Friday, August 31, 2012

Big Brother Tom's Got the Fever!

CW for Romney Shoots for $25K Goal!!!!

Ok folks, let's have a little chat.

I've had the CW for Romney Feature up for 10 months, tomorrow.  In that time, we've collected just under $16,000, a sum for which I am grateful and thankful.

But there are two months left in this race, and my sense is that some of you have been sitting on the sidelines waiting to get in the game until Labor Day, when things heat up.  In that spirit, I am proposing a goal for this blog's donation of $25,000, which means we need to collect two thirds of what we've already collected in the next two months.

I think this is plenty do-able.  We've seen the nominee at the convention....we know him better....we know what he's done, we know what he'll do.   In picking Paul Ryan, he proved to all of us that he is serious about governing, and serious about reform.

Won't you consider playing a part in electing Mitt Romney President?

Please click this link to is essential that you check the box that says you know your referrer, and that when you do so, it brings up two boxes, one with "INT 2012" in it, and the other with the number "4847" in it.  If they aren't there, please type them in.  That's how the blog gets credit.  If you wouldn't mind, please send me an email ( if you donate, so that I can be on the lookout for the donation on my dashboard.

All of those who donate are put on a special mailing list I have, to which I send a special briefing I receive from the campaign once a week.   Donate and you too can get this brief.

Time's running out, folks.  Let's open those wallets and send The Obamas back to Hyde Park. 

Happy Birthday, Hammer

You old dog!

On Mitt Romney, The Man

Like many of you, I watched last night's coverage of the convention, an event that was clearly stage managed to provided a more "in-depth" look into what kind of man Mitt Romney is and what makes him tick.

After the three people from his church gave their presentations, I sat there a little speechless, and even a little choked up.  The Kitten gave me one of her patented, "You alright there?" lines, which she knows to do when I get a little verklempt.  What I said to her was this--and now that I think about it 24 hours later, I want to share it with you:

"I'm a little choked up, partially from what these people just said, but also in some large way because of the stark realization of just how inferior a person I am to Romney.  Let's face it.  This guy has been good at everything he's done.  Good at marriage, good at fatherhood, good at governing, good at leading, good at making money....a superhuman life by anyone's terms....and he STILL has time to do a will for a 13 year old boy, to deliver a Thanksgiving meal, to shovel people's driveways.  This guy is just different.  As different from me as anyone I know.  He really is a good man".

Yep.  That's how I see it.

The Fading Poster.....

Brilliant.  HT: Instapundit

RNC: Retrospective

As I indicated in yesterday's post, I was not present at last night's festivities.  I needed to be home in Easton today, and so I never intended to be in Tampa for the big night.  I was glad to be home watching it on TV, but I'm sure it was a hoot to be in the Forum.  One of the things that was good about being in front of the TV was the opportunity to hear the reviews/thoughts of the media, rather than see them displayed on Twitter.  I watched on PBS, starting on FOX and then switching when I realized that I actually wanted to hear what the speakers were saying, rather than what Bill O'Reilly wanted to say. PBS' coverage was pretty good, with Judy Woodruff, Gwen Ifill, and Shields/Brooks.  What was best about it was the amount of time they spent actually focusing on speakers, rather than interviewing other members of the media.

I thought last night was particularly effective political theater.  Clearly the theme was to "get to know" Mitt Romney better, and I believe that goal was attained.  Some thoughts on the speakers that I saw (was traveling home from the Airport for the start):

1.  The people from his church in Belmont, MA.  Powerful, effective, necessary.  David Brooks called the fact that it took until now for the campaign to trot these stories out "political malpractice" and I don't disagree.  I read "The Real Romney" on the trip to South Africa, and it is clear that this is no ordinary man when it comes to a sense of service to others--active, personal services.   Mr. Obama talks about being his brother's keeper, Mr. Romney lives it.

2.  The guy from Staples.  Pretty good--in fact the whole effort to explain Bain with real-live people who benefited from it (including the drugstore owner) was effective and again, necessary.

3.  The Olympians.  I have to admit to being made a little uneasy by this segment--though I thought Derek Parra's testimonial was pitch perfect and very powerful.  I may be wrong on this, but if felt a little oogey politicizing the Olympics like that.  I have no problem with Mitt and his surrogates rightly pointing to his turnaround of the 2002 Salt Lake City Games....and I don't have any problem with Olympic Athletes expressing their preference...but this segment was not my favorite.

4.  Clint Eastwood.  Genuine, sometimes funny, sometimes effective, but probably not a great idea.  I'm sure it was much more appreciated by some than others.

5.  Newt and Callista Gingirch.  I did not see this, but I have to tell you, I'm getting sick of Newt trying to force his wife down our throats on his coattails. 

6.  Marco Rubio--nearly perfect.  An incredibly effective job.  "My Dad worked at the bar in the back of the room, so I could stand behind a podium in the front of the room".  Doesn't get any better than that.

7.  Mitt Romney--a lot of pressure,  a lot of expectation, and he delivered.  Not a great speech,but very, very good.  His line about "he promised to heal the earth, I promise to help you and your family" was genius.  It was hard not to get choked up when he talked about "what Ann and I wouldn't give to break up one more fight among the five boys"....that was a Dad talking....a loving, caring, Dad.

And so it is over.  Now it is onto wherever it is in North Carolina that the political Star Wars Bar known as the Democratic Party will have their convention.  Doubtful that the press will give credentials/passes to protesters like it is suspected occurred last night--and doubtless the coverage will be much more breathless and admiring.  I will do my best to watch portions of the proceedings in which serious people talk, but from the looks of the speaker list, I do not plan to watch much.

My main thought as I end this week is this:  the GOP has a very, very deep bench.  Just think about the people we saw this week, the leaders in the Party who may someday run for President.  Think about how difficult a primary would be if Christie, Ryan, Rubio, Rice, Bush, Haley, Thune, and Martinez (to name but a few) were running.

Big Fat Friday Free For All

What's wrong, fella?  Has two weeks of vacation and the RNC Convention bloated you out to new heights of  obesity?  The other guys spend all week making fun of you and your faded posters?  Did you get a little "roughed up" trying to disrupt a speech?  Tell us about it!  Now's your chance to kvetch.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Beat the Rush--Donate to Romney/Ryan for President! Nearly at $16K!

Have you been energized by this convention, or what!  How about Ann Romney?  How about Paul Ryan, How about Condi Rice?  How about Nikki Haley?  As someone who has been there in person, I'm here to tell you that the convention has been electric--a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of optimism.  I think we've got the President and his folks on the run, and the next two months will be a sprint.

Tonight, Mitt Romney will put the icing on the cake, sending a message to the Democrats that we are in this to win.

Please click this link to is essential that you check the box that says you know your referrer, and that when you do so, it brings up two boxes, one with "INT 2012" in it, and the other with the number "4847" in it.  If they aren't there, please type them in.  That's how the blog gets credit.  If you wouldn't mind, please send me an email ( if you donate, so that I can be on the lookout for the donation on my dashboard. I've had some technical problems, and a series of donations made in the past few weeks only today were posted.  Old Navy buddies, friends from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the gentleman from Ticbite and the best helo pilot I know--all made donations, bringing us within $200 of the $16,000 level.  Will you be the one to put us over that mark?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

#GOP2012: Wednesday 1210 hrs.

Many thanks to Sally for her timely analysis of last night's events, much of which with I agree.  My apologies for getting to this so late, but it was a late night, followed by an early starting and action packed morning.  Here goes.

When last we chatted (yesterday morning) I was predicting a day of work, which I did in fact, wind up doing.  Around 3:15 though, I headed over to the MD delegation hotel to catch the bus to the fun.  On the front end of the trip, the buses were scheduled to take us directly from our hotels to the Forum; on the way home, we would take buses from the Forum, to Raymond James Stadium, to our hotels.  This detail becomes important later in our story.

A total Baldwin
One of the things I discovered yesterday was that there are two main downtown venues....the Convention Center, which is largely a media operations hub, and the Forum, where the convention is.  I alighted from the bus and decided to meander around in the Convention Center, which is pretty much your standard, everyday, major American City tradeshow venue kinda place.  The trade being plied there this week however, was PRESS....print, web, radio, name it, they were there.  I just walked around, figuring I'd see famous or nearly famous people.  The first person I happened upon was the sanest of the Baldwin Brothers, Stephen, who happens to be a fairly strong Conservative. He was having a big time, stopping for photos and generally sucking up the dying light of fading celebrity.  Fading celebrity seems to be the kins of celebrity we Republicans are generally stuck with, another point I'll get to later.  I also saw Old, Mean Sam Donaldson preparing for a radio broadcast, and I reminded myself that no matter how semi-famous the man is, I still consider him to be an ass.
Sam Donaldson

After I sufficiently poked around the Press (I admit, I was hoping to bump into Jonah Goldberg from NRO in order to hand him a CW card) setup,  made the long, hot walk back to the Forum for the Convention.  It really isn't that far, but there is a maze of security in place reminiscent of the Green Zone, which lengthens any walk downtown.  Adding to the delay is are the security checks which I have been passing with flying colors.

Once inside the Forum, I had a decision to make. My semi-official status as a straphanger with the Maryland Delegation entitled me to nosebleed seats with the hoi polloi--but they had a great line of sight on the stage.  Through my connections with my favorite Democratic lobbyist, I got a pass to a "suite" that promised free food and drink--but which was located directly behind the stage, leaving one to enjoy the convention solely on the copious flat screens in the suite.  I made the decision to head to the nosebleeds, where I stayed for the duration.  A couple of observations?

1.  One's likelihood of being interviewed by the foreign press increased dramatically as a function of how ridiculously one was dressed.  Texans were favorite targets, as the uniform of the delegation was cartoonish western garb, which seemed to serve as the baseline for their guests.
2.  There were some fantastically overdressed people there.  I was in UVA frat boy garb (blazer, tie, white shirt, khakis) but the dandies in seersucker and white bucks were out in numbers, and ladies dressed for evening chic were everywhere.
3. Huge fail, as far as I am concerned, is that no food was allowed in the venue.  You had to sit out in the hallway and consume your chicken strips and heavily salted pretzels.
4.  This is a very friendly, very energized crowd.  I'm doing my best big brother Tom impression by forcing myself to be gregarious, and it is returned in spades.  I find myself wondering if the atmosphere here is what it was at the Kerry 2004 Convention....a bunch of people walking around asking themselves how America could possibly vote to keep THAT guy in office.
5.  The delegates on the floor are just plain rude.  They simply don't pay attention to the speakers, with the exception of the marquis draws.  Unwashed in the exo-atmosphere were quiet and respectful, even though we could not possibly have been heard.
6.  I realize Country and Western is GOP House Music...but it simply is not my cup of tea.  And if we have any hope of increasing minority representation, we need to add a little "flav-a" and some Latin vibes.
7.  The stage and background look wonderful from my seat, but when I watch the jumbotrons, I get a little carsick.

Now, on to the speakers.  I'll take them from late to early, as that will ensure fresher memories.

1.  Chris Christie.  I liked the speech, and it was a very good speech.  But I did not love it and it was not great.  Too much first person singular, and not enough Obama bashing.  I was looking forward to the big man throwing great helpings of red meat our way, but he was a bit more reserved, possibly thinking about his future.
2.  Ann Romney.  Brava.  Bravura.  One of the best speaking performances I have witnessed in person.  A bit fast at first, she hit her stride and really nailed it.  I found myself sitting there thinking how wonderful it must be to be Mitt Romney, and have a wife who would sing your praises publicly, and sincerely.
3.  First Lady of Puerto Rico.  I don't remember her name, but she was great.  Really, really good.
4.  Artur Davis.  If we traded Charlie Crist for Artur Davis, we won.  A great job that really got the crowd moving.If he runs for anything, county sheriff including, he's getting money from me.
5.  Nikki Haley--nailed it, like Sally said.  Very impressive, incredibly telegenic.
6.  Scott Walker--loved the ovations, for a man who has earned them.  Improved or not, he's just not a very captivating speaker.
7.  Gov of Nevada--gave a pretty good speech that no one paid attention to.
8.  Ted Cruz--Sally nailed that one...while he sounded fine and gave a good speech, he looked like a televangelist.
9.  John Kasich--great, great job.  Energy, drive, enthusiasm.
10.  Bob McDonnell--fair to middling.  Nothing exciting.
11.  John Boehner--Boehner gave a very good speech that no one was the first after the break, and much of the crowd hadn't returned, and those that were there were chatting and milling about.
13.  Candidate for LT GOV in Deleware--solid.
14.  Mia Love--Electric--she should have been later, with more time.  I love her story and her values.
15.  Kelly Ayotte--fetching, but uninspiring.
16.  Kathy McMorris Rogers--solid.
17.  Janine Turner--see below.

No question but that this was "ladies night" at the convention...perhaps tonight will be the same.  Clearly trying to feature women in the Party, and I find most of them to be worthy of learning more about.

I split as soon as Christie was wrapping up, and got on the third bus to leave the forum headed to Raymond James to catch the follow on bus.  A great plan gone wrong, as the bus driver (huge number of out of town buses here) got lost, and a 20 minute drive turned into nearly an hour.  Once at the marshaling yard, I then got on the wrong bus (apparently, there are multiple Doubletrees...), which caused me to add a cab ride to the two bus rides in order to get to my hotel.  I tucked in at around 0130, late for me, especially given this morning's 0600 wake up to meet a Navy buddy for breakfast.

