for me) sitting at brunch.

It was a delightful and memorable visit.

Crossing the Shannon River on the Way to Galway

Rita's Relations

Rita's father's people are from County Kerry. We were told that she had relatives in a place called Kilgobnet. No one we spoke to had ever heard of the place. Fortunately, Google had, so we were able to place it generally, near Killorglan, the place where Puck Fair takes place. Rita's father's boat was named Puck Fair in honor of his ancestors.

Unfortunately, most of the people in Killorglin had never heard of Kilgobnet either. We ended up stopping at a private home and got directions that brought us close. We asked about three more people before we found the Kilgobnet Post Office. Here's Rita with the pictures that she'd been sharing with postal employees. They got us close. The last person we talked to turned out to be the next door neighbor of our target. The place she sent us to was a working dairy farm.

We went to the designated house and Rita knocked on the door. The woman who answered was Nora O'Shea and, after a moment of hesitation, greeted us warmly and invited us in.

It was a delightful visit. We had tea and, just as we were about to leave, her son, Cormac, showed up. He runs the farm and was equally gracious.

Here's a video of the great meeting.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

In the Rain

In a previous, out of sequence post, I showed our visit to Torc Falls. Here's a bit of an "out-take" that really gives a sense of the rain as Danny and Bridget exit the frame dejectedly to get under an umbrella.

Ladies View in the Kerry Mountains

The Kerry Mountains

We stayed in a very nice B&B in Ballylicky, County Cork on Wednesday night. Good food, good accomodations. No Internet connection, depite promises on the web site. So, we enjoyed our stay and moved on a day earlier than we had planned. Our next stop was Killarney, which would take is through the mountains of County Kerry. We also made short stops in Kenmare and Skibbereen.

The weather alternated between light and torrential rains. While the weather limited the distance we could see, it did not limit the beauty. In fact, I kind of liked the ethereal mode of the mountains as we drive through Moll's Gap and stopped at Ladies View.

Here we are braving the elements somewhere up in the mountains. That's Danny beneath the hood.

Tomoleague Friary

As we drove along the south coast of Ireland, we came across an old ruin of a 13th Century monastery, Timoleague Friary. It is now reduced to its exterior and interior walls. But it was clearly quite the structure in its day, overlooking the sea and countryside.

Bridget explored a number of "nooks and crannies," even climbing through some very narrow passage ways. She found what appeared to be a dungeon, but was probably just one of the monks' cells. You can see her through the bars.

The grounds are now covered with grave stones, both inside the structure and out. Some are as recent as the 1990's. The propery is now, in effect, a cemetary.

The Kidnapping

In an earlier post about John Saunders' house in Dublin where we are staying, I mentioned that the house was formerly owned by a businessman who was kidnapped by the IRA right outside his home. It was a dramatic event that got enormous news coverage at the time, twenty-five years ago.

As it happens, it was back in the news this week when the Provisional IRA man who was charged with the crime 10 years ago was acquitted of all charges. The Irish Times devoted an entire inside page to multiple stories on the incident. The Times requires a subscription to view the whole story, but here are excerpts:

Former IRA leader freed on Tidey kidnapping charges.
817 words
27 June 2008
Irish Times
(c) 2008, The Irish Times.

COURT REPORT:FORMER IRA leader Brendan McFarlane was yesterday cleared of the kidnap of former supermarket executive Don Tidey almost 25 years ago.

The Special Criminal Court discharged the former IRA leader after an application by his counsel, Hugh Hartnett SC, for a direction of acquittal. This followed a statement by prosecuting counsel Fergal Foley that the State was "offering no further evidence".

Earlier the court had ruled inadmissible an alleged admission by McFarlane to gardaí that he had been at the wood in Co Leitrim where Mr Tidey was held captive for 23 days in 1983.

Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding at the non-jury court with Judge Alison Lindsay and Judge Cormac Dunne, said McFarlane retains the presumption of innocence.

The judge said that the court had heard evidence of "the horrendous kidnapping and physical abuse of Mr Tidey and his son and daughter", which resulted in the killing of a young soldier and an unarmed Garda recruit.

"Although almost a quarter of a century has passed, it is clear . . . from the evidence of Mr Tidey and the attendance in court of the families of the garda and solider that all have suffered greatly," he said.

