Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

“Why, Oh Why, Do Conservatives Hate America So?”

The title is a quote from Eugene Robinson’s latest effort in which he indulges himself in another leftist “history began January, 20th, 2009” moment.  His ire and the reason for his rhetorical question comes on the heels of the announcement that Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace prize and the derision by which that was met on the right.

Robinson then spends the rest of his article taking pot shots at those who find the award to be a travesty.  But in the entire 700 to 800 word spread, he never once even attempts to justify the award.  The best he can do is this:

Obama has shifted U.S. foreign policy away from George W. Bush’s cowboy ethos toward a multilateral approach. He envisions, and has begun to implement, a different kind of U.S. leadership that I believe is more likely to succeed in an interconnected, multipolar world. That this shift is being noticed and recognized is to Obama’s credit — and to our country’s.

Of course, as any student of foreign affairs will tell you, that all remains to be seen. But again, one has to pretend that there was no multilateralism in existence prior to Obama to make this sort of a claim. And, of course, that’s simply not the case. So if Robinson’s reason for the prize is to be taken seriously, then the detractors are correct – it’s a travesty.

In the short term at least, it has become what most thinking people realized when it was awarded to Jimmy Carter –  the “You’re Not George Bush” award. In reality, the Nobel Peace prize has degenerated into a political award given to those who best reflect the politics of the decidedly leftist award committee.  It has little to do with peace.  It has nothing to do with objectivity.   It has everything to do with partisan leftist politics.

There are certainly many more worthy candidates who’ve worked very hard to bring peace to troubled areas. But they simply don’t provide the committee with the political visibility it craves. And they certainly don’t provide the committee the platform from which to make some sort of statement about what it finds acceptable in US politics and, frankly, what it doesn’t.

Anyone who brings as weak an argument to the table as has Eugene Robinson must in the back of his mind realize how undeserving Obama is of this award. To say he’s really accomplished nothing of substance in his first 9 months as president is an understatement. But it is also a fact.

One of the reasons the Medal of Honor is so difficult to earn is because the standards of courage, sacrifice and bravery required are set at an almost unachievable level. And those standards are never compromised for politics or any other reason. That’s why when you see a man wearing the MOH, you know without having to wonder that he met those standards. And when he meets another MOH recipient, there’s no doubt in his mind that recipient also met the very same high standards of courage under fire that he did.

That’s why the MOH is revered so highly.

The Nobel Peace Prize has, as critics are now claiming, has become a travesty driven by partisan politics. It isn’t “highly revered” anymore.  The fact that Robinson wants to keep up the charade that this “honor” is something worth having (much less deserved) because it is politically useful for his side to do so speaks volumes about his integrity. He claims the right thing to say is “congratulations”. But I have little doubt that had the committee awarded George Bush the peace prize for ousting Saddam, defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq, and returning the country to the people, Robinson would have been among the first on the “travesty” bandwagon.  The last thing he’d have said is “congratulations”.  He’d also have been among the first to wonder why he was being accused of “hating America so”.

Those who remember the period before January, 20th 2009, remember when the Eugene Robinson’s of the world thought dissent was the highest form of patriotism. Now, with history beginning on that date for those like Robinson, dissent is just plain old hate.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

~McQ

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Hate Crime Bill To Pass In Defense Authorization?

Stuffed in the National Defense Authorization Act is something which has absolutely nothing to do with defense, but is a law that “progressives” have desired to have on the books for a long time.  Named the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, its purpose is to make crimes against certain groups punishable by harsher sentencing if it is determined the crime was driven by “hate”.

Since the votes weren’t present in the Senate on a stand-alone basis, Senate Democrats have attached it to the defense authorization bill as an amendment.

The crime bill — which would broaden the protected classes for hate crimes to include sexual orientation and “gender identity,” which the bill defines as a victim’s “actual or perceived gender-related characteristics” — passed the House earlier this year as a stand-alone measure.

Republicans object to the law on First Amendment grounds:

Beyond that, GOP lawmakers feared the new bill could infringe on First Amendment rights in the name of preventing broadly defined hate crimes. The bill’s critics, including many civil libertarians, argued that the hate crimes provision could chill freedom of speech by empowering federal authorities to accuse people of inciting hate crimes, even if the speech in question was not specifically related to a crime.

My objection, as usual, is that the GOP has accepted the premise of “hate crime laws” as being legitmate and are only arguing about the final form. The crime of murder, in terms of a result for the victim, isn’t any worse if it was driven by hate or not. In fact, it could be argued that murder, for any reason, is essentially a hate crime.

The reason for the crime is hardly the most relevant point. The result is what we can concretely and objectively judge and punish. The job of law enforcement is to ensure that a murderer is brought to justice by connecting him or her irrefutably to the crime. Other than that, I see little relevance in whether it was done because the person didn’t like gays or because the person wanted to get rid of their spouse. Murder is murder.

Another thing that bothers me is the title – The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This isn’t about just punishing what is deemed a hate crime, by whatever arbitrary definition they choose to define a hate crime, but instead “preventing” those crimes.

That means, as the GOP points out, monitoring and doing something about what is deemed “hate speech” because the only way to “prevent” a “hate crime” is to prevent (or stop) the speech which government decides might incite people to take action. No speech, no incitement. No incitement, no crime.

Now, it is important to note that we already have an exception to the 1st Amendment’s ban on punishing speech and that’s the “fighting words” exception.  It essentially says words can incite undesirable and even criminal action and those words aren’t protected speech. What is being proposed here is an expansion of the meaning of “fighting words” to include words that Congress decides incites “hate” and then criminal behavior (thus the term “hate crime”).

Unfortunately the bill looks like it will be signed into law. The question, of course, is how broad the final bill will be and how badly it attacks our First Amendment rights.

Republican Sam Brownback offered an amendment to the Senate version which said the bill could not “construed or applied in a manner that infringes on any rights under the First Amendment” and could not place any burden on the exercise of First Amendment rights “if such exercise of religion, speech, expression, or association was not intended to plan or prepare for an act of physical violence or incite an imminent act of physical violence against another.”

With that amendment, GOP Senators supported the final bill. However when the bill went to the conference committee, key changes were made to the Brownback amendment by the Democrat controlled committee:

Where Brownback had insisted, and the full Senate had agreed, that the bill could not burden the exercise of First Amendment rights, the conference changed the wording to read that the bill could not burden the exercise of First Amendment rights “unless the government demonstrates … a compelling governmental interest” to do otherwise.

That means your First Amendment rights are protected — unless they’re not.

“A compelling governmental interest” leaves the door wide open for your free speech rights to be trampled on the government’s whim. Where the First Amendment was designed as a limit on government power (as was the entire Constitution), this law is a blatant attack on those limits and an attempt to expand government power. Additionally, instead of an objective standard by which to judge a crime, this attempts to identify and punish thought.

In terms of our civil liberties it is an incredibly dangerous and precedent setting move that will enable government – as long as it can “demonstrate a “compelling … interest” (which it will define) – to restrict or punish speech it chooses to categorize as “hate speech”.

Obama has said he’ll sign the bill when ready. With Obama’s recent LBGT troubles, this is a bone he can throw their way.

“I will sign it into law,” the president told a cheering crowd at the gay activist group Human Rights Campaign on Saturday. “Together we will have moved closer to that day when no one has to be afraid to be gay in America.”

The GOP finds itself in a no-win position. They can vote against the hate crimes part of the bill and be accused by Democrats of not supporting the troops, or they can vote for the Defense Authorization Act and the hate crimes portion becomes law.

I think we all know they’ll vote to authorize the defense spending. And with that vote, America will become a little less free as Democrats continue on pace to erode our liberties while they have the chance.

~McQ

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CA Bans Mail Order Ammo Sales

California Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger did not sign, but did not veto, AB962, the Mail Order Ammo Ban.  Since California has no pocket veto, that means the bill becomes law without his signature.

This means that, as of 1 Feb 2011, all handgun ammunition sales in California will require a face-to-face transaction between buyer and seller, and sellers will have to obtain a thumbprint and other data from the buyer.

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Are Islamic Radicals Sensing Weakness?

It is all fine and good to have a discussion and even a debate about future strategy in Afghanistan.  But probably not 6 months after you’ve announced your former strategy.   For some reason, dithering has a tendency to be interpreted as a weakness, not a strength.  In war, weaknesses are attacked and exploited.  And that may be exactly what we’re beginning to see:

Several thousand foreign fighters have poured into Afghanistan to bolster the Taliban insurgency, the country’s defense minister said yesterday as he called for more international troops.

The remarks come as the United States debates whether to substantially increase its forces in Afghanistan or to conduct a more limited campaign focused on targeting al-Qaeda figures – most of whom are believed to be in neighboring Pakistan.

The minister’s comments hit on a key worry of the United States – that not sending enough troops to Afghanistan will open the door again to al-Qaeda. They also suggest that the Afghan government is nervous about the U.S. commitment amid talk of changing the strategy and a surge in violence in recent months.

This isn’t a Senate debate where you can take whatever time you need and if it’s not finished by the nearest recess, you put it off until you come back. Wars can’t be tabled. A war continues with or without a decision made by either side. And, in many cases in history, wars have been lost because decisions were delayed or not made in a timely manner.

The fact that foreign fighters are pouring in now has to be viewed in a particular context. You can’t snap your finger and produce “foreign fighters” in Afghanistan. They have to be recruited, transported, trained and then gotten to A’stan. So for the enemy to have these fighters showing up now would indicate, at least to me, that they have sensed some form of weakness in the American committment (and make no mistake – there is no NATO Afghanistan mission without the US) and they have been able to sell recruits on the idea that they’re about to turn everything around there and win. And note this: the Taliban won’t have any esoteric conversations about whether or not running us off is a “victory” or just “success”. They’ll trumpet to the world that they kicked our butt while they then barbarically subdue, punish and seek revenge on anyone who worked with us. They don’t care how it happens – force of arms or us just pulling out – it is still a victory. And everyone likes to be on the winning side:

“The enemy has changed. Their number has increased,” the defense minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, told lawmakers in a speech. He said that about 4,000 fighters, mostly from Chechnya, North Africa, and Pakistan, “have joined with them and they are involved in the fighting in Afghanistan.”

The longer the administration continues to dither, the easier it is for the radicals to sell their cause and claim the indecision by the administration indicates that, as they’ve always said, the US hasn’t the political will to finish much of anything that extends over a year or two.  Bush would actually be seen as the exception.

Unless and until a decision is made and made rather quickly, recruiting should be good for the radicals.

And of course, good recruiting for them means more losses among our troops. Sure we usually have a high ratio of Taliban kills to every soldier we lose, but that’s not the point. The point is indecision emboldens the enemy and that ends up killing our soldiers.

There is absolutely no reason that a decision could not be reached within a week or two. One of President Obama’s primary jobs is that Commander in Chief. It’s time he started acting like one.

~McQ

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Cracks in the Edifice

For the most part, both the Fed and the Obama Administration have been publicly confident of a number of things. They’ve assured us that the bailouts and stimulus spending, along with the great monetary expansion we’ve had since last October, were necessary to stave off economic collapse.  They’ve also assured us that they have an end game for unwinding these policies when necessary.

But, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard is now warning that the negative results of the monetary expansion imposes more risk of inflation than generally believed.

I am concerned about a popular narrative in use today … that the output gap must be large since the recession is so severe … [and] any medium-term inflation threat is negligible, even in the face of extraordinarily accommodative monetary policy. I think this narrative overplays the output-gap story.

Take away Pres. Bullard’s Fed-speak, and what you have is a Federal Reserve bank president warning that the Fed’s accomodative policy runs a very real risk inflation when the economy picks up.  Naturally, to fight this ionflation, the Fed will need to raise interest rates.  With a doubling of the monetary base in the past year, that implies the possibility for raising rates quite substantially, which could strangle any nascent economic recovery in the cradle.

So, while Pres. Bullard also says that moderate economic growth for the end of the year is possible, we probably shouldn’t get our hopes up for a while.

Meanwhile, all of the extra dollars floating out there, combined with extremely large federal budget deficits for the next several years, is having an effect on the dollar.  Not only has the number of dollars vastly expanded, the deficits require greatly increased bond sales, which encumber the federal government with a long-term debt obligation that will be harder and harder to meet.  This is making the dollar…unattractive to heathen foreigners.  Not only in terms of dollar-denominated investments, but also in making the dollar fundamentally unattractive as  the world’s reserve currency. The rumblings about dumping dollar continue.

[T]he United Nations itself last week called for a new global reserve currency to end dollar supremacy, which had allowed the United States the “privilege” of building up a huge trade deficit.

UN undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, Sha Zukang, said “important progress in managing imbalances can be made by reducing the (dollar) reserve currency country’s ‘privilege’ to run external deficits in order to provide international liquidity.”

Zukang was speaking at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, whose President Robert Zoellick recently warned that the United States should not “take for granted” the dollar’s role as preeminent global reserve currency.

You cannot simultaneously have your currency act as the global reserve currency while deflating the currency to uselessness by using foreign investment in dollars to maintain huge current account deficits.  The foreigners may talk funny, and have quaint ways, but they’re not big enough hayseeds to recognize who ultimately gets the short end of that deal if it continues.

Still, our government’s response has been heartening.

Following the summit, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner repeated Washington’s commitment to a strong dollar.

At this point, I suspect that the international financial community takes this commitment as seriously as the attendees of the local junior college take my commitment to have sex with barely legal teen girls.  Actually, my commitment probably has a better chance of coming to fruition, since the international financial community doesn’t have “daddy issues”.

Meanwhile,  all of the teachers, cops, firemen, DMV workers, etc., who thought taking a relatively low-paying government job now in return for really good retirement benefits, may need to rethink that strategy.

The upheaval on Wall Street has deluged public pension systems with losses that government officials and consultants increasingly say are insurmountable unless pension managers fundamentally rethink how they pay out benefits or make money or both.

Within 15 years, public systems on average will have less half the money they need to pay pension benefits, according to an analysis by Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Other analysts say funding levels could hit that low within a decade.

After losing about $1 trillion in the markets, state and local governments are facing a devil’s choice: Either slash retirement benefits or pursue high-return investments that come with high risk.

In other words, start stocking up on Alpo for those hearty retirement meals, or hope that the pension fund’s investment in fur-bearing trout farms come through big-time.

But it’s not just government workers who may be looking at a bleak future.  The government’s actions since last October are also having unintended consequences on the domestic economy that affects all of us–although I should point out that these unintended consequences were entirely predictable.

The Fed’s policy of essentially free money means that household savers get no return at all on CD’s, T-bills, Money Markets, etc., while speculators can borrow money at no cost, and toss them at any speculative investment that promises any return at all.  So traditional savings are being gutted.

Excessive government borrowing is sucking the air out of the private credit markets.  While goverment borrowing is proceeding at a $1.9 trillion annual rate, private credit is collapsing.

Last year, banks provided new credit at the annual pace of $472.4 billion in the first quarter and $86.7 billion in the second. This year, on a net basis, they’re not providing any credit whatsoever. In fact, they’re actually liquidating loans at the rate of $857.2 billion in the first quarter and $931.3 billion in the second.

Ditto for mortgages. Last year, mortgages were being created at the annual clip of $522.5 billion and $124 billion in the first and second quarters, respectively. This year, they’ve been liquidated at an annual pace of $39.3 billion in the first quarter and $239.5 billion in the second.

This lack of credit means that businesses have been unable to expand or hire–or even maintain their workforce.  As a result, 7.2 million jobs have been lost in the last 21 months, compared to the 2.7 million jobs lost in the 30 months of the last recession.  The official unemployment rate of 9.8% hides the effect of discouraged job seekers, or the under-employed, which means the actual unemployment rate, as it was calculated prior to 1973 is 17%.  Shadow Government Statistics places the actual unemployment rate at an even worse 21%.

And now, after all the unintended consequences of our past actions, some in Congress are now calling for Stimulus II.  Apparently, Stimulus I did such a bang-up job, that they want to double down on two sixes.

Hop.  Hop.  Hop.

the United Nations itself last week called for a new global reserve currency to end dollar supremacy, which had allowed the United States the “privilege” of building up a huge trade deficit.

UN undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, Sha Zukang, said “important progress in managing imbalances can be made by reducing the (dollar) reserve currency country’s ‘privilege’ to run external deficits in order to provide international liquidity.”

Zukang was speaking at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, whose President Robert Zoellick recently warned that the United States should not “take for granted” the dollar’s role as preeminent global reserve currency.

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Still Not Getting It

Other than whistling-past-the-graveyard willful ignorance, how is it that the left and the media (yeah, I know, same thing) can still be so clueless when it comes to the Tea Party movement? The catalyst was the passage of the TARP bill last year, and the continued profligacy of government spending has served to fan the flames of these growing protests. Despite being deemed racist, ignorant, lunatic fringers who are nothing more than astroturfed loud-mouths bought and paid for by (take your pick) the GOP, the insurance industry, et al., the tea partiers have only become stronger and more noticeable. And although the message is excruciatingly simple (Taxed Enough Already), the left/media is still shocked to discover that this isn’t some devious plot to overthrow Obama and the Democrats that was orchestrated by Karl Rove:

While the energy of the anti-tax and anti-Big Government tea party movement may yet haunt Democrats in 2010, the first order of business appears to be remaking the Republican Party.

Whether it’s the loose confederation of Washington-oriented groups that have played an organizational role or the state-level activists who are channeling grass-roots anger into action back home, tea party forces are confronting the Republican establishment by backing insurgent conservatives and generating their own candidates — even if it means taking on GOP incumbents.

“We will be a headache for anyone who believes the Constitution of the United States … isn’t to be protected,” said Dick Armey, chairman of the anti-tax and limited government advocacy group FreedomWorks, which helped plan and promote the tea parties, town hall protests and the September ‘Taxpayer March’ in Washington. “If you can’t take it seriously, we will look for places of other employment for you.”

“We’re not a partisan organization, and I think many Republicans are disappointed we are not,” added Armey, a former GOP congressman.

In other words, it’s not the party, it’s the spending stupid.

However, for some the message is still not getting through:

The right-wing “Tea Party” activists are, obviously, deeply opposed to the Obama White House’s policies and the Democratic agenda in general. But Alex Isenstadt reports that they’re not especially pleased with the state of the Republican Party, either. Apparently, the Teabaggers think the GOP is too moderate…

Now, the notion of hostilities between right-wing activists and really right-wing activists is, to a certain extent, entertaining. State and local Republican parties are already pretty unhinged — pick a state GOP platform at random and read it — but that’s apparently insufficient.

But the part of this that’s really remarkable to me is the notion that the Republican Party of 2009 is just too darn reasonable and open to compromise with those sneaky Democrats, as far as this crowd is concerned.

Yes, the recovery-opposing, nominee-blocking, ACORN-hunting, Fox News-following, health care-rejecting, gay bashing, global warming-denying, scorched earth-raging Republican Party isn’t far enough to the right for the Teabggers.

Talk about misreading the Tea leaves. Benen misses the boat completely. He and his lefty adherents are convinced that the GOP started some fake grassroots campaign to take on Obama and the Democrats, stoked by racial fears of having a black man in the White House, and that the movement has now turned on them. But that was never the case. Instead, it was always about the runaway spending in Washington:

Tea party organizers say their resistance to Republican Party-backed primary candidates has much to do with what they perceive as the GOP’s stubborn insistence on embracing candidates who don’t abide by a small government, anti-tax conservative philosophy.

There it is in a nutshell. The people are tired of speaking out against runaway spending by Democrats just to get Republicans who do the same thing, only at a slightly slower pace. It’s the fundamental thinking in Washington that needs to change, not the letter behind the politician’s name.

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0% Tolerance; 100% Nonsense

We’ve all heard the stories about students being suspended for bringing aspirin to school, etc., where administrators are tasked with enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy with respect to drugs, weapons, and the like. While being kicked out of school for a few days for bandying over-the-counter analgesics is bad enough, when kids who are otherwise good citizens are thrown into reform school you know things are really getting out of hand:

Zachary Christie is a six-year old student in Newark, Delaware who is facing 45 days in reform school because he brought his new Cub Scout eating utensil to school for lunch. The utensil includes a knife, and this violates the school’s brainlessly, robotically enforced zero-tolerance policy on “weapons on school property.”

I can sort of understand the school’s problem with Christie having a knife (although, if it isn’t a lock-blade, it’s use as a weapon is awfully questionable), but how on earth does that merit being sent to reform school? When I used to work with troubled kids in a alternative-education wilderness program (where most of the kids came to us through social services and/or the courts), they were allowed to have pocket knives, and these were the kids who were kicked out of every school they had ever attended. If they could be trusted with such a utensil, why is that a Cub Scout can’t have one?

If I were the kid’s parent, I would be looking to move as quickly as possible, because that sort of non-tolerance is simply intolerable.

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Not Smart …

In terms of any sort of media strategy, I really don’t get this – the White House has chosen to take on Fox News as some sort of enemy of the administration?  Why?

Anita Dunn, communications director at White House had this to say on CNN’s “Reliable Sources”:

“If we went back a year ago to the fall of 2008, to the campaign, that was a time this country was in two wars that we had a financial collapse probably more significant than any financial collapse since the Great Depression. If you were a Fox News viewer in the fall election what you would have seen were that the biggest stories and the biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and a something called ACORN.”

Now I have to admit not remembering it that way at all. What I do remember is that Fox was about the only news channel who mentioned Ayers or covered the ACORN shenanigans.

However, the “biggest stories” she complains about were mostly covered by opinion shows like Hannity, not the news arm of Fox. And I don’t think that Hannity has ever claimed to be anything but a conservative commentator. Finally, it seems that other news organizations should have been following ACORN a little more closely, given recent events.

Dunn goes on:

“The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. And it is not ideological… what I think is fair to say about Fox, and the way we view it, is that it is more of a wing of the Republican Party.”

“Obviously [the President] will go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents. He has done that before and he will do it again… when he goes on Fox he understands he is not going on it as a news network at this point. He is going on it to debate the opposition.”

Translation: When he goes on Fox he’s likely to have journalists actually ask him hard and probing questions. When he goes on all the other networks, he expects softballs pitched by fawning sycophants. This explains why he avoided Fox when out doing his 5 Sunday show tour pitching health care.

“[Fox is] widely viewed as a part of the Republican Party: take their talking points and put them on the air, take their opposition research and put it on the air. And that’s fine. But let’s not pretend they’re a news organization like CNN is.”

This is simply stupid in terms of a strategy. You take on the most viewed cable news network, insult it, claim it’s not a news organization” and almost dare it to prove you wrong. Where could such an organization better prove itself than going after the White House? Sure, it might give Dunn and others more fodder for silly statements like those above, but it could also lead to some real problems if journalists actually get a bit mad about being characterized as shills for a political party. They may actually begin to dig for dirt, and as I’m watching this circus of an administration unfold, there is probably going to be a bunch of dirt to be dug.

I’m not sure what Dunn thought she’d accomplish with such statements, but they’re the type that can come back to haunt you. Smart people don’t purposely antagonize and insult news organizations. Sure they may feel exactly as she says they feel, but the only thing that happens when statements such as her’s are made public is to spur those who are insulted to prove her wrong. And one of the best ways to do that is to break some big stories that cast the administration in a bad light.

I suspect we can expect Fox to make such news a fairly big priority since the White House has declared war on it. You certainly can’t expect it from the other “news organizations” as they’ve all proven time and time again.

~McQ

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Rollin’ On The River

OK, this is a personal one.

For decades I’ve avoided school reunions because I wondered what in the world I’d have in common with people I went to school with 40 or so years ago. Other than being in the same place at the same time simply by happenstance what have we shared?

But this past weekend something pretty special happened.  Let me set it up for you.

When I went to college, the rather backward college administration of the time was completely against Greek fraternities and sororities. They simply weren’t allowed. Period. No matter how often the administration was petitioned, the answer was an unequivocal “no”.  According to the thinking of the time, only degenerates were in fraternities.  And, on top of that, the college was in a “dry” county – but that’s a story for another time.

As you might imagine being denied what they desired didn’t sit well with a bunch of rambunctious college kids who wanted fraternities.  So in 1964 two “men’s social  service clubs” were created by some brash young students ostensibly to “promote social activities on campus”. Of course as you might have guessed, they were very thinly disguised fraternities. Like, paper thin.  Inventive folks adapt to the reality in which they have to live.  They called themselves the Squires and the Cavaliers. Unfortunately, a tragic car accident with multiple fatalities ended the Squires a year or so later. But the Cavaliers survived and grew. Pledge classes came and went and with them new members and new stories. The group literally became legendary. I had to chuckle, because the most oft repeated remark I heard this weekend was something along the line of “it is a miracle we all survived.”

In fact, we still are convinced “Animal House” was written about us. If you ever want to meet the real Flounder, I have his phone number.

Rush hour is a true nightmare

Rush hour is a true nightmare

Anyway in 1976, with a new and more enlightened administration, Greek frats were allowed and the Cavaliers transitioned into an actual Greek fraternity (one with which they had informal ties for years). That was the end of the Cavaliers as a formal organization and the end of an era. But for those who were members it was such a unique and close knit bunch that it was only a matter of time, and frankly age, that drove a core group to decide it was time to find each of us again and bring us all back together – somehow, some way.

In 1994, word went out that we were going to gather at the college for a homecoming game and then we’d have a dance afterward. I couldn’t wait. Years had passed and I’d wondered about these guys a lot.

As it turned out it was, well … ok.

It was all too hurried. Because of the full schedule of events and the fact that everyone was staying in different places, I really didn’t find myself fulfilled in the way I had hoped. It was a “hi, great to see you again, bye” type weekend. There were wives I didn’t know and, well, it was just too civil and civilized for an old Cavalier. It just didn’t do it for me. And it sort of confirmed my theory about school reunions.

After that I concluded that you just can’t go back and had pretty much written off any further reunions. But I had to admit a certain disappointment deep inside. With that decision, I understood that I had probably seen a bunch of guys I had known well and who’s friendship I still treasured for the last time. For most us, our association in the Cavaliers was about as close as you can get to the bond between combat vets without the combat. Forged in the joys and disappointments of emerging adulthood, the hell-raising and partying of young collegians and in the shadow of Vietnam, it became a true brotherhood.

The "Ritz Gilbert".  Shared it with 4 others.  Not bad.  And the toilet was inside for those wondering.

The "Ritz Gilbert". Shared it with 4 others. Not bad. And the toilet was inside for those wondering.

Unfortunately I lost sight of that the last time we met and my disappointment caused me to turn away from future attempts to gather the clan. But as I mentioned earlier, age has a way of changing things. The focus on making a living and the trials and tribulations of raising a family slowly subside and you spend a little more time reminiscing. Fond memories of people and times come unbidden to your mind. And you begin to wonder again how they are and how they’re doing.

To make this long story a little shorter, I finally decided to give it one more try. This particular event was in its 6th year in Gilbert, Arkansas where one of the guy’s family has a second home that he opens up to everyone for that particular weekend [thanks Billy].

Gilbert, as you can see by the sign and the pics, is a very small and rustic town on the banks of the Buffalo River that lives mostly off the dollars of fisherman and kayakers and canoers. Once the season is over, it’s pretty much deserted. And, gazing at Main Street, you might have figured out the season is over. The quiet there is amazing.

Gilbert - the business district

Gilbert - the business district

In that setting, and with just the guys, we had the time to sit back and let it rip. It was perfect. The weather was cold and gray, but the brotherhood, camaraderie and laughter was warm and sunny. I saw guys I haven’t seen in 40 years. And there was an immediate comfort level among them that I hadn’t anticipated given my last experience. It felt like I had seen these guys just last week. None of the awkwardness you might expect with the years that have passed. We slipped right into the kidding and banter that used to flow so easily back then. The jokes flew, the beer flowed and the laughter bellowed. In fact, my ribs cramped up from too much laughing. The characters of my youth still survived. The personalities that I so enjoyed back then were with me again, and frankly I reveled in it (and yeah the beer helped – get over it). The time – 2 days to hang-out with each other – made all the difference in the world. No schedules, nothing to hurry too. It gave us the time necessary to reconnect with our brothers and to meet and begin to bond with those we don’t know as well – the guys who came afterward, added to the legend and kept the brotherhood the great organization it was until the end.

But there was one clinker in the deal – I’m not 19 anymore and while the mind was willing the bod said “screw you, slow down and make sure you get some damn sleep”. Heh … the good news is I wasn’t the only one.

All-in-all though it was a fabulous family affair where we were fed like royalty (thanks guys for the fantastic brats and burgers on Friday night and the to-kill-for catfish on Saturday) and treated like kings. So Toma, put me on the list, I’ll be back for “Camp Cavalier VII”. Thanks to all of the unsung brothers who worked so hard to make it such a fantastic and fulfilling event. And now that I’ve taken “Rassberrie 101”, I and the other “Goldies” are ready for the more advanced course (for the regular readers, that’s waaay inside baseball).

Sometimes you can go back.

~McQ

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Podcast for 11 Oct 09

In this podcast, Michael and Dale discuss Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize and health care reform.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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