After the breakfast, I drove my rental car into the belly of the beast and paid only $10 to park.  My reason for being there was to attend Grover Norquist's "Americans for Tax Reform" "Center Right" coalition meeting.  It was a fascinating forum, held in an air-conditioned tent near the Forum.  All of the luminaries of the conservative movement were there, in addition to Norquist's acolytes from around the country.  Thirty-eight people each gave two minute updates on where their organization was and what they were up to, including Ralph Reed, David Bossie and Ken Cuccinelli--in other words, all the devils of the conservatism.  I really enjoyed this for many reasons, not the least of which was the opportunity to see Janine Turner up close. 
How I like to remember Janine Turner

Janine Turner, as many of you remember, was one of the stars of that charming little TV series (1990-1995) "Northern Exposure".  To put it simply, I had a bit of a crush on her, though I am not inclined to short-haired ladies.  Turns out that Ms. Turner is a bit of a constitutionalist/conservative, which had I known it at the time, would have sent me over the edge.  She gave a speech last night at the convention that was upbeat and solid, but seemed a bit like a pilates instructor rather than a speaker at a political convention.

She was at Norquists gig this morning with her 14 year old daughter who is also a conservative....together they have authored a book for children on the Constitution, a worthy project.

After Norquist's gig, I headed over to the convention center to meet up with a friend working in the communication center for the RNC, and now I'm back in my hotel room where I must have a nap before I begin this night's festivities.

I will likely return to the blog early AM tomorrow before heading to a shipyard down here to poke around a bit, before catching a plane home.  Be safe out there.  

The View from the Couch

Though our blog host is providing us a great view from the ground, here's my view of last night from the cheap seats in my family room:

LOVED Ann Romney.  After the first few faltering minutes I was starting to think it was going to be a long half hour not only for her but all of us watching.  When she hit her stride, though, I was blown away by her confidence, poise and authenticity.  Think about what that must be like for these political wives:  politicians give speeches all the time...her first major speech was to millions and there was so much on the line.  She was lovely.  Big win.

Best speaker of the night:  Nikki Haley.  Happy warrior.  Indictments of this administration the best articulated of the night.  Great remarks (and sustained applause) on labor, voter ID laws, and besides she's adorable to look at.

Most overrated speaker of the night:  Ted Cruz.  I know he's considered a conservative darling, but his eschewing of the podium and wandering around the stage made him look like a televangelist, and a cheesy one at that.

Most confusing speaker of the night:  Chris Christie.  Love the guy, but wasn't quite sure what that speech was about.  Maybe we're so spoiled by all his other appearances that this one, while good, fell short.  Or maybe he doesn't perform as well without interaction from a miscreant in the crowd.  (They should have planted a heckler).  

Biggest tool of the night, individual award:  Juan Williams, for referring to Ann Romney as a 'corporate wife.'

Biggest tool of the night, group award:  MSNBC, who cut away from nearly every minority speaker to provide their ridiculous 'analysis.' 

Most improved:  Scott Walker.  This guy has really come a long way as a speaker.  He's been right on the issues, of course, but hasn't been a terribly gifted speaker and has been ham-handed in conveying his reform ideas.  He's much more polished now...and a force for the future.

Didn't see Mia Love or John Kasich, and only caught moments of Artur Davis' speech.  So perhaps I missed something big.  What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mystery Speaker?

The Wall Street Journal picks up on an interesting item in the speaker schedule for Thursday night at the convention:  a 'speaker TBA' who will take the stage prior to Marco Rubio and Mitt himself.   Everyone else of merit is already on the speaking schedule.  Who could it be??   The online poll at WSJ offers up Sarah Palin, Gen Petraeus, Nancy Reagan and a few less likely others.   Please let it not be Palin.

Maybe it's Iowahawk.

Maybe it's...the Conservative Wahoo!  He told us he was leaving Thursday.  Red herring? 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fundraising Request---URGENT

If you have donated to the Mitt Romney campaign through this website since 5 August, could you please email me with a note that says the date and amount, or if you have the emailed receipt, please email it.  Best address to use is  It looks as if there is a disconnect, as some of you have indicated that you have donated and it isn't updating in my system.

Thank you.

#GOP2012: Monday 1430 hrs.

Morning dawned relatively calm here in Tampa, as the hurricane seems headed toward Louisiana.  Bobby Jindal has canceled his appearance here, and from his Twitter feed, it sounds as if he's doing his usual fantastic job of preparing his state for a hurricane, something his predecessor was unable to accomplish.  I rose, showered and joined the Maryland delegation for breakfast.  One of the things that I might have realized--had I ever taken the time to think about it--is the extent to which a convention like this is reflects the grassroots of a party.  As I looked around the room this morning, there were several luminaries of Maryland Republican politics, but most of the people were pretty much regular folks who passionately believe in the Republican Party and who actually DO something about it.  They aren't angling for administration jobs, they're not trying to change the world--they are simply taking action.  Much respect to these folks is due.  They are what make a political party go.

Our breakfast speaker was there ostensibly to talk about the need for an "energy policy".  That he was a nuclear industry consultant was not hidden, but I was surprised the extent to which his presentation focused on nuclear energy.  Frequent readers know I'm a huge nuclear power fan...but this guy went out of his way to take swipes at oil, coal and gas--going so far as to say that fracking causes earthquakes.  I was very happy to see a woman beat me to the punch in the Q and A and call him on it...the people sitting at my table implicitly recognized the sales pitch, but I suppose he paid for the breakfast, so we had to take it.  The rest of the delegation headed out to do touristy things--but I'm not here for that--so I headed downtown to the Bloomberg Link.

Bloomberg has taken over a floor of an office building and created this marketing hub--lots of places to check your mail, recharge your device, get a cup of coffee and listen to panel discussions.  I was there to hear a discussion on the looming trainwreck of budget sequestration, something I have great interest in as a defense consultant.  One of the great things about this place is that I am running into people I know--one of whom was a Bush Administration official with whom I discussed a "leaving the Navy" job a few years ago...the pay wasn't what I was looking for at that time in my life, and the hours would have been grueling as I was trying to get a new relationship off the ground.  I demurred, but we have remained friendly.  His name is Dave.  Dave and I hung out for a bit, then the lunch started.  I was seated next to a very attractive young lady and her mother, both with adorable southern accents.  When they were joined by the husband/father who sat down across from me, I got the rest of the story.  He was Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and he was appearing on the lunch panel  The three of us had a grand chat about the Navy, Seapower, and the fiscal crisis we face.  It was a real thrill to have a Senator sit across from me and ask "what do you think is going to happen, Bryan"? 

