Monday, September 29, 2008

Experience is What Brought Down Wall Street


Experience is What Brought Down Wall Street

The McCain camp seems to have settled on a motif for this campaign. Every chance they get, they lapse into the mantra of how much more "experience" John McCain has over Barack Obama. But don't let them pull the wool over your eyes. While it is true that McCain has been in Washington for over 26 years, that in itself doesn't mean that he's benefitted from experience. The American Heritage Dictionary defines experience as the "Active participation in events or activities, leading to the accumulation of knowledge or skill" (emphasis added). Thus, by definition, there are two components to experience–first, undergoing the experience itself, and thereafter, having the common sense to learn from it. But in John McCain's case, there's compelling evidence that strongly suggests that he hasn't learned a thing.

In 1987 McCain was chin deep in a scandal very similar to the one that is currently playing out on Wall Street. He was one of a group of senators dubbed "The Keating Five" involved in a scandal by the same name. In 1976 Charles Keating moved to Arizona to run the American Continental Corporation. In 1984, shortly after the Reagan era push to deregulate the savings and loan community, Keating bought Lincoln Savings and Loan and began to engage in highly risky investments with the depositors' savings. In 1989 the parent company, which Keating headed, went bankrupt, and it resulted in over 21,000 investors losing their life savings. Most of the investors were elderly, and the loss amounted to about 285 million dollars.

Prior to the collapse of American Continental Corporation, along with Lincoln Savings, some regulators saw the danger inherent in the rush to deregulate, so they push for greater oversight, but congress turned a blind eye to their efforts. Many say that was due to the influence of the Keating Five–Senators John Glenn, Don Riegle, Dennis DeConini, Alan Cranston, and John McCain. After having received over a million dollars from Keating in illegal campaign contributions, gifts, free trips, and other gratuities, they attempted to intervene in an investigation into Keating's activities by the regulators. Later, they were admonished to varying degrees by the senate for attempting to influence regulators on Keating's behalf.

Keating ended up being convicted for fraud, racketeering and conspiracy, for which he received 10 years by the state court, and a 12 year sentence in federal court. After spending four and a half years in prison, his convictions were overturned. But prior to being retried, he pled guilty to a number of felonies in return for a sentence of time served.

Thus, in order for McCain to claim he gained experience, he would have had to learned something from that episode. He should have learned that regulations are necessary to keep man's natural tendency towards greed in check. But it seems that he didn't learn a thing. He's still one of the most adamant proponents of deregulation in the senate. In fact, I suspect that one of the reasons he tried to avoid the debate was that he was running from a report that his campaign chairman, Rick Davis, was being paid fifteen thousand dollars a month by Freddie Mac, right up until last month. So what did McCain learn from his experience, not a thing.

Nevertheless, during the first presidential debate between Senators Obama and McCain, Mc Cain tried to drive the message home that he was more experienced by continually repeating the phrase, "Obama doesn't understand." With respect to the surge, he said that Obama didn't seem to understand the difference between tactics and strategy. But the fact is, it is McCain who doesn't seem to understand the difference.

Sen. McCain continues to strut around reminding anyone who will listen that he was right about the surge, as though the result of the surge was an end in itself. What he doesn't seem to understand is, the surge was just a tactic to create a more peaceful environment in which to allow the Iraqi government the opportunity to pull its act together, not an end in itself. It was a foregone conclusion that if we poured enough troops and equipment into Iraq we could bring down the level of violence, but again, that was only a tactic to allow the Iraqi government to organize to the point that they could take over responsibility for their own security. And since, in addition to the surge, we've been paying the insurgents not to fight us, whether or not that objective has been achieved is not at all clear. So again, it is McCain, not Obama, who has a flimsy grasp on reality. Does McCain's failure to grasp that simple fact constitute what he calls experience?

And with all of his years in Washington, what has he learned about the dangers of placing his own political career above what's in the best interest of the nation? Hasn't he learned anything about the dangers of cronyism during a national emergency? Wasn't he awake during Katrina?

The man is 72 years old, and America is facing several of the most dangerous challenges in our nation's history. Yet, instead of taking the prudent course of seeking out the most qualified running mate he could find in the country, he decided upon political expedience, and chose a woman, based on pure whim, that he not only failed to properly vet, but in fact, had only met once, as a potential vice president of the United States.

Had this been a woman of quality and substance, McCain might have been forgiven for this impulsive act, but Sarah Palin is so obviously unqualified to be vice president that she has to be hidden from the press. She thinks that foreign policy experience entails waving at jets flying overhead just in case Vladimir Putin might be out sightseeing. And just as interesting, she's a woman whose husband is a member of a political party that advocates seceding from the United States. What kind of experience would allow him to perpetrate such a cruel hoax on a trusting nation?

And that's not the only way that Sen. McCain is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. He's built an entire career on his status as a former POW, and he claims to be one of our veteran's most steadfast supporters. But according to many vets, that's simply not the case. In September of 2007, McCain voted against the Webb amendment calling for adequate rest for the troops between deployments. In May of 2006 he voted against an amendment (H.R. 4939, S. Amdt. 3704) that would provide 20 million dollars for veteran healthcare facilities. In April of 2006 McCain was one of only 13 Senators to vote against a $430,000,000 amendment (H.R. 4939, S.Amdt. 3642) for the Department of Veteran Affairs to improve Medical Services for outpatient care and treatment for vets. And in March of 2006 he voted against an amendment (S.Con.Res.83, S.Amdt.3007) to increase veteran's medical funding by 1.5 billion dollars.

And of course, he didn't even show up to vote for the latest veteran's bill that increased veteran's education benefits. According to USA Today, "The Arizona senator opposes the scholarship measure, as does the Pentagon, because it applies to people who serve just three years. He fears that would encourage people to leave the military after only one enlistment even as the U.S. fights two wars and is trying to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps."

It is astounding that McCain would even make such an admission, since the stated rationale suggests that Sen. McCain's philosophy is that we can't afford to improve the standard of living of the poor and middle class, because we need them to fight our wars. If that's the kind of thinking that comes from "experience", maybe we need someone with a little less experience, and a lot more common sense. Such a person just might come up with the radical idea of, maybe, asking the children of the rich to pitch in and help defend the country.

Eric L. Wattree

I take great pride in being the product of adversity, because having simply survived provides me with unassailable credentials.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Red Flag Flies High Over Financial Bailout


A Red Flag Flies High Over Financial Bailout

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out this financial bailout, but the banking community's schemes to rid us of our money have been so convoluted that it's hard to get a handle on whether or not they're telling us the truth about the immediate severity of the problem. But there's one thing that I do have a handle on, the fact that the administration wants to have sole control over the bailout, and that sends a flaming red quilt all the way up my flagpole.

The Bush administration–the very same people who have mismanaged everything they've touch for the past seven and a half years, and who have gouged, corrupted, and claimed to have literally "lost" billions of dollars of taxpayer funds in Iraq–is now asking that we give them full control over the way they spend 700 billion dollars to resolve this financial crisis–and with the warning that even taking the time to think about it is dangerously imprudent.

Section Eight of the Bush bailout plan reads as follows:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Oh, really?

The arrogance of the Bush administration is so absolutely astounding that the only thing that could possibly explain it is if they think the American people are completely stupid–which is quite possible, considering what we've allowed them to get away with in the past–or the administration itself is completely out of touch with reality. Do they really expect us to give a lame-duck president with an approval rating of 19, with three months left in office, a record of never seeing a crony he didn't want to enrich, and only stumbling inadvertently over the truth in the past two terms, 700 billions dollars–and with the stipulation that his discretion is non-reviewable by any agency or court of law? Could they possibly be serious?

Could this be the October surprise? Could it be that the Bush administration sees the writing on the wall, and recognize that their time at the troff is over, so they want to make one last super big score before leaving office?

Consider the fact that with the stipulation that the secretary's authority is "non-reviewable", Paulson has the right to hire and fire. That would allow Bush to put his cronies in place throughout the banking community, and thereby, effectively control our entire financial system. In fact, they might have already started playing politics with the system. If they knew that a possible bailout was in the works, why did they allow Lehman Brothers to go under? Could that have been political? That needs to be investigated.

And while I'm not an attorney, I would also be concerned that Bush could establish an independent agency, and fill it with his cronies, that would be beyond the reach of the next administration–and with the current Supreme Court, he just might prevail with such an arrangement.

So needless to say, section eight of the bailout proposal should be dismissed out of hand. And congress should insist on the American people owning equity, and receiving annual dividends from the gross profits of any structured group that participates in whatever bailout plan that is agreed upon. If the situation is as dire as they say, the banks should be eager to except such an agreement. If they're not, we'll then know that they're crying wolf.

The only way the American people can be sure that we're not being manipulated, and won't be manipulated in the future, is to set a precedent assuring that the financial community pays a stiff price for the assistance that they're requesting.

Therefore, I suggest that the various corporations participating in the bailout should be consolidated into one group. The corporations within the group itself would be responsible for determining, and substantiating, the amount of bailout money the group would require to remain viable. The government will then gain a 50% inactive share of each company participating in the bailout as collateral, to be returned to the company once the public debt has been paid, and every company participating in the bailout will be held individually responsible for the group debt as a whole.

The government would then negotiate an open-ended loan at the prevailing rate, but a rate that would escalate at assigned periods, based on the percentage of the debt remaining at that point. The group would then pay off the debt by setting up a trust fund in which the group must contribute a percentage of their annual gross profits, with the group itself determining a formula for which the various companies would contribute to the fund, based on what percentage of the bailout fund they required to remain solvent.

The government would then establish a formula to determine what percentage of the groups annual gross profits would go into this trust fund. The formula would take the following indices into account in the taxpayer's favor: The prevailing minimum wage, the cost of living, and the level of disparity between the average salary of a middle class worker and the compensation of top tier corporate executives.

This is no time to negotiate. The conservatives have shoved their fiscal philosophy down our throats for years, so now the Democrats should simply say, "Here's what we can do for you–take it or leave it. And beyond that, we're tacking on to any bill we sign, a 20 year mandatory prison sentence for anyone convicted of profiteering from the bailout agreement."

Any bailout plan less than the one above would be socialist in nature, and we can't have that–can we?

Eric L. Wattree

I take great pride in being the product of adversity, because having simply survived provides me with unassailable credentials.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It’s Time for America to Step Up to the Plate


It's Time for America to Step Up to the Plate

So here they come--all the corporate fascists, hat-in-hand, wanting the American taxpayer to bail them out. These, the very same arrogant, and compassionless social terrorists who demonized as "socialist" anyone who even implied that maybe a crumb should be set aside for the poor or middle class. "Deregulate. Let the market work. Free us from the nuisance of social protectionism, and we'll make America great." But now that their greedy excesses have worked against them, all of a sudden socialism doesn't look all that bad. In fact, it looks better with every day that passes--as long as we remember to privatize the profit, and only socialize loss.

Yes--here they come en mass before the great unwashed, the American taxpayer, and without a bit of shame, asking for 700 billion dollars as casually as a kid asking for a candy bar. And beyond that, they say that it is a must that we accommodate them--and immediately!--if we hope to save ourselves. They say that we can't even afford the luxury of thinking about it, because time is of the essence. But while they insists that there's no time to waste, maybe this financial crisis is a blessing in disguise, because it gives the American taxpayer a rare opportunity to leverage his economic clout.