Here's a description of the actual crime:

Don Tidey would have seen nothing unusual in a uniformed “garda” flagging him to stop at a “Garda roadblock” at the junction of Stocking Lane and Woodtown Way. However, the “gardaí” were in reality members of the Provisional IRA. Tidey tried a frantic reversal when he realised what was happening but to no avail.

A submachine gun was put to his head and he was bundled from his car. Susan and Alistair [his 13 year old daughter and 24 year old son] were pulled from the car by an armed man, also in a garda uniform and thrown by the roadside as the terrorists left with the father. The snatch was over in five minutes and involved five or six men.

In the immediate aftermath of the kidnapping, gardaí concentrated their efforts on the immediate

vicinity but quickly enlarged their search to parts of Kildare, Kerry, Roscommon and Mayo.

For almost all of his abduction, however, it appears that Tidey was held in woods near Ballinamore in Co Leitrim.

On November 27th, a ransom demand for £5 million sterling was telephoned to Associated British Foods offices in London. ABF and the government were totally opposed to paying.

However, the net was closing. From about December 13th in the Ballinamore area, about 1,000 soldiers and some 100 gardaí were manning roadblocks, scouring the countryside and doing house-to-house searches.

At about 2pm on December 16th, Garda recruits were crawling through dense undergrowth in a forest of young pine trees at Deradda Woods. They saw some plastic sheeting in a hollow. It stirred.

They moved back and called for assistance. Gunmen leapt up and began firing.

A hand grenade was thrown. Gardaí and soldiers swarmed forward. The gunmen fled. Don Tidey, his head covered by a balaclava, was freed, physically unharmed. But a young garda and a soldier had given their lives to save him.

Pte Patrick Kelly, a 35-year-old from Moate in Co Westmeath, was shot dead. He left a widow, Cathrina (31) and four young sons.

Gary Sheehan, aged 23, died with him. He was due to graduate from Templemore in 1984. He was the son of Det Garda Jim Sheehan, stationed not far away in Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan.

Gary Sheehan is remembered by each batch of recruits to pass through Training College in Templemore.

The best all-rounder receives the Gary Sheehan Memorial Medal.

In the coverage of he acquittal, there were also many accounts of the way things were in Ireland in 1983 when violence was common and there seemed no light at the end of the tunnel. We, in America, tend to forget the enormity of the change in Ireland. Throughout our trip, when people tell stories of more than ten years ago, there is always a reference to "the troubles," which permeated all of life in Ireland. While Ireland is heading into some rough waters now economically after a long boom, it is a blessing that the country will never go back to the way it was.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Torc Falls

OK, back to our chronological posts. This is our visit to Torc Falls on Wednesday just outside Killarney. The falls are spectacular. As you can see, we visited in a driving rainstorm, so we didn't have to deal with tourist crowds. And, fortunately, the B&B we checked into allowed us to use their clothes dryer. We were soaked to the bone.

Moy Hill

This is a little out of sequence, since I'm still posting from three days ago, but here's where we stayed last night. It's the home of an young Irish telecommunications entrepreneur, whose name I have to leave out for security reasons. He has enemies....seriously. We became friendly through our daughters, who were classmates in grammar school. Their house in Washington off Foxhall Road is the former home of Bishop Fulton Sheen. This is their house in Ireland. They invited us to come visit. A truly spectacular estate, once owned by the 60's rock star, Donovan.

This the main house. Many other building on the 90 acre property. A 2 mile driveway, a lake in front and sheep grazing on the lawn.

Family Connection

Here's Virginia Minihan's confirmation of the family connection between me and Jerry O'Donovan. The supercedes all other speculations on this blog:

We and Jerry O'Donovan have the same great, great grandparents...John O'Regan and ?? (female) (Driscoll) O'Regan . They had 3 girls 1. Mary Regan...our greatgrandmother...who had Margaret (maggie) O'Regan..later Singleton, our grandmother 2, Margaret O'Regan later McCarthy with no family and lived in Rossmore, Ballineen 3. Catherine O'Regan later O'Leary...Brother Richard's grandmother and Jerry O'Donovan's great grandmother. jerry O'Donovan's father, Jon O'Donovan were brothers. Catherine (O'Regan ) married Jeremiah O'Leary. One of their daughters, Catherine, married John O'Donovan who had 5 children, one being broher Richard, and one being John O'Donovan (Jerry's dad).
Glad we cleared that up.

Jerry and Peggy

Here's a video of Jerry and Peggy in their kitchen. It is confirmed that Jerry's great grandmother and my great grandmother were sisters. See next post.