After lunch, I cabbed back to my hotel--or the Maryland hotel, which is across the street.  I have a rental car, but I'm relying on Cabbies to get me into downtown places, as they seem to know the blocked streets much better than my GPS does. When the cab drove me back to the Maryland hotel to get my car, sitting out front was David Gergen of CNN.  I learned the previous night that he was staying there, and while the hotel is perfectly nice, it is a statement of how far CNN has fallen that they stick him out there rather than in the high rent district where the action is.

I'm back at my hotel now, writing this and then moving on to some of my day-job work.  I will be meeting some new friends for dinner and then heading to a party in honor of Republican Women for the 23 who remain in the Party after Todd Akin....

Sunday, August 26, 2012

#GOP2012: Sunday 2315 hrs

I made it to Tampa, and I am ensconced in my basic yet serviceable hotel.  There appears to be a bit of a caste system at play here, in that the state delegations are largely housed at the outlying hotels some distance from where the action is, and the hotels close to the site of the convention tend to be where the trade associations etc. are.  The hotels are nicer close in, too.

Left BWI about an hour late, with bad storms in the Baltimore area making me think I wouldn't get out of town.  Had the flight been canceled, my trip to Tampa would be a wash, as the flights here tomorrow are all but canceled already.  There were a number of folks on the flight heading down to the convention, most could be discerned by that lean and hungry Republican look on their face.  Upon landing, I got in my rent-a-car and proceeded down toward the site of the convention to the Westin Hotel, there to pick up a number of tasty credentials provided to me courtesy of my favorite Democratic lobbyist and his connections with Republican friends.  Love the way this stuff works.

I'm figuring stuff out, and I'll be sure to bring you along, but it looks like the five hours or so each night in the convention center is only a small part of what can be found during this week.  There are breakfasts, and lunches and cocktail parties, and lectures, and workshops, and parties.  And more parties.  And bands.  And parties.  Each of these parties, and bands require a credential of some kind.  I hear there is quite a market for trading of credentials...developing.

I am here as a guest of the Maryland delegation, courtesy of a well-placed contribution to the Maryland GOP.  The Maryland delegates have pretty good floor seats--but we strap hangars are located way up in the nosebleeds.  My sojourn to the Westin resulted in my picking up credentials for "suite" access on Tuesday and Wednesday nights--and since Monday night is canceled and I'm leaving on looks like I'll be suiting it both nights.  I also got entree for a Montgomery Gentry concert and a Kid Rock concert, Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

The scene by the convention site looks like the Green Zone in Baghdad.  Roadblocks, checkpoints, uniforms everywhere, and earnest, sportjacketed twenty-something Republicans roaming about with half a load on.  That scene is about 7 miles from my hotel--I'm not staying with the Maryland delegation--they are across the street.  I'm with the Oklahoma delegation, and so far they are pretty tame.  I did check in with the Maryland crowd to pick up my credentials, and everyone seemed very nice.

I'm not much of a night owl, so the pace here may be a bit much for me.  I'll have to get my game face on if I'm to party through the night after the proceedings.  As for the weather, well, the leading edge of the hurricane is knocking on our door, with winds picking up and a steady rain falling.  I have a feeling tomorrow could largely be spent indoors. All of the proceedings are canceled tomorrow, but the parties will likely go on.

I'll be Tweeting like a big dog from 4PM on during the convention, and you can follow me at @ConsWahoo on Twitter.  I'll drop blog entries now and again here to synthesize and summarize my thoughts. 

NBC Fail

On the NBC site yesterday afternoon.  I wonder why network news isn't taken seriously.

Though I hear Neil Armstrong did have a Heart of Gold. 

LIberal Bias at the NYT Exposed by....The NYT

The New York Times--like many newspapers, retains what used to be called an Ombudsman (NYT calls it a "Public Editor") someone hired from the outside to spend their days "keeping the paper honest".  Arthur Brisbane has written his last column as public editor before handing over the job to the next person, and in it, he makes charges that most readers of this blog would find unobjectionable.  Here's the key section:

I also noted two years ago that I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within. 

When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times. 

As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.

Game, set, match, to believers in media bias.  The statement that most appropriately sums it up is "...this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times."  The same can be written of many other mainstream media outlets.

Not to be outdone, NYT Editor Jill Abramson has responded to the high treason of her outgoing Public Editor, and here is some of her defense:

"I agree with another past public editor, Dan Okrent, and my predecessor as executive editor, Bill Keller, that in covering some social and cultural issues, the Times sometimes reflects its urban and cosmopolitan base,"  

"Sometimes reflects"?  How about "consistently advocates"?  If the NYT wants to be the newspaper of record for the Upper West Side, it should continue on its current path.  Newspaper of record for a broad, center-right nation?  Nope.

Why Obama Can't Win

President Obama has no chance at re-election. The way he was elected in 2008, and his dismal record make it impossible. I do not agree that Obama has been a failure, at least in terms of his intentions. I believe he has achieved much of what he set out to do. It's just that his vision of what America should be is at odds with the views of most Americans. I believe the far left in the Democratic Party after seeing their candidate run on "fundamental change" thought the time was right to institute "fundamental change". They were wrong. But Obama's performance in office is not the only reason he will lose. It's a little more complicated than that.

Obama's problem is he is running against himself. In 2007 Barack Obama was an unknown outside the world of politics. In 2008 his popularity was of a magnitude and scope I still find hard to believe. The only thing I've seen that was even comparable was the Beatlemania phenomenon of the mid-sixties. Obama was everywhere. He was a great speaker, a good campaigner, he was personable, dynamic, and just about every positive intangible one can think of Obama had in boatloads. He attracted the hard left, moderates, independents and not a small number of conservatives. He was all things to all people. His "hope and change" theme was so positive, so optimistic, it hit just the right note for the times. He couldn't lose.

But those days are over. He has a record now and his policies are unpopular. He can't run on accomplishment so he has to run on personality once again, but there are huge problems with that. First it's impossible to catch lightening in a bottle like he did in 2008. He's not the new, cool, hip celebrity everybody was infatuated with back then. And although he doesn't appear tired or battle worn, the positive attitude, the charm, the charisma are gone. The Obama campaign is discovering you can only be a virgin once. So if Obama's personal attributes were a 10 the first time he ran, they're a weak 6 now, and trending down. And Obama's efforts to drive down Romney's likability are falling on deaf ears. Romney is running a substance campaign about policies and competence and the direction of the country. Nobody thinks Romney is cool and nobody expects him to compete on this front. Plus Obama's attacks go against the grain of Obama's whole persona. They do more harm than good.