The business community has preached ad nauseam the evils of helping the poor and suffering. They said it was a socialist concept, and un-American! But if it's bad for us, it's certainly just as bad for them. So, maybe the American people should take their advice and handle this matter as capitalists--social capitalist. After all, money is a commodity, so why should the American taxpayer simply hand over 700 billion dollars for free–the banking community certainly doesn't. When the average American is in a financial pinch, the banks don't just give us money, they make us pay for it–dearly. So why shouldn't we?

Maybe we should give them an open-ended loan at the prevailing rate. Then allow them to pay off the loan by setting up a trust fund in which the banking community must contribute a percentage (to be determined) of their annual gross profits (That's right, gross profits–we want ours off the top). We could then use that money to help subsidize social security, universal healthcare, and other programs that benefit the American people. And the beauty of it is, since it's a business transaction, we can both benefit the people, while at the same time, avoid the "evils" socialism. After all, we'll be taking their money in the very best capitalist tradition.

And we must be sure to use our leveraged position to its full advantage. Therefore, as part of the formula that determines how much of their profits must go into this trust fund, we should take into account the minimum wage, the cost of living, and the level of disparity between the average worker and the compensation of top tier corporate executives (after all, if corporations can afford to pay their CEOs exorbitant salaries and benefits, certainly they should be able to contribute more towards their public debt).

And speaking of demagogues, while we're at it, we need to also take another look at the way we compensate our politicians and government officials. One of the primary problems that we have in this nation is that we've allowed politicians to boost their salary and benefits so high that they can no longer identify with the people they represent. So, members of congress, government executives, and judges should be compensated at a rate that is commensurate with the median income of a middle class worker. By tying the compensation and benefits of politicians to middle class Americans, it will not only serve to keep them in touch with the realities of a middle class life, but also give them a vested interest in legislating with an eye towards what's in the best interest of the poor and middle class.

Combined with the above legislation, it will also be necessary to close the revolving door between government and big business. It should be made strictly illegal for any former politician to either be employed by, or gain benefit or assistance of any kind, from any person or corporation who has had business or any "intimate legislative contact" with that politician for a period of seven years.

Admittedly, in our current political environment it would be next to impossible to get legislators to legislate against themselves. But if we truly want change in Washington, we must also change, just to get their attention.

The primary obstacle to changing the political environment in this country is our misplaced loyalty to our own particular representatives. As a result, while most of us are less than happy with the job that congress is doing as a whole, most of us continue to support our own representatives. Therefore, we need to set an objective standard by which we can assess all politicians, including our own. One way of doing that is by pressing our particular party, and congress, to set clearly defined legislative agendas every year. Then we can begin to assess our representatives, strictly, based on how closely they adhere to that agenda.

But in order for that to work, we must use the Internet and aggressive grassroots organizing to educate the public on how important it is to bring this system under control. We've got to stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated, and start to take control of our lives, and the institutions that affect our lives. We've also got to let radio, television, the entertainment industry, and their sponsors know that they're going to have to become more responsive to our needs, rather than trying to feed us a false sense of security. And most importantly, we're going to have to let our politicians know that it's going to take more than a pretty smile and a snappy campaign ad to be elected, or re-elected to office.

Let us hope that this financial crisis serves as a wake-up call for America. After all, it is nothing less than, yet, another Katrina moment, but this time the winds are blowing down Wall Street. Yet again, Bush has been asleep at the switch–and let there be no doubt about it, the American people are in severe peril as a direct result.

Bush has allowed the United States to become weaker than we've ever been in our history. We're in heavy debt to China, and our military readiness has been all but destroyed due to our foolhardy excursion into Iraq. Ret. Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, Bush's top military commander in Iraq in 2003 said, "A critical, objective assessment of our nation's ability to execute our national security strategy must be conducted. If we are objective and honest, the results will be surprising to all Americans. There is unacceptable strategic risk."