Billy and Dan

Also from central casting, these two American tourists with their mobile devices, visiting Kinsale from Washington, DC.

Willie and John

Here are Willie Corrigan and John Cod, right out of central casting. They are a couple of laddies in Kinsale on holidy from County Whitlow.

Jerry and His Ponies

Here's the corral next to Jerry and Peggy's house with Jerry's ponies. Typically, Bridget was enchanted.

"They're so cute!"

I didn't get their names.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The O'Donovans

Our destination in Cork was the O'Donovans house, Jerry and Peggy. Many members of my family have visited Peggy and Jerry, as they are rumored to be distant relatives. I haven't been able to establish for certain whether the relationship exists, but it has become irrelevant. They are so welcoming and so many have dropped by, that we've stopped obsessing over the relationship. That said, if a relationship exists, it would be that my great grandmother is sister to Jerry's great grandmother. The evidence is that they had the same last name, Regan.

Here's their house. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens, with a fenced in yard on the left for Jerry's three ponies. "Just a hobby," he says. They also have two little terrier dogs. One played Toto in the local production of The Wizard of Oz and would have to be picked up every evening by cab to be ferried to his performance.

The house was full when we arrived with friends and family. And Peggy put out a massive spread of food.

Lots of laughter and catching up on the "family."

We also talked politics. They abhor Bush, so we obviously got on well politically. Ever time it was suggested that they visit us in the states, Jerry would say, in his thick Irish brogue, "After Bush is gone."

The also all voted no on the Lisbon treaty. It was fascinating listening to their reasoning, particularly after hearing the "pro" from most of my colleagues with Fleishman Hillard.

It was a warm vist and we've clearly made friends for life, whether or not they are family.

Driving in Ireland

We departed from Dublin on Tuesday morning in a car so generously offered by John and set off for Cork. One of our true lifesavers on this trip has been the GPS system in John's car. We'd have been literally lost without it. Sometime we were lost with it, but that's a longer story.
Despite all the warnings given to us about narrow Irish country roads, the road from Dublin to Cork is a standard divided highway where you can get up to a good speed. The limit is 100 kilometers per hour, which is 62 miles per hour. Of course, there's also the problem if driving on the left, which takes some getting used to, but not so much on a divided highway.
In any event, at one point, while passing another car and admittedly exceeding the speed limit...a bit, I heard a police siren. Oh God! At that same moment, the car behind me started flashing its lights. While it didn't look like a police car, I assumed it was an unmarked car. So, I began to slow down and look for a place to pull over. As I did so, I was rehearsing my speech to the police officer in my head. "I'm just visiting from the states. My first time driving in Ireland. I'm Boston Irish Catholic. I really hate the British. Etc., etc. etc."
My first inclination was to pull over to the right, but there was no shoulder, of course, since that's the passing lane. The shoulder is on the left. All the while I'm going slower and the car in back is flashing its lights more frantically. Once I got my bearings, I moved into the left lane heading for the correct shoulder. The car in back just zoomed past me, honking his horn as he passed and, I imagine, gesturing toward me.
As it turned out, the siren came from the GPS, which helpfully monitors your speed. The car behind me was flashing his lights to get me to either speed up or get out of the way. So, when I, in fact, slowed down, it apparently enraged him.
So, even among the even-tempered Irish, there is road rage.

Danny's First [legal] Beer

If Danny's follows the path of far too many Irish men, we'll know where it all began. Here he is with our host, John Saunders.

We visited Johnnie Fox's after our first day tour of the countryside outside of Dublin. It's a dusky old pub, established in 1798, full of old framed newspaper pages commemorating great events in Irish history. Sitting at the top of a hill outside of Dublin and fed by a narrow, curvy road, you wonder how its patrons, after many pints, were able to navigate their way home without incident. No doubt many didn't.

And, yes, the Guinness tastes much better in Ireland. Danny said, "Tastes like a milkshake."

Not a good sign.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

We interrupt this program.....

Sadly, I have not been able to find an internet connection that allows me to upload pictures onto the site. I'll keep trying. So, check back if you want to see:

Danny's first legal beer
Bridget imprisoned in Timoleague Friary
The family looking at Torc waterfall in a driving rainstorm
Peggy O'Donovan's massive spread to great the distant cousins

And more...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Merry Ploughboy

We wound up the evening at an Irish pub close to John's house called the Merry Ploughboy. The place was packed, even on a Monday night. The music was fun, with lots of audience participation. Then they brought on the Irish dancers, that were clearly influenced by the Riverdance phenomenon. Very athletic dancing and occasional ethereal mood music.