As I see it Obama can't run on substance because he has a lousy record. He can't run on personality and/or celebrity because those are fleeting and transitory and once they're gone they're gone. What's to be done? Nothing; in my view it's over. Considering how Obama was elected as this cultural phenomenon more characteristic of the entertainment industry than politics, his one chance at re-election was he had to deliver. Second term campaigns for incumbents are always about competence and stewardship. Expectations were so high and the results have fallen so far short, reality has set in and nobody is buying Obama 2.0.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Love is a Many Splendored Thing

...for Mark Sanford and his Argentinean girlfriend, as they got engaged this week.   I hope they are happy and he can remain off the Appalachian Trail. 

Preparing for RNC 2012 Tampa

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Again? Well--Have You Donated To Mitt Romney for President?

Folks--it looks as if our fundraising effort has hit a little wall, and some of it might be technological.  I've gotten word from at least two of you that you've donated, but the amount isn't added to the CW total.  When I check the dashboard, I have access to how much an individual has given in total, and how much of it is credited to the blog total--if there is a difference, it means A) that the fundraiser ID for the blog (4847) is not included in the contribution or 2) there is a technical problem with the system.  Please--if you desire to donate, use the link to the donation website by clicking this or clicking the link on the right side of the blog--both have the ID embedded in the URL.  Ensure you check the block saying you know your referrer.

How about---oh, say FIVE of you donate today, so that we can shake out the system, m-kay?

Headed down to Tampa on late Monday morning, and there through Thursday; I'll be home and watching Mitt accept the nomination by Thursday evening.  I will blog from the convention (a la bizarro Hunter S. Thompson), doing my best to give you the story behind the story. 

Big Fat Friday Free For All

What's got you down, Bub?  Hurricane gonna spoil your party?  Eat too much on your African Safari giving back four pounds to the House?  Share your pain....we'd all like to hear. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Where Did the Anti-War Left Go?

We are currently (still) fighting a war in Afghanistan.  There happen to be over 80,000 Americans there.  We recently passed the 2000 KIA mark, with over half of these deaths having occurred in the past 27 months.  Are we any closer to victory?  What is victory?  How will it be measured?  What are its terms?  Have any of you been exposed to these questions in our Bought and Paid for Media lately.  Of course not.  Let's face it; it's just more fun to be anti-war when there's a Republican in the White House than when there is a Democrat.

Do you remember way back into the Bush Administration--you know, the one who ruined everything so Barack Obama could come and save us?  Do you remember the relentless drumbeat of anti-war/anti-Administration rhetoric coming from the Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself).  Do you remember how vilified the President was?  You're seeing none of that now.  Conducting a war as a Democrat classifies as one of the least difficult things a President can do, as your political opposition is genetically wired to support your actions, and your genetically -predisposed-to-protest-war supporters in the media and academia sit on their hands for fear of roiling the waters. 

Where are the protests in the streets?  Where is Cindy Sheehan?  Where is Nancy Pelosi?  Why haven't we heard from these people?

Looking for hard evidence of media bias, folks? 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Teeny-Tiny Tent Party

I opined yesterday on the foolishness (in my view) of excluding civil unions in the GOP platform.  That's nothing, though, because the party elders have topped themselves by introducing language banning all abortions, even in case of rape or incest. 

This is foolish.   Never mind the huge gender gap Romney has with women, it really feeds into the war-on-women, back to the fifties storyline that Democrats and their media helpers are pushing.  I don't understand why Republicans are so determined to be so exclusive, and I don't understand why they don't appear to have the slightest bit of concern that their approach alienates so many...particularly in the wake of the Akin disaster.   Even a pro-lifer can understand-even if they don't support-those exceptions.    What are they thinking?  Don't they know the media is going to be shouting about this from the rooftops? 

Oh, and there's another reason to oppose this idea:  it gives 'women's health advocate' Sandra Fluke another opportunity to spout her nonsense.   

Welfare, Grants & Boondoggles

In my series of thoughts and perspectives on how to actually save the country, I would now like to address spending.

We all know we've got our share of welfare bums. We all know there are millions of disability hustlers out there. We know food stamps (now credit cards) are used by it seems half the population. And we also know there are jobs out there for some of these people, if they wanted to work. As I pass fast food joints I often see signs in the windows: "Help Wanted, All Shifts Available". So we know we've got a problem (and let's not forget middle-class welfare; lot's of Pell Grants etc. for the suburban crowd) and we know it's costing the hell out of us and we know it needs to be addressed.

But that's the obvious waste, let's talk about the not so obvious. I want to talk about grants and corporate welfare and the myriad and multitudinous ways politicians and agencies spend our money to advance their own agendas and careers. Senator Tom Coburn puts out a report on wasteful spending every year. Last years greatest hits were...

• $75,000 to promote awareness about the role Michigan plays in producing Christmas trees & poinsettias.
• $15.3 million for one of the infamous Bridges to Nowhere in Alaska.
• $113,227 for video game preservation center in New York.
• $550,000 for a documentary about how rock music contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
• $48,700 for 2nd annual Hawaii Chocolate Festival, to promote Hawaii’s chocolate industry.
• $350,000 to support an International Art Exhibition in Venice, Italy.
• $10 million for a remake of “Sesame Street” for Pakistan.
• $35 million allocated for political party conventions in 2012.
• $765,828 to subsidize “pancakes for yuppies” in the nation’s capital.
• $764,825 to study how college students use mobile devices for social networking.
Now I don't think these are particularly egregious in the grand scheme of things. I've seen a lot worse. But on a daily basis, the federal government in this country spends more money on more needless, wasteful, counterproductive bullshit than you can shake a stick at. Everyday there are long lines of people outside Congressional offices waiting for their chance to make a pitch for our money. We are borrowing about $100 billion a month. How long can it go on? How much debt can we sustain? 

I am not opposed to government funding of basic/specific research. I am not opposed to a social safety net. A am not opposed to government helping the disabled, the handicapped and the infirm. But this avalanche of money going to community organizers, corporations, unions and every hustle and boondoggle one can imagine is out of control. It is wrong regardless of our financial footing. But in these trying times, the Chicago way of passing out goodies to build coalitions and constituencies is the road to disaster. We have real obligations to our citizens, legitimate expenses and expenditures that must be paid for. We cannot afford to throw money at private endeavours that are not legitimate functions of government regardless of their merit, and especially not at some ridiculous crap like mentioned above.

Our next President must take a fine toothed comb to the federal budget. Zero-based budgeting where every expense is looked at, justified and approved is the only way. If the individual states want to fund Planned Parenthood or a Tea Pot Museum then off they go, but the Federal government and the taxpayer is out of the getting ripped-off business. 

