Thursday, September 30, 2010

Political Action Or Political Maneuvering?

Nine days ago, John McCain (as well as the Bush administration), was proclaiming the soundness of the fundamentals of our economy. A few days later, after realizing his political blunder, John McCain, dropped his "sound economy" argument and started blaming the corporate heads of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Obama for the economic mess. Today, John McCain, has suspended his campaign and is headed to Washington to make sure the economy, which was supposedly "sound," gets fixed.

During this time, Obama, has remained relaxed and consistent in his comments about the dire state of the economy. Obama, just today, took it on himself to contact McCain and suggest that they come to an agreement on this issue and draw up a joint statement of solidarity, which McCain agreed to. Just after his contact with Obama, McCain, suddenly announced that he was suspending his campaign and wanted to cancel the presidential debate on Friday night.

Then, just this afternoon, Bush, invited McCain and Obama, as well as other republican and democratic leaders, to meet with him to discuss the economy and his bailout plan. Why didn't Bush invite McCain and Obama, as well as the others, to discuss this economic crisis a week or two weeks ago, when the Palin stupor was still in effect and favorable to McCain's campaign? Could it be that the decline of McCain's campaign numbers influenced Bush to call them in for discussions?

This whole McCain/Bush scenario sounds too convenient, politically. Senator, Chris Dodd, who has, along with others, been scrutinizing this bailout (for the last five days) told a reporter, just today, that McCain had no contact with anyone working on this issue until this morning.

Dodd, also told this reporter that Obama had been in touch with many officials, including the treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, over the past week, because he was concerned about the state of the economy. In other words, McCain, who now is supposedly concerned enough to suspend his campaign, had no contact with anyone working on this bailout until today, which just happens to be two days before the first presidential debate. Whereas, Obama has been concerned, over the past week or more, and has contacted those involved to learn as much as possible and be involved in the process.

McCain, has many reasons to be concerned about this crisis, but few of them have anything to do with fixing the economy. McCain's brief bubble of popularity, which was primarily due to Sarah Palin, has all but deflated in the last two weeks. Recent polls show McCain's political stock dropping, while Obama's stock is on the rise. The outright lies, inaccessibility and flip-flopping of McCain and Palin have finally been noticed by voters, and this has sent the McCain campaign into survival mode, as well as panic. Thus, we have McCain, who, just nine days ago, thought the economy was sound, supposedly risking his candidacy to go to Washington and "rescue" (not "bailout") the economy and people of the United States. If this isn't a "grand stand" maneuver, then I've never seen one!

As I've said before, I am not an Obama or McCain supporter! I have to admit, however, that Obama, at least for the last month or so, has looked and responded like he could be an effective president, while John McCain has looked and responded like George Bush or even worse (if that's possible?). We, perhaps, are on the brink of another world-wide depression, and it seems that John McCain, as is common to his party, is only capable of being manipulative and playing political games.

I hope that middle-class Americans can put aside their party loyalties long enough to sense the difference between political posturing/maneuvering and true political action. If not, then it might just take a depression to wake them up!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Moral Politics

Young men and women registering and flocking to Obama.

Faith and politics are always strange bedfellows. So what's going on here? Is this a shepherd leading his flock of the faithful or misguided youth?

The current regime is old politics, old Washington. It is not totally out of step with many of the times, but represents a tired format. Young people are looking for something new, something fresh. And something they can believe in.

The world the younger generation has grown up in is largely relativity with no absolute truth. The world is spinning and there just isn't must to hang onto. Along comes a charismatic individual with what seems like fresh ideas. No matter how thin the ideas are, they are something different. A spoon-fed generation relies on others to stimulate and educate them. So much news, so many sources. Who is telling the truth? Who can they believe? Skepticism rules.

The good old boys are just putting down our new hope because he does not fit the mold. They are afraid of him.
Dialog with the younger generation is fascinating. Each of them possesses a plethora of facts. For many, social issues like taking care of the poor, the needy and the homeless are of utmost importance. The perception is that the liberal contingent has the answers to social ills. But do they?