So America's problems go much farther than just a financial crisis. Russian bombers have been spotted flying near the Alaskan border for the first time since the end of the Cold War (obviously Putin is not impressed by bull dogs, wearing lipstick or otherwise). It was has also been reported that Russia is developing a new nuclear missile system that can defeat the U. S. defense shield. Where are we going to get the money to counter that initiative? If the Russians are successful, we're completely vulnerable--our nuclear capability will have been neutralized, and our military won't have the capability to repel a conventional attack. According to General Sanchez, "America must understand that it will take the army at least a decade to fix the damage that has been done to its full spectrum readiness" in Iraq.

In addition, as we spend 10 billion dollars a month in Iraq, and now, hand over 700 billion dollars to corporate demagogues, The People's Republic of China is literally buying America. And as this nation was literally being bought out from under us, we also allowed ourselves to be blind-sided by Katrina, and now blind-sided by this financial crisis. Thus, it is clear that this nation has not had an adult at the wheel in close to eight years. So it's about time for somebody to accept responsibility, and according to this nation's founders, that somebody is you.

Eric L. Wattree

I take great pride in being the product of adversity, because having simply survived provides me with unassailable credentials.


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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sarah: Through the Humble Eyes of a Clueless Hood-Rat



Through the Humble Eyes of a Clueless Hood-Rat

When you're raised in the ghetto and you're either unaware or deprived of the many resources that society has to offer, you learn to make due with what you have. In that regard, I was fortunate enough to recognize at a very early age that the acquisition of knowledge, and the ability to think, is free. So while my economic condition may have restricted me to the ghetto, there was no force on Earth that could limit my mind through the imposition of caste and privilege. If one is determined to seek out knowledge, the opportunities are just as vast at the corner library, as at Harvard University. Thus, one must choose to be ignorant.

With that insight in hand, I tried to compensate for the deficit in my formal education by making every effort to mold myself into the most logical and objective thinker that I was capable of becoming. As a result of that effort, I quickly found that those skills served as a great defense against the condescensding hubris of those who presume to be better educated, and more intellectually astute.

It also became clear during my attempt to hone my syllogistic edges, that most people, regardless of how intelligent or well educated, are inefficient thinkers. We tend to think backwards. Instead of following facts to a logical conclusion, I've found that most people tend to formulate convenient, knee-jerk conclusions consistent with what they want to believe, and only then, try to find the facts to justify their preconceived positions. As a result, while they may derive comfort through their fallacious web of beliefs, their behavior, and their entire view of the world is based on a fantasy of erroneous misconceptions. The Republican Party has built its entire existence on this human failing, and it owes its very success to those who thrive on carefully chosen factoids rather than accurate information.

But again, one must choose to be ignorant. So in an attempt to mitigate my own failing in this area, I've come up with a simple proposition that governs my analysis of the world: "Efficient thought requires that we first, see life as it is, and only then, as we would have it." Following that prescription has not always made me the most popular guy among my peers, but it has served me well in analyzing the world around me. It would also serve America well, because it would prevent us from allowing demagogues to circumvent our common sense through appealing to our emotions, which is the primary cause of the harrowing condition that we now find ourselves.

We knew full well, for example, prior to our invasion of Iraq, that Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with nine-eleven. And the U.N. Inspectors were unequivocal in their position that he had no weapons of mass destruction. Yet, instead of following our common sense, we followed our emotions.

Since we were frustrated over the fact that Osama Bin Laden was beyond our reach, Bush and his neocon cronies knew we were ripe for a "good ole fashion war" that would play well on America's emotional need for vindication over the embarrassment of being run out of Vietnam thirty years earlier. So we made the racist decision, as a direct result of manipulation by the Bush administration, that any Muslim would do.

Ever since the United States was so unceremoniously booted out of Vietnam, the Republican Party's sole mission in life has been to sell America grossly inflated theater tickets and over-priced popcorn for the luxury of reliving America's greatness during WWII. That's why with every other sentence the words "war", "nine-eleven", "victory", and "hero" rolls off Republican tongues like honey, and every time Bush gives a speech he has a row of uniformed men standing behind him. It's been the quintessential campaign tactic, and provides a perfect explanation of why Americans continue to vote Republican against their own best interests. The tactic has allowed the American people to exist in a virtual fantansyland that's resistant--in fact, hostile--to all appeals to common sense.