I am well aware that some of these giveaways have large and vocal supporters, and doing away with them will be a political nightmare in some cases. But the effort must be made. The issue of overspending must be addressed. The case must be made for federalism and that the individual state is the appropriate place for this kind of spending (if there is an appropriate place). It will not be easy to "re-educate" the populace but it has to be done. Then the next time we get a Democrat President he/she might actually say something like "The era of big government is over".  

Africa 2012--Tubby's Perspective

Because I can't begin to match the creative talents of my African journey benefactor (yes folks, he called me months ago and said, "you pay for your flight and the rest is on me"), who I unfairly called a "half pint Hemingway" on camera, I will have to rely on giving my spin on many of the points that brother B brought up in his travelogue.

The Author of This Post
1.  Getting There and Back.   I opted for a less direct route because it allowed me a 10 hour layover to spend an afternoon in one of my favorite places in the world, Bavaria. Instead of spending the time riding the S-Bahn into Munich, I spent an afternoon in Freising, just north of the airport. It is home to the oldest brewery in the world and a spectacular cathedral. I would always apologize "auf Deutsch" for my poor German but my waiters seemed to appreciate my effort and mercifully switched to English. A couple at a table in the beer garden next to me also appeared to appreciate my efforts, toasted me when my first beer arrived and we spent some time enjoying great conversation and the product of the local brewery. I noticed that Germans relaxing on a sunny afternoon in a beer garden are a lot less likely to drink their beer in liter steins. They save those for the tourists at the Hofbrauhaus and for Oktoberfest. Note to those connecting through the Munich airport, it costs 30 euro to use the shower facilities in Terminal 2, while one can wash the travel stink off for only 5 euros in the Terminal 1 showers. I too, loaded books and movies on to my iPad at B's suggestion, but due to many hours of conversation with my seatmate down to Jo-burg (that's how we adventurer types refer to Johannesburg) I only watched "The Lives of Others"; a good choice when lacking noise cancelling headphones (subtitles used). For those who have seen the movie, you might  appreciate the point I made to my Ukranian seatmate that in America we protect our right to own guns so that we will never have to fight for the right to own a typewriter.

2.  My Travel Companion.   I would comment on Bryan's personality, but hey, this isn't about Bryan, it's about me. My wife read his comments and scratched her head in disbelief. But then she also did the same when I told her about a friend of mine once remarking to me that he had never met someone who was always in such a good mood. Though we spent over a week joined at the hip, Bryan and I were talking on the phone on our drives back from the airport and I pointed out that I didn't spend any extra time at all chatting up the convenience store clerk when I purchased a can of Monster energy drink for the ride home. I guess I do see myself as representing America when abroad and try to be as friendly as possible. When I walked back to our SUV after finding out from the border guard the process for entering Swaziland, Bryan asked, "That took  10 minutes of conversation?" He was none too happy to discover that THAT information only took about a minute to discover, but I now know more about the job of a border guard on the South African border than about 99.9999% of the rest of humanity. And knowledge is power. But to Bryan's other points, he was pretty much a pain in the ass as a child. He didn't become interesting until about his senior year in high school. He's right though, there was never a dull moment in my company, and the more he complained and resisted, the more over the top pain in his ass I tried to be. Bottom line: I spent much  time and money purchasing souvenirs for my wife so that she would be more favorably inclined to allow more such trips in the future.

3.  The Lodge.   The only disagreement I would have with Bryan is referring to "European" cuisines. Don't want to scare anyone off thinking that it's haute cuisine, nouvelle cuisine, or any of those other Frenchy-French styles. Chicken-a-la-king, chicken kabobs, stir fried warthog, grilled steak, a carving board selection every night with a collection of sauces made one able to keep it is simple or fancy as they desire. Full salad bar and no skimping on the desserts. Though it was pretty much eat, ride, eat, ride, eat, and drink at the bar (repeat daily) for me, it's funny the appetite one gets bouncing around in the back of an SUV holding on for dear life. I was able to escape the compound one night for a walk down the road and due to the lack of any artificial lighting, was able to see more stars than I have ever seen in my life, including the Milky Way. 

4.  The Animals.  I know, by now you've probably heard that we became known as "the elephant guys" to those at Zulu Nyala. Bryan got more disgusted every time somebody pointed me out as the guy who just kept on filming while the angered beast approached. I have to admit that the elephant grew in size each time I have recounted the tale and the age of the young lady who Bryan used as a human shield has gotten younger with each telling. But in all honesty Bryan is correct when he points out she was 20 and not 13. I guess I looked at our elephant encounter the same way I look at a Manhattan taxi ride, it isn't my car that's going to get crushed. Plus, I was watching everything on the screen of my video camera, so to me it was only as if it were happening on TV. The real treat was getting so close to a cheetah mother and her cubs.  Any zoo I have been to has the large cheetah enclosure and they always seem to be laying in the shade of a bush or walking along a distant fence line. Plus, they rarely (if ever?) breed in captivity, so seeing the adorable cubs was a highlight. Another highlight that Bryan doesn't mention (because he was napping while I took the SUV out for a solo adventure) was seeing a zebra stallion jump on and start to "get busy" with a mare.  A note to future wildlife photographers, do not exclaim "OH YEAH" while raising your camera for the shot. It spoils the moment for everyone.  I have never had an animal looked at me with such an annoyed look before. Funny how the herds of zebra and other such animals were so fascinating at the beginning to the week but as we were leaving the last morning they were an annoyance, hogging the road.

5.  The People.   Bryan has already mentioned our Zulu Nyala ranger, Amon.  I owe my life to the man as he saved my life more than a few times out in the bush by reminding my brother that life is hard in a South African prison and that would surely be his fate should he throw me out of a speeding jeep as he threatened to many times. I would advise anyone experiencing such a trip in the future to spend more time video recording your guide. You will have more than enough animal shots, but the explanations and knowledge imparted by Amon was priceless. As B pointed out, so many of our interactions were with staff at our lodge and they are expected to be nice to us. Unlike one of the lodge guests who was no doubt a Swarthmore educated social worker practicing her Zulu with people wanting to hone their English skills in order to insure a successful future, I am not big on celebrating diversity. I'm more interested in what we have in common. I thoroughly enjoyed my time discussing cooking with our chef, laptops versus tablet type computers with the bartender, and pointing out to the clerk at the convenience store who talked me into buying two Red Bulls because they were on special, that it was just the same way back in the US. Engaging in ordinary activities like driving into Hluhluwe (go ahead, I dare you to try to pronounce it) allowed me to chat with the grocery store managers about their business, which was a business I started my career in.
I wish I had my own photos to post as Bryan did on his original post, but most of my effort was with the video camera. I do appreciate that he pictured me in the outfits I had chosen that made me look more like a bad ass mercenary and less like a Boy Scout leader. If he has a pic of me wearing my African action pack, perhaps he will post that.
But as Bryan concluded, it's one to put on your bucket list. It was never on mine as my interests are more in European castles and cathedrals, but it surely was a trip of a lifetime, much in part due to the company of brother Bryan.

