Bracelet Wrap

As subsequent events have shown, the original analysis was correct. She DID ask him not to use it.

Her objection: It was being used by Obama to make it seem that she was against the war effort. She wants it to be “successful.”

It’s even more starkly clear that SSgt. Jopek supports the Iraq war effort, and he was personally over there doing it. His fear was that we would leave without finishing the job, and he spoke to this eloquently.

But, Tracy Jopek is an Obama supporter, and as was originally said she doesn’t want to “sabotage his campaign” by complaining.

There’s almost a second story under the surface:

She said she was “satisfied” with his handling of it during the debate, but a number of places rewrote and propagated this as “ecstatic” in quotes. There was no such quote, and it is contrary to the tone she has in the quoted phrases. (See previous entries under the “Bracelet” tag.)

So — which Obama supporter in the media decided that “satisfied” wasn’t good enough, and decided to play up the headline?

Of interest, many of the headlines that were posted with “ecstatic” (and they showed up on Google News this way) were subsequently changed to “satisfied”. In other words, they know they’re being watched.

Also, the first AP report was relatively mild — and it confirmed my original assertions that she DID ask him to stop using the bracelet. It gave other information that was somewhat damaging to Barack Obama, while trying to be complementary. The very first sentence confirmed my point:

After Tracy Jopek gave Sen. Barack Obama a bracelet in honor of her son who was killed in Iraq, she asked Obama not to mention the bracelet on the campaign trail.

This was at 7:37 Eastern time.

But about 90 minutes later, the story reappears, re-written; much of the “damage” is removed and it comes out much more strongly in support of Obama. The tone of the second article is very different from the first in terms of the quotes from Tracy Jopek.

Did the Obama campaign complain to Associated Press?

Tracy Jopek is not the villain here; I think she is honestly doing what she thinks is best, and the original quotes from her certainly portray a thoughtful and fair-minded person.

I cannot ask her to call the Associated Press on the apparent stunt, here, as this would indeed hurt her candidate. But the AP is once again, from the evidence I see, harming journalism in favor of advocacy.

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Bracelet Update: She did ask him not to use it

According to this fresh AP report, Tracy Jopek DID ask Barack Obama not to use “in speeches and debates” the bracelet I wrote about here and here.

However, she’s still an Obama supporter and is satisfied with what he said Friday about no soldiers dying in vain.

She is apparently unaware that Senator Obama HAS been describing soldiers as dying in vain, using her bracelet, prior to the debate.

A few days after offering it to the Illinois Democrat, Jopek, of Merrill in north-central Wisconsin, had a change of heart. She realized it could be interpreted as a protest against the war, a statement that made her uncomfortable because other military families who suffered losses still supported the conflict.

“I am a mother, a mother who lost her son. It’s hard to know what’s right, what’s wrong about this war. Very hard,” she said. “And I know there are a lot of families who lost loved ones.”

So she e-mailed the Obama campaign through its Web site asking that he not mention it during debates or speeches.

She never got a reply but said she didn’t hear of him mentioning it after that — until Friday, when Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain appeared in their first debate. In response to a question about Iraq, McCain said a New Hampshire woman asked him to wear a bracelet honoring her fallen son, and asked him to make sure the Iraq mission succeeded so his death would not be in vain.

She doesn’t want to hurt his campaign — but she wants him to make sure the Iraq war “succeeded”.

Obviously, she agrees with him in other areas, and it is her right to do so. But this business doesn’t make Senator Obama look any better — it is simply a matter of forgiveness after permission was denied. Fortunately, he got that.

Here’s the upshot:

Does Tracy Jopek still support Barack Obama? Yes.

Had she asked him not to use the bracelet any more? Yes.

Was she surprised to find that he was still using the bracelet in his speeches and debates? Yes.

Does she want an immediate end to the war regardless of consequences? Apparently not. (And certainly the father SSgt Brian Jopek does not!)

Will this be a big issue? Probably not: she is the one who would have to make a fuss, and as I reported originally she didn’t want to sabotage his campaign.

But Barack Obama IS, as it turns out, guilty of continuing to use the bracelet after being asked not to.

Nor does she want him to continue to do so.

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The Obama Bracelet Issue, part 2

I have tremendous respect for Staff Sgt. Brian Jopek, who is the father of Ryan David Jopek, the soldier killed in Iraq whose bracelet Barack Obama wore during the debate.

When I discovered the March interview in which the father related the mother’s desire for Senator Obama not to wear it, I was struck by how diplomatic Brian Jopek was trying to be.

He was, in March, still on active duty, and was about to be deployed to Guantanamo. I expect that he’s there now, I don’t know.

This was the Wisconsin Public Radio interview I found. on this WPR website (the March 20 2008 interview) SSgt. Jopek tells the interviewer that the mother had asked Barack Obama not to wear the bracelet.

During the interview, in which the WPR interviewer is trying to get SSgt. Jopek to speak out against the war, he’s clearly not cooperating. He is concerned, he says, about the new president pulling out of Iraq before the job is done.