And if you'll notice, the Republican Party has an uncanny ability to benefit from every American hardship. If you look back over the last eight years, it becomes immediately clear that the Republican Party and the Bush cronies have actually benefitted from nine-eleven. While the American people have suffered the loss of loved ones, Bush, Cheney, and his high profile neocons haven't sacrificed one thing for this war; and while the American people are suffering from the loss of jobs, home foreclosures, and hugely inflated gas prices, Halliburton, the oil companies, and virtually all Republican-aligned business constituencies are enjoying record profits. So, it's no wonder Bush refused to leave Iraq, and instead, was so enthusiastic in challenging Al-Qaeda to "Bring it on!" He had nothing to lose, but a few poor and middle class kids, and everything to gain.

One would think that the American people would recognize these facts, but their ability to think has been circumvented through an appeal to their emotions. Now they've rolled out Sarah Palin, who they claim "represents the interest of American's women"–in spite of the fact that her politics is diametrically opposed to 95% of them; and that she's "a devout Christian"–in spite of the fact that she loves nothing more than killing God's creatures for sport; and of course, she's "a bull dog with lipstick" who's ready to go to war against Russia, in a tip of the obligatory hat to militarism.

Well, if she's all that, why did they take such pains to hide her from the press? Well, I suppose her interview answered that question, but I think they're going to find that after that episode, some things are too ridiculous to even slip passed the emotions.

So who is Sarah Palin?

Right off the bat, we know she's a woman who's willing to throw her seventeen year old daughter under the bus for her own selfish, political ambition. And we also know that she hasn't had one constructive, or non-divisive thing to say since she's entered the national debate.

In addition, by claiming to have been against "The Bridge to Nowhere", we know she's willing to look the American people in the eye while she tells a boldface lie; and by threatening to fire Wasilla's librarian for refusing to ban books that she didn't like, we know she's willing to use her clout to shove her personal beliefs down the throats of the American people; then, by actually firing Alaska's public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, for refusing fire her former brother-n-law, we know that she's more than willing to abuse the power of her office to promote her personal agenda; and by supporting the Alaska independence movement in their agenda to take the state's oil and separate from the United States, we know that she has "other priorities", that are more important to her than what's in the best interest nation.

So who is Sarah Palin?

It’s quite clear through the eyes of this humble hood-rat--she’s Dick Cheney in drag, though not quite as smart.

Eric L. Wattree

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

In Solemn Tribute to The 2008 Republican Snake Oil Festival


In Solemn Tribute to The 2008 Republican Snake Oil Festival

After enduring the obligatory task of suffering through The 2008 Republican Snake Oil Festival, I've come away with a virtual case of whiplash from having vacillated between somnambulistic boredom and slack-jawed disbelief. It is absolutely amazing how effortlessly the Republican Party can take a routine fact, mold it into the most ridiculous lie ever told, and then present that lie with the quivering lip of an apostle. But that's the Republican key to success. They can tell the most blatant lie as though their convoluted version of the truth came directly from the lips of God.

The American people tend to accept these lies because they've been so finely tuned, carefully crafted, and presented by such masters, that by the end of these fairytales the American people have been drenched in false patriotism and tethered to a childlike view of the world that's so remote from even the most tenuous connection with reality, that there's nothing left of reality for them to hold on to. As a result, they're left drifting in a world so surreal and disorienting that they're willing to grab ahold of anything that even resembles reality. But what ultimately seals the deal is the American people's innate belief in the basic honesty of their leaders. Americans simply cannot bring themselves to believe that anyone can possibly look them in the eye and then tell a blatant lie.