What has the liberal agenda done for the poor and needy? Some say it has entrenched them deeper into the ghetto and poverty. Reliance on a government handout has not solved any of these problems. Welfare, food stamps and subsidies have created an entitlement generation of poor and needy. Having spent a lot of time in Russia after the fall of Communism I have seen socialism up close and personal.

Men and women are created with a need for love, acceptance and self-worth. Socialism dashes this need and creates a dependent class of people not capable of extracting themselves from the clutches of the government. Nor do they desire to be rescued from that grip after a period of time.

So what is the flock flocking to anyway? To new ideals? Or to old ideas wrapped in a new glitzy, programmed veneer? My daddy used to say, "Beware of the hype, they are after your money." In this case they may be after your soul and it's not good to sell out to the wolf in sheep's clothing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Overzealous Political Endorsement Calls

In today's era of targeted political marketing political endorsement calls are being used in record numbers to reach out to voters for a variety of reasons. Candidates use political endorsement calls to raise money from people who they believe will be sympathetic to their cause, as well as phone calls to voters whom they wish to sway. This all adds up to a huge number of phone calls from every candidate imaginable from every political party.

Although everyone is hit with political endorsement calls, not everyone is hit equally. For instance, if you have already donated the maximum amount of money to a campaign it is unlikely that you will receive further calls about making a contribution, however do not let your guard down because you will probably be receiving more phone calls of the political actions sort for volunteer work since the campaign knows that you are sympathetic to their cause.

If you have not yet donated the maximum amount of money possible to a campaign it is likely that you will be deluged under a storm of phone calls until you do hit that mark.

Campaigns are using very elaborate record-keeping in order to track who has donated money and how much which they then use to make these targeted phone calls.

If you're voting record is independent, or all over the place, you will likely be hit by many different campaigns all trying to sway you to their cause. Indeed being an independent voter these days means that you just leave yourself wide open to all sorts of campaign calls.

The people who did hit the hardest with campaign endorsement calls live in the primary states where they are subject to seven day a week efforts from all candidates looking to get the edge in that states caucuses.

These people living in primary states have been known to get upwards of seven or 10 phone calls every day from different candidates.

Indeed the price of being politically responsible these days is your privacy, and some would say your sanity. Of course not all people do these political endorsement calls as troublesome, however many do; and for those people who do find the excess of political endorsement calls to be intrusive and annoying there is sadly little recourse. There is no current nationwide political do not call list, and there are very few guidelines that campaigns must follow when contacting individuals. Aside from using caller ID and blocking incoming phone calls from known campaign phone numbers there is very little the average person can do. Unfortunately the best advice in this election season is to just take all of the phone calls with a grain of salt, and do your best to not lose your mind. Remember it will all be over in less than a year so just try to hang in there and do not let overzealous political endorsement calls dissuade you from taking part in the election process.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rare Coins and Politics

Politics and rare coins might not seem to go together, but they are linked throughout the history of the United States. From the first coins of the 1650s to the change you carry in your pocket today, political influence has been a significant part of United States coinage.

The first coins struck in what is now the United States were minted in 1652, more than a century before the "United States" existed. The Massachusetts Bay Colony struck silver coins from 1652 through about 1682, yet all but one of the denominations always carried the date 1652 regardless of the actual year of issue. Why? Politics. Since the coins were minted openly, there was real intent to fool the British Crown into believing that all of coinage in circulation was actually minted in 1652, when there was no monarchy. Instead, it was probably a courtesy. The colonists were saying: "We're going to continue to mint our own coins while not appearing to flagrantly ignore your edicts."

In 1665, after receiving a book of laws from the colonists, the King's Commissioners requested that a number of laws be changed or repealed.

Among them was the following: ". . .title money, the law about a mint house, etc., be repealed, for coining is a royal prerogative, for the usurping of which yet act of indemnity is only a salvo."