I admire his constraint, and his careful reaction to the interviewer. He’s likely to get drawn into this, and I am sorry about that. For what it’s worth, I believe that Brian Jopek has conducted himself admirably, carefully avoiding the political aspects but clearly believing in the mission. It is evident that he does not support Senator Obama’s plan to “pull up stakes or ‘pop smoke'” as he puts it. And yet he says nothing about the candidate specifically, and is respectful and cautious.

My hat is off to him, and my condolences to the family for their loss of a young man who was tremendously respected and loved and proud to serve his country.

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Welcome, new visitors!

I happened across the information about Senator Obama’s bracelet by looking for information about the soldier’s parents; I discovered the WPR interview with his father that way.

I have tremendous respect for Ryan Jopek and his father Brian. Some time back, during the Abu Ghraib business, I wrote this to honor our soldiers that had fallen in the line of duty.

I’m just getting this site going, but if you’re interested I’ve been writing for about seven years at this site:

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(Reprinted from Memorial Day 2004)

Memorial Day we gather and pay homage to our fallen
Who gave themselves completely in response to duty’s callin’
Some joined to see the world, some others thought of education
And others drawn by kinship with the proud that guard our Nation

But trials and training molded them into a joined precision
That holds our cause in high esteem, and suffers no division
Our military crew stands tall, and ready for the battle
And ready, too, to give their all, impervious to rattle

They serve in combat, serve in peace, and make of one the other
Rebuilding schools to grant a lease of freedom to a brother
The tasks they sometimes face are grim, and few of us would choose them
And each one stands his place, and we are poorer when we lose them

But richer still are we, for still we keep Liberty’s fire
Not just for those at home — those far away know we won’t tire
And countries ‘cross the globe recall when we came to release
Oppressed ones from their bondage, and we brought a well-earned peace

Unlike the conquerors of times before, we keep no soil
Just what we need for plots to lay our soldiers freed from toil
Instead we show by doing that the freedom’s worth the cost
We mourn our dead, then lift our heads, go on without our lost

For each poor wretch whose honor was besmirched and then decried
A hundred thousand strong will earn our faith, and earn our pride
Indeed, we owe our troops far more than we can ever pay
But thanks to all who served, and fell — on this Memorial Day.

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Barack Obama’s Bracelet

UPDATE: For the full recap, use the “Bracelet tag and see the whole sequence. The story has been confirmed.

Barack Obama’s bracelet is apparently not being worn with permission from the parents, and what he’s saying about it seems not to be true. The mother is no Cindy Sheehan.

This, in a fair world, should come back to bite him: During the debate on September 26, 2008, Barack Obama attempted to counter John McCain’s bracelet story. This was portrayed as “new” — but it is not: Senator Obama has been telling HIS bracelet story since the bracelet was given to him in February of 2008. (Even so, Senator Obama had to read the name from the bracelet during the debate.)

But there’s a difference: Senator Obama is apparently doing this against the parents’ will. He was specifically asked, according to Staff Sgt. Brian Jopek (Ryan’s father) to stop telling this story and to take the bracelet off.

Mrs. Jopek was an Obama supporter (at least in March of this year) and doesn’t want to sabotage the campaign, so she refused to give interviews. But I found an old radio interview with the father Brian Jopek (who served in Iraq and is now apparently serving at the Guantanamo base):

BRIAN JOPEK: Whatever is decided, we need to make sure that it benefits the American servicemen, and also the Iraqis.
* * *
We don’t wanna go back in there in ten years, at a greater cost and more lives.

I sure hope that, whoever is elected, Democrat or Republican, that they look at the big picture and don’t just pull up stakes — or “pop smoke” as we say in the military, because of the political atmosphere.”

Regarding Barack Obama: According to the father, Tracy Jopek wrote to the Senator: “She had asked him not to wear the bracelet.”

The WPR host — clearly anti-war (and quoting Lancet numbers of deaths) suggested that Obama had not worn it recently. This was months ago.

Here’s the clincher — Barack Obama is using the bracelet to support a position that his father (and Ryan Jopek himself) clearly do not subscribe to, and at the time even the mother that gave him the bracelet didn’t want it used in the media (that comment was made here) and asked him to take it off.

Brian and Tracy Jopek are now divorced. I don’t know what her current thoughts are. But this interview on WPR, from March 20, was interesting. The quotes here are from about 10 to 14 minutes in.

Here’s the WPR page containing the “Iraq War 5th Anniversary” interview from March 20:

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(Update: WPR, not NPR)

Housing Numbers: Freefall? Meltdown?

If you Google["housing prices" freefall] you’ll currently get about 265,000 hits.

Wow! Freefall sounds extreme! How bad is it? Well, there are certain areas that rose at very high rates, most notably California and Florida, with areas like Las Vegas and Phoenix also remarkably affected. And the excitement from these markets drove, to a certain extent, most others as well.

So, freefall. We’d guess from this freefall in national prices something on the order of tens of percent across the country. And from the strident tone of the articles, it must still be bad indeed.

Well — from the peak, in April 2007, the national average home price has fallen only about