Claire McCaskill, Super Genius

Claire McCaskill is a Senator from the State of Missouri, and she faces re-election this November.  Missouri leans right this election season, and she was targeted from the start by Republicans as a likely place where they could pick up a seat in the Senate.  Facing no primary challenger, McCaskill's campaign allocated some of their resources (some $1.5M by one estimate) into the Republican Primary, in an ad campaign designed to elevate the Republican they felt was most beatable--Todd Akin.  Akin--favored by the Tea Party--won a closely contested primary--and vaulted into an immediate lead over McCaskill in recent polling.  It began to look like a huge failure on the part of the McCaskill campaign.

But then Todd Akin stepped in it and on it.  His ridiculous remarks on rape fuel the continuing perception among some that the Republican Party is anti-woman.  It doesn't matter that Akin's remarks have been repudiated by virtually every Republican of note; it doesn't matter that Akin's comments represent the ramblings of a mind stuck in the 19th Century; it doesn't matter that both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have called for him, to leave the race.  What matters now is that the very LEAST damage to be done by this man is that the Missouri Senate Seat will remain in the D-Column, and an undistinguished woman will remain in office, there to continue Harry Reid's majority leadership in the Senate.  Claire McCaskill--it seems--is a strategic genius.

I find myself struggling to imagine the logic behind those close to Akin advising him to stay in the race.  I return to the only parsimonious answer, and that is that the decision is his, solely his, and that he is resisting the calls of not only Party leaders, but those around him who (for crying out loud) MUST be telling him to get out. 

I generally support our system of modern politics.  I recognize that politics is a contact sport and that it is not for the faint of heart.  I realize that politics is the Olympic Games of Narcissism.  But I shake my head in disgust to think of how demeaned and debased that system is with Akin continuing to run.  I am proud of the reaction of the Republican Party thus far, and I hope they stick to it. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

He Can't Spell, Either

On Akin's website.  It is 'you're', Todd, not 'your.'  I hate this guy.

This Guy's An Even Bigger Jerk Than We Thought

No need to recount the appalling tale of the selfish, egomaniacal, and delusional Todd Akin, who is steadfastly refusing to get out of the race--and almost certainly turning a sure victory into defeat. 

However, in 1997, the Missouri State House Leader got a DUI.  Guess who urged him to resign his leadership post?   Yes, the guy who would be way better off right now if he'd picked up a DUI on Sunday instead of going to that interview.   What an ass!!!

Social Conservatives Get Their Way

...and help make the GOP look even less tolerant than normal.  In putting together the official GOP platform ahead of the convention, support for civil unions was rejected in an overwhelming majority vote. 

This is dumb.  While there is nothing wrong with being opposed to gay marriage, (I am myself though I have no beef with civil unions), why is the GOP doing anything to contribute to the image that they're narrow-minded neanderthals?  I didn't say that was a fair or accurate image, but it's the meme on the streets.   I know the evangelical vote is important, but why not just leave the marriage issue out of the official party plank altogether?   Why not just say 'we believe all persons should be treated with dignity and respect'?   Especially after the unspeakable horror in Missouri this week.

What Happened While I Was Gone? NO New Contributions to CW for Romney?

There must be some problem with the campaign finance website--as when I viewed my dashboard last night it read the SAME FIGURE AS WHEN I LEFT FOR AFRICA!!!!  How can this be?  Romney has chosen wisely for VP, the President continues to be on the ropes, the convention is next week--EVERYTHING IS GOING OUR WAY!!!! Now is not the time to let up--now is the time to reach deep!  Won't you please make a contribution?  Click this link to make yourself heard in the chorus of voices that will send President Obama packing!  Don't forget to check the box that says you know your referrer. 

Africa 2012

Ranger Amon and Me
Me, Amon, and Tubby
The trip to Africa was wonderful, a success in every respect.  Brother Tom--or "Tubby" as he insisted everyone call him--was the perfect travel companion, a gregarious conversationalist who gently forced me to be a bit more outgoing than I normally am.  I'm sure he wished that he had been more successful in his efforts, but they were appreciated nonetheless. Rather than bore you with some kind of chronological travel log, I will--as is my custom--deal in various random thoughts and insights.

Durban, from the first night's hotel
1.  Getting There and Back.  There simply isn't any really easy way to get to a game preserve in South Africa from Easton, MD.  My trip consisted of a drive to Dulles, a semi-direct flight to Johannesburg (17 hours) (a one hour stop in Dakkar for fuel, transfers, etc), a one hour flight to Durban and a three hour drive to Zulu Nyala--our home for six days.  Getting home consisted of the three hour drive to Durban, an hour flight to Jo-burg, an 8.5 hour flight to Frankfurt GE, and another 8.5 hour flight to Dulles.  A bit grueling all in all, but I can say without reservation that air travel provides me one of the few opportunities to be thankful about being modestly sized.  I would have hated to be a six footer or better during these long flights--though both South African Airways and Lufthansa had a pretty fair amount of legroom.  I was able to sleep relatively well in each direction, which cut down on some of the boredom of travel, and I had iPads and iPods full of books, movies, and courses.  Additionally, I had an aisle seat on every flight, which made get up and stretch opportunities more easily available.  One drives in South Africa on the other side of the road, with the steering wheel also on the other side.  Takes a little getting used to, but works out fine pretty quickly.  What I couldn't get used to were the hand controls, as I was constantly turning on windshield wipers when I wanted turn signals.  SA's roads were excellent, speed was 60-75 mph on the main highways,  Of interest, the shoulders were generally considered to be travel lanes, as cars would routinely pull over to the left to allow faster vehicles to pass.

Tubby and Amon
Tubby and the Gate Guard
The Swaziland Border
2.  My Travel Companion.  People often say that Tubby and I are much alike, and until this trip, I generally agreed with them.  We have a passing resemblance, we both fancy ourselves as quick-witted, and we tend toward sarcasm in our humor.  That said, the single most interesting thing I learned on this trip was how incredibly different I am from him in temperament and gregariousness.  Simply put, Tubby is one of the most extroverted people I have ever been around.  This sets up an interesting parallel with my own life, in that people often comment that my sense of orderliness and organization was something I learned in the Navy--a statement which is patently false.  I had those things BEFORE I went in the Navy--and so perhaps they helped me thrive there.  Tubby's extroversion is clearly a boon to a medical device salesman (his job), but I find myself straining to remember him as this outgoing as a kid.  Perhaps he'll comment on it.  My suspicion is that he was this outgoing and friendly, just not to his little brother.  No one was immune to Tubby's charms.  Virtually every social transaction turned into an opportunity for him to tell a story or to solicit a story from his interlocutor.  He made friends wherever we went, considering himself  "an Ambassador of the United States."  We even made an hour's diversion from our trip to Pungola so that we could suffer four separate immigration processes to that he could leave South Africa and obtain a Swaziland passport stamp.  Four separate opportunities to regale the locals with the novelty of crossing a border simply to get a stamp.  There simply was never a dull moment in Tubby's company. Which is why I occasionally had to depart from his company, as I enjoy dull moments--I think probably more than he does.  I craved quiet sunsets for reading and solitude in our room, while he kept the bar entertained explaining America to anyone who happened by.  Bottom line:  I'd do it again in a heartbeat. 