Salvo? More like a salvation, as the coins were desperately needed in the colonies. It was time when wampum, musket bullets, and counterfeit foreign coins were used as money alongside the few legitimate coins that were available. The colonists ignored the request of the Crown, evidently without penalty.

The Civil War of 1861-65 presented tremendous problems for circulating coinage.

The silver half dime was one of the many denominations that wasn't circulating, and the five-cent fractional currency was considered to be a poor substitute. A solution to the problem was a coin of a new metal, and coins struck in nickel were introduced.

Nickel is impractical for coin production, as its hardness is conducive to laminations, die breaks, poor strikes, and many other problems. When James Pollock, director of the Mint in 1865, proposed a new nickel alloy for coinage, he was under the influence of political pressure. His personal preference was for coins made of French bronze, but nickel magnate Joseph Wharton had many friends in Congress, and the new nickel alloy won out. Nickel had been used in the copper-nickel cents of 1856-64, but the demand or nickel became unprecedented with the introduction of the three cent nickel (1865) and the five cent nickel (1866).

Nickel coins are still struck today, of course, and many of the problems are just as prevalent. Try putting together a set of problem-free Jefferson nickels, let alone such series as Buffalo nickels or Shield nickels.

The political clout of the followers of the late Anthony Comstock led to a significant change in our coinage in 1917. Hermon MacNeil's magnificent Standing Liberty quarter design, first introduced in 1916, was beautiful and popular. It was also scandalous, at least to the highly vocal Society for the Suppression of Vice. Treasury Secretary William McAdoo was bombarded with complaints about Miss Liberty's partial nudity, and in mid-1917 the design was modified to cover the lady. It is often argued that there were other reasons for the change, such as 1) the type one coins wouldn't stack, or 2) the chain mail placed on Miss Liberty was a symbol of war, or 3) it was done so the coin would strike up better. Argument #3 is totally invalid, as the type one Standing Liberty quarter is consistently far superior in strike to the type two. The other two arguments have a degree of credibility based on surviving documents, but the most important reason for the change was almost assuredly a case of "comstockery" as the prudery was labeled by prominent writers of the era.

While the incidents of coins mixing with politics mentioned above are famous ones, perhaps no other case can quite compare to the Morgan dollar. The Mint Act of 1873 abolished this denomination, along with the other issues such as the three-cent silver and the half dime. By 1878 the silver dollar was back as the result of extreme political pressure from the silver interests, such as the owners of the gigantic Comstock Lode, a monumental silver mine in Nevada. Overriding a presidential veto, the Bland-Allison Act of February 28, 1878 provided that the government would purchase million to million in domestic silver for coinage into silver dollars. It took less than two weeks for the new design to be approved, the dies made, and the first proofs struck.

The Sherman Silver Purchase Act set the amount of silver to be purchased monthly at an exact figure-187 tons per month. When the act was repealed in 1893, the mine owners were rich and the Treasury vaults were overflowing with unneeded silver dollars. It wasn't until 1898 that legislation provided for the disposal of the remaining silver through continued silver dollar mintage. In 1904, the silver finally ran out in 1893, the mine owners were rich and the Treasury vaults were overflowing with unneeded silver dollars. It wasn't until 1898 that legislation provided for the disposal of the remaining silver through continued silver dollar mintage. In 1904, the silver finally ran out, and Morgan dollar production ended for 17 years.

The story of the Morgan dollar was nearly finished-but not quite. In 1918 the Pittman Act was instituted, which required the melting of up to 350,000,000 silver dollars. A little over a quarter of a billion-that's right, billion-were actually melted, but political pressure caused another weird scenario. The silver lobby persuaded Congress to include a clause that domestic silver be purchased to replace the silver dollars lost in the melting. What was this silver used for? Starting in 1921, it was used to mint silver dollars!

Coins and politics. Politics and coins. After nearly 350 years, they are still inextricably entwined, an integral part of our past and an inevitable part of our future.

The three-cent nickel: the alloy won out over silver