But unfortunately, most Republicans can do just that. Lying is a skill that all Republican politicians have to master early in their career. The Republican Party has become so far removed from what's in the best interest of the American people, it can only survive through corruption, manipulation, and deceit. Thus, the ability to craft a finely tuned lie is, literally, the most valuable coin of the Republican realm.

The party is a coalition of three groups of people–the rich corporate interests, whose only concern is to service their own greed; the angry, social chauvinists, who have convinced themselves that God hates anyone who doesn't look, act, and think like themselves; and finally, the unthinking disaffected, who have been manipulated into embracing the misguided agenda of the first two groups.

These people tend to preach a passionate sermon, but unfortunately, they fail to live up to their own gospel. While they claim to be anointed by God himself, their most strident message appeals to greed, hatred, and a lack of compassion for others. They embrace an agenda that propagates the murder of Iraqis, the proposed murder of Iranians, the exclusion of gays as equal members of society, depriving needy Americans of universal healthcare, the destruction of our social security system, depriving vets of needed healthcare and a decent life after they've left the military, and the aggressive subsidizing of the wealthy, while passing along the bill to the next generation. Then they look us square in the eye, and tell us that this is God's will.

A perfect example of Republican deception at work can be seen in the way that John McCain wraps himself in the American flag every chance he gets. He's depending on our being so appreciative of his suffering during his time in Vietnam, that we'll refrain from truly examining who he really is. Well, I do appreciate his service, but at the same time, I also recognize that millions of other Americans have also suffered from the pain of war, and the best way we can repay them for their suffering is to elect the most competent leaders we can find to lead, protect and defend this nation that they suffered so greatly to preserve–and, military service notwithstanding, John McCain has neither the character, competence, nor demeanor to fulfill that role.

If you take a really close look at McCain's life, it contradicts everything he tends to embrace. Not one aspect of his life reflects the American tradition of fair play, where everyone is given an equal opportunity to excel based on their personal merit. McCain's entire life has been based upon taking advantage of an affirmative action program for the privileged. His grades in school were so bad that he wouldn't have even been able to get into college, much less Annapolis, if it wasn't for his family. He was only allowed to get into Annapolis as a result of having a father and grandfather who were both admirals in the navy–and even then, he only managed to graduate 894th out of a class of 899. He was fifth from the very bottom of his class, and we're considering placing the future of this nation in his hands? Haven't we learned a thing from the past eight years about electing incompetent "daddy's boys" to lead this nation?

And maybe it's just me, but I've always thought of heroes as the strong silent type–you know, "High Noon," Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott. This nation has thousands of such heroes, but they rarely reveal themselves. They only surface on Veteran's and Memorial Day, as they slowly limp past, proudly sporting their American Legion caps over thinning gray hair. These men tend to play down their heroism. They're content to pull out their medals once or twice a year and quietly relive a time in their lives when they were young, strong, and virile, and the only applause they require for their exploits is the burning pride they see in the eyes of their aging sweetheart and loving families as they march past.

But that's not McCain. He's a "hero" of a different sort, and he's ridden that horse for all it's worth--I'm surprised he doesn't wear his Silver Star as a lapel pin.

Wikipedia related a report from the Phoenix Gazette that indicated during John McCain's run for Arizona's 1st Congressional District, he was labeled a carpetbagger. In response to one of his critics McCain seized upon a theme that would be regurgitated ad nauseam throughout his career:

He said, "Listen, pal. I spent 22 years in the Navy. My father was in the Navy. My grandfather was in the Navy. We in the military service tend to move a lot. We have to live in all parts of the country, all parts of the world. I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the First District of Arizona, but I was doing other things. As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi"

While I understand that my response to Sen. McCain may be far less than politically correct, it seems to me that after forty years of thank-you's, free passes on political corruption, and being given the opportunity to build a career on his experience in Vietnam, enough is enough already.

So I'm sure you'll excuse me, Sen. McCain, if after thanking you, yet again, for your brave sacrifice, if I step over in the corner and throw all the way up, just this once--my friend.

Eric L. Wattree

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