The Game Lodge
Where we ate...and ate...
3.  The Lodge.  We stayed at Zulu Nyala Game Lodge, on the 1000 hectare (2.5 acres per hectare) Zula Nyala Game Preserve.  Everything--and I mean everything--was excellent.  Our room was spacious and well lit, with a big soaking tub and a stand up shower in the bathroom.  Three squares a day were provided, with coffee available seemingly round the clock.  Meals were hearty and primarily served buffet style, mixing in well known European cuisines with local dishes utilizing game stock for some of the choices.  I arrived with all good intentions of continuing to be a disciplined eater and failed miserably in the pursuit.  I mean, come on--buffet?  My kind of deal.  Meals were lengthy undertakings, as there were multiple trips to the buffet line, local entertainment (Zulu singing and dancing most nights), and interacting with our fellow guests.  Again--Tubby usually initiated conversation with the unsuspecting, and I joined in afterward.  The Lodge had a tennis court, a couple of great lounging areas with massive overstuffed leather couches, a great TV lounge, and a game area with Foosball and pool tables.  The ONLY thing lacking in the resort was an exercise area.  As we were prohibited from walking the grounds without a ranger, one generally went from bed, to a meal, to a game ride, to another meal, to a nap, to another game ride, to another meal, to post-meal relaxing/drinking, to bed.  Well, maybe not "one", but that's sorta the short hand of my trip....and I would like to have worked off a bit of the buffet each day.  The lodge is planning to build an exercise area in the near future.  The staff was unfailingly friendly and cooperative, and they did their very best to seem interested in whatever it was Tubby was telling them.  Bartenders were particularly drawn to Tubby, and their tips reflected their adoration. 

Note the turtle
Note the bird
Very big animals
These guys were a favorite
A case of "blue balls"
Another favorite
Torsten, in the game spotter chair
4.  The Animals.  Obviously the reason one goes on a safari is for the animals--and we were not disappointed.  Zula Nyala has a great assortment including cheetah, nyala, impala, zebra, giraffes, baboons, monkeys, elephants, hippos, rhinos, wildebeest, cape buffalo, wart hogs....I could go on and on.  Viewing the animals is facilitated by your game ranger, and ours was amazing.  Amon was his name, and he knew has craft well.  He was very knowledgeable of the animals and their habits, and he REALLY went out of his way to take care of us.  Now--I think he probably does that for all his visitors--but Tubby and I greased him UP FRONT with what Tubby estimates to be a week's salary, and that seemed to motivate him accordingly.  Zulu Nyala is a relatively small preserve, and so we took a side trip to Phinda--a 68,000 hectare preserve abutting it.  In terms of game viewing, Phinda is the major league.  They have 30 lions, 30 leopards, cheetahs, a ton of elephants, giraffes, zebras--the whole gamut and a lot of it. Phinda has six different lodges, sandy, level roads, and the big cats everyone wants to see.  Our guide at Phinda (Sebastian) was superb--and our 3.5 hour tour was segmented by a nice stop in the bush for drinks and snacks.  This stop was rudely interrupted by a group of elephants seemingly uninterested in our libation.  We were joined on our tour by two others from our lodge, Torsten and Edmund, from Germany.  Both Tubby and I speak German, and they spoke perfect English, so we were a great group.  Torsten and Edmund were actually working--their job is to go around the world and rate resorts!  Tubby and I agreed that as far as jobs went, theirs were pretty good. 

Sebastian, from Phinda
5.  The People.  We were in the heart of Zulu Country, and the overwhelming majority of the people we interacted with were Zulus.  The culture, singing and dancing we were exposed to at the lodge was all zulu, as were the art/crafts available for sale.  We did not meet an unfriendly person, period.  Now, we were interacting with the tourism industry, and clearly they are paid to be nice--but this observation extends to everyone we met.  Now, most of you know that South Africa has had an interesting recent history.  Eighteen years ago, Apartheid officially ended and South Africa's peaceful revolution occurred, in which hundreds of years of minority white rule and decades of legislatively imposed racial segregation came to an end.  I took the opportunity to speak with black South Africans about the revolution, and they were uniformly positive about it--as one would expect.  There is a great deal of national pride in the country, and the country is beginning to come together culturally, as eleven distinct tribal languages are being nosed out by English as the official language.  White South Africans are not nearly as happy with life 18 years down the road, which also is to be expected.  Tubby and I had an interesting cultural exchange one afternoon in the town of Pongola, two hours drive north of our lodge.  We went there to break up the pattern of meals and game rides, and basically encountered a medium sized commercial district of no great acclaim.  After a meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken, we decided to head back to our lodge.  On a whim, I suggested we turn down a road in town to see where it took us, an on it, was the Pungola Golf Club.  Tubby smelled vodka, and so we pulled off for a snort or two. It turned out to be a small bastion of Afrikaner "whiteness".  There were about a dozen folks at the bar who had just completed an afternoon golf scramble, and the scene could have been the Burlington Country Club, 1978 with Jimmy wires holding court with Don Alvarez, Gordon Keanan, and Butchy Eckman.  Tubby of course, broke the ice, and after a time, we were being hailed across the bar in Afrikans as "two Americans who are all right".  Apparently, our political opposition to President Obama was a hit.  I asked some of our new friends about how things were going--and again, uniformly, they were negative.  The biggest problem?  Law and order...crime.  Their impression is that the old government provided it, and the new government does not.  On our first day in country back in Durban, we had breakfast with a white couple from Capetown--and they echoed similar views on law and order.  The man was in business, and he indicated that the trade unions and the government were cut of whole cloth, and I indicated it was moving in that direction under our current government.  Of note--the Afrikaners at the golf club were nearly as reverential to Nelson Mandela as the black residents I spoke to.  I found that encouraging.

First night sunset
Last night sunset
 No question--this trip was worth every penny, and more.  Definitely one to put on your bucket list--in order to remove it.

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