They also involved the audience in the dancing, even pulling our Bridget on stage for a performance.

Good Germans

Ireland was neutral during World War II. There is no way the people of Ireland could officially join their oppressors, the British, in their squabble with the Germans. Nevertheless, the government was supportive of the Allies. The people of Ireland, however, did show some sympathy for German soldiers, particularly pilots who crashed in the countryside. John took us to a very picturesque little cemetery for German soldiers from both World War I & II.

A Tour of the Countryside

John took is for an auto tour of the countryside. While his home is but 7 miles from Dublin center, we were in rural Ireland within minutes. Wide expanses of bog land and rolling hills. After many miles of climbing ever higher into the Hills, John pulled over to show us the most spectacular private residence I have ever seen or heard of. Looking over a cliff deep into a valley, there stood a magnificent country mansion, fronted by a vast expanse of green lawn leading to a mountain lake. The little specks on the lawn were wild deer grazing. And the sound was of an unseen rushing waterfall. The house is owned by an heir to the Guinness fortune. Unfortunately, it was impossible to capture this view in one picture, so here's three. You make out the mansion just over the grass with the roads leading to it in the first photo. The next picture shows the lawn leading to the lake. And, finally, the view of the whole lake. Nice crib, huh?

The View from Farnham Hill

Pictured is John Saunders, my wife Rita and my daughter Bridget. They are standing on a porch just off John's second floor bedroom. You can see the wrought iron fence opening to the property and just to the left of that, the little patch of white is the empty guardhouse. While the day is overcast and it doesn't show in the photo, you can see the city of Dublin over the top of the tree line. Just beyond the city, you can even see Dublin harbor.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Farnam Hill Revealed

Here's a view of John's home that doesn't nearly do it justice. The inside is spectacular, full of large windows that bathe the interior in light and, of course, green.

At Farnham Hill

Arrived at Farnham Hill, the home of John Saunders, Regional President for Continental Europe for Fleishman Hill. He has a beautiful home, very modern on an expanse of green, as befits its Irish location. I will post a picture once I get past some technical difficulties.

The house was previously owned by a British businessman who was kidnapped by the IRA only steps from the front gate. It turned into an international incident. And, while the businessman was eventually freed, two Irish police officers were killed in the rescue.

As a consequence of this history, there is a guardhouse at the gate and a very large security camera. These now lay dormant, relics of a previously violent time.

John, his wife Jean and his daughter Caroline are the warmest of hosts. They gave us some sustenance and sent us off to bed for a nap to recover from the trip across the ocean.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Off to Dublin in the green in the green...

Heading off to Ireland for our family "graduation celebration." My wife, Rita, Danny (just graduated from high school) and Bridget (just graduated from grammar school) are setting out for our second international family trip.

While I'm 100% Irish descent, I've never been to the Old Sod. I'm struggling with conflicting feelings. On the one I've listened my whole life to stories of Ireland. All the counties and even the towns have names that are very familiar. Ireland is built into both my DNA and my psyche.

On the other hand, I have no idea what to expect. We've had one foreign family trip to Florence, which was magical. On this trip, we will have the benefit of some friends and family who will help guide us along. So, while it does not seem quite the adventure of previous foreign trips, I still feel like we are entering the unknown. I hope to be able to post comments, pictures and even videos throughout the week. So, feel free to check back.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Barack on Fatherhood

The man is amazing. He continues to impress and move me. His sermon on father's yesterday was remarkable.

Here's a passage I really liked:
I say this knowing that I have been an imperfect father – knowing that I have made mistakes and will continue to make more; wishing that I could be home for my girls and my wife more than I am right now. I say this knowing all of these things because even as we are imperfect, even as we face difficult circumstances, there are still certain lessons we must strive to live and learn as fathers – whether we are black or white; rich or poor; from the South Side or the wealthiest suburb.

What impresses me most about him is his humility. But I've struggled to identify that humility, because he's clearly got an ego and he knows how smart he is. But I think I've finally figured out the kind of humility that so impresses me, it's his moral humility. He's always acknowledging his own "imperfections." I believe that's genuine. He knows he's smarter than most people and he knows he is one of the great communicators of our time. But he doesn't believe that makes him a better human being.

Here's the whole speech: