Monthly Archives: October 2009

Book Review: “My Boyfriend’s Back: 50 True Stories of Reconnecting with a Long-Lost Love” by Donna Hanover.

As a New Yorker and Rudy Giuliani fan I was fully prepared to dislike this book, but I ended up enjoying it. From 1994 through 2001 the author was First Lady of New York City. She and Giuliani were married for 18 years and had two children. She was the lead anchor for the 10 p.m. news on WPIX Channel 11 for much of the 1980s. She previously was an anchorwoman in Miami and also appeared on the syndicated Wall Street Journal Report.
Donna Hanover and Mayor Giuliani had a public and messy divorce in which she refused to move out of NYC’s Gracie Mansion. The theme of the book is encountering the romantic past, and many of the couples had not seen each other since high school or even grammar school. They claim these rekindled relationships have erased the decades. The stories are mostly, but not all, happy endings. The age ranges of the reunited couples range from 20s thru 70s. It includes regular folks and some celebrities.
Among them are Carol Channing, who married her high school sweetheart, Harry Kullijian, in 2003, when they were in their early 80’s. Suzanne Pleshette and Tom Poston, both of “The Bob Newhart Show,” were wed in 2001, 45 years after their romance went bust. The designer Nicole Miller also reconnected with an early love, as did Carole Keeton Rylander. She called herself “one tough grandma” when she won re-election to the state comptroller’s job in Texas in 2002. In August 2003, Donna Hanover, 53, married Edwin A. Oster, whom she met in high school at a debate team competition in Northern California.
Her point is that a romantic interest from the distant past leaves an imprint on your mind that never goes away. It is not that you just happened to meet the right person at 15. The sharing of roots is very significant. These couples have things in common from growing up the same way. The fantasy is that you see this person the way they were. You look at an 80 year old woman and see an 18 year old. There is plenty of scientific evidence to support Hanover’s thesis regarding the impact of early romances.
Hanover relies heavily on the work of Nancy Kalish, a psychology professor at California State University in Sacramento and author of the 1997 book “Lost & Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romance”. Kalish has spent 11 years collecting data from more than 3,000 adults who tried reunions
In Kalish’s initial sample of 1,000 lost-and-found lovers, ages 18 to 95, nearly three-quarters remained together after a decade of study. When these past lovers married each other, their divorce rate after four years tallied in at no more than 1.5 percent. Usually, second marriages are relatively fragile: In the public at large, nearly one-quarter of all couples who remarry get divorced again within five years.
If you are seriously interested in this topic you should read Kalish. If you want light reading with amusing anecdotes than Hanover is the best choice.
The first chapter of Hanover’s book includes the following dialogue:
“It was August 2002, a stifling hot afternoon in New York … Nothing stood out about that day until the phone rang. “Donna, it’s Ed Oster.” I sat down. Ed Oster was my high school love. He was also my college love – until he broke my heart. I tried to hear Ed’s voice over the pulse pounding in my ear.
“I was wondering,” Ed asked tentatively, “if you’re planning to go to the Stanford reunion.” This was interesting to say the least. What was going on here? This was the guy who had dumped me freshman year and had spoken to me for maybe two minutes at our reunion five years ago.
“Yes,” I said and then waited. Silently I prayed, “Please don’t let this be about fund-raising.” “Well, the reunion isn’t until October,” Ed said, “but my work is bringing me to New York next week. I was wondering if I could take you out for coffee.” I thought to myself, “I gotta call somebody – no one’s going to believe this.” Oh-so-casually I responded, “Let me check my calendar.” After flipping through several weeks of blank “date” pages, I said, “I think I can free up a little time.”

Lessons of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize by Gregory Hilton

The lead editorial in today’s Washington Post says the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize should have been Neda Agha-Soltan:

It’s an odd Nobel Peace Prize that almost makes you embarrassed for the honoree. This year, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people in Iran braved ferocious official violence to demand their right to vote and to speak freely. Dozens were killed, thousands imprisoned. One of those killed was a young woman named Neda Agha-Soltan; her shooting by thugs working for the Islamist theocracy, captured on video, moved the world.
A posthumous award for Neda, as the avatar of a democratic movement in Iran, would have recognized the sacrifices that movement has made and encouraged its struggle in a dark hour. Democracy in Iran would not only set a people free, it would also dramatically improve the chances for world peace, since the regime that murdered her is pursuing nuclear weapons in defiance of the international community.

In accepting the award lets hope President Obama says he is doing this on Neda’s behalf, and that Americans will not falter in their commitment to democracy, freedom and human rights. Neda’s death on behalf of the democratic cause places her in the same category as those patriots at Bunker Hill and Valley Forge. She will not receive the 2009 award, but the U.S. Congress should nominate her for the 2010 honor.
This morning President Obama was correct in noting “And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.”

Global Warming: Why is Al Gore Refusing to Debate? by Gregory Hilton

Al Gore has avoided debating global warming since the release of his 2006 Oscar-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” In a rare move yesterday at the Society of Environmental Journalists he took half a dozen questions from reporters. He was asked to address the nine major errors in his film identified by a British court in 2007. The journalist had his microphone cut off by the moderators.
Gore once again avoided having to defend many of his absurd claims such as sea levels rising by 20 feet. Most scientific studies say a worse case scenario is 8 inches. The UN IPCC says 17 inches over the next 100 years. Gore predicted cap and trade will pass the Senate in November and that Obama will attend the UN global warming conference in Copenhagen in December.
I do not believe Gore’s prediction because far too many Senate Democrats have come out against cap and trade. These sensible Democrats do not want to be stuck defending a $1,720 tax on every American family during an election year.

What I Learned From My High School Reunion by Gregory Hilton

This will surprise some of you but I actually did graduate from high school. My class reunion is this weekend but unfortunately I am stuck in a basement in Georgetown. I sure wish I was back with the old gang at Byram Hills High School in Armonk, NY. I received several wonderful letters from former classmates and so many of the people I really want to see are participating in the three days of activities. I have not seen 95% of them since graduation.
I feel awful but Facebook has somewhat lessened the blow. While I am not there in person, I have been communicating with many of them via FB, e-mail and the phone. The result is that wonderful memories have come flooding back. We reminisced about school dances, riding the bus, my cross country team, endless baseball games, summers at the Windmill Club, the boys I sat with in the cafeteria, the seemingly impossible math assignments, my beautiful and popular sisters, bullies, learning to drive, and graduating from high school before the real life problems of college, employment and marriage hit us.
The stories they told me about the kindness of my late parents were especially touching. It has been enjoyable to catch up with people regarding the blur of activities in their lives over the past decades. High school is just one chapter in life, although it remains a unique one. My classmates have a special bond because of the closeness we achieved by going through so many new experiences in suburbia. We all had to struggle toward maturity and make decisions that prevented us from going back to the comfortable places of youth.
French was not one of my favorite subjects but I do remember the expression, plus ca change plus c’est le meme chose – the more things change the more they stay the same. That describes so many of my classmates. The nice kids continue to have pleasant personalities as adults. The good kids are still good. As for the desperadoes such as myself? Well, they seem all right too.
Our class includes a young Dwight Eisenhower (now you know why I am a Republican); a Hollywood actor (Peter Gallagher of Titanic); a rock star (Preston Reed who performs with Lyle Lovett, Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt); the winner of the Mega-Millions Lottery (Donna French); a rocket scientist (Dr. Wendy Orr); a marathon champion (Meg Kerr); my personal heroes Bob Kinn (who has been in Afghanistan since 2004 helping the less fortunate); Peter Siegel (who dated the two most spectacular women in the class); and the only Republican in his Washington, D.C. precinct (me).
Do I have any wisdom for my students? The experiences of my classmates demonstrate that life is not always smooth sailing, but adversity does build strength. In every ending there is a new beginning.
I recently spoke with a woman who was focused on cheerleading activities in high school. She was devastated her senior year after failing to qualify for the squad, and was then excluded from many of the social activities of the cheerleaders. Her life took a new direction and she instead joined some of the class nerds on the debating team. That was a few years ago. She is now United States Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and says she never would be on Capitol Hill if she had been a varsity cheerleader.

It is 3 am and the Phone is Ringing in the White House by Gregory Hilton

It is 3 am and the phone is ringing in the White House. In the past week a secret nuclear plant in Iran was exposed and others obviously exist. The Islamic Republic’s missile tests were successful. Highly enriched weapons grade nuclear fuel is being manufactured, and development of the last stage, a warhead, is well underway. The rosy view of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate was wrong. The weapons work never stopped.
Iran says we must respect its “nuclear rights,” and they will not discuss the issue. Israel can strike, but only American can permanently take out a hard target. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) of the Intelligence Committee has told the President we have to react soon, and the only thing the Iranians respect is strength. Last year the President told us Afghanistan was “a war of necessity.” He fired the commander, installed General McChrystal, and demanded a new strategy. That strategy has been sitting in the Oval Office for a month, and it has been 10 weeks since the President spoke to his Afghan Commander.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff will be requesting 30 to 40,000 new troops, and they have said the war will end in failure without them. The most difficult opposition the Obama Administration faces is from liberal Democrats. Vice President Biden wants to concentrate on Pakistan rather than Afghanistan. America can train the Afghan National Army to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, but first we have to win the battle of Capitol Hill.
The liberal columnist Richard Cohen had this to say today: “The trouble with Obama is that he gets into the moment and means what he says for that moment only. He meant what he said when he called Afghanistan a “war of necessity” — and now is not necessarily so sure. He meant what he said about the public option in his health care plan — and then again maybe not. He would not prosecute CIA agents for getting rough with detainees — and then again maybe he would.”

American Troops Are Coming Home From Iraq by Gregory Hilton

After a year in Iraq the 250 soldiers of the 146th Signal Battalion came home to Jacksonville, Florida today. They suffered no casualties. They faithfully answered our nation’s call and the U.S. mission to foster a free and secure Iraq is almost complete. Our troops pulled back from all of the Iraqi cities and towns in June.
The tremendous change was demonstrated this week when Prime Minister Malaki announced his unity slate for the January 16th elections. It includes Sunnis, who turned on al-Qaeda, Kurds, tribal leaders, religious minorities and, of course, the dominant Shi’ite’s. The campaign will be difficult and the opposition National Alliance could win. That is what democracy is all about.
There is still violence and basic services have not been restored everywhere, but Iraq is now safer, more orderly and farther along the path to liberty than ever before. For six years American soldiers stood between the elements of a fledgling free market democracy and the forces of destruction. Now the Iraq Army is standing up and the baton is being passed. We are witnessing the dawn of a new Middle East and we should be proud and eternally grateful for the sacrifice of our armed forces.

Budget Deficit: The U.S. Would Not Qualify for EU Membership by Gregory Hilton

At the beginning of 2008 no one would have imagined the French Senate would soon be lecturing us about the need for fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, they do have a point. Our budget deficit is now worse than Cuba’s. Because of our spending programs we would not be eligible for membership in the European Union. The European Union’s Stability and Growth Pact adopted in 1997 requires a budget deficit to be less than three percent, and requires a national debt beneath 60 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The necessary U.S. reductions are massive. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the 2010-19 deficits would total $9.3 trillion; the debt-to-GDP ratio in 2019 would be 82 percent. This is a ratio of publicly held federal debt to gross domestic product (GDP, or the economy). This is highest since 1950 (80 percent) when we were recovering from WW II.
Treasury Secretary Geithner and NEC Chairman Larry Summers are refusing to rule out a tax increase, and in a complete reversal from last year, Obama supporters are now saying this is necessary. Economic recovery has returned to Wall Street, but not to Main Street. As soon as it does, senior officials of the Federal Reserve are telling us interest rates will be raised in order to avoid inflation.
The U.S. banking system has increased surplus reserves from $1.8 billion in 8/08 to $832 billion in 8/09. Private sector liquidity is vapid, and a tax increase could wallop our nation into a disaster.

The $787 Billion Stimulus is Failing by Gregory Hilton

Unemployment hit 9.8% today. This chart compares actual unemployment with what the Obama Administration promised in February from the $787 billion Stimulus. The Stimulus was enacted without a single Republican vote in the House and only two in the Senate. You should pay attention to this chart when listening to the Obama projections regarding deficit reduction, and the costs of health care reform as well as cap and trade.
Consumer confidence is down, we are expecting poor holiday sales, and many companies will have to struggle to survive the next six months. Robert Reich and Larry Summers are saying high unemployment will be a significant factor for years to come. That is a projection I believe.
Many of these unfortunate people are tapping or depleting their 401K’s and other retirement plans. There will not be an easy fix to this.
According to the Congressional Budget Office the true cost of the stimulus is $3.27 trillion over ten years, and 100% of this money is borrowed. The bill gives American workers $13 a week in their paychecks in exchange for passing along a $1 trillion debt to their grandchildren.
Spending for the entire New Deal in today’s dollars is only half of what this one bill costs. The New Deal equaled no more that 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product while the stimulus is over 5 percent, and this is just the beginning of the Obama expenditures. The Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. David Obey (D-WI), acknowledged this by saying “The bill is the largest change in domestic policy since the 1930s.”
There is an excellent case for a stimulus and this was acknowledged by Republicans. With the markets functioning so poorly, we proposed ways to jump-start the economy. Less than a third of Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act meets the definition of stimulus — namely, that it is timely, targeted and temporary.
The legislation is 25 years of government spending proposals jammed into one bill and labeled stimulus. That is why not one House Republican voted for it. We had an outstanding stimulus in 1997 when Bill Clinton signed legislation lowering capital gains rates from 28 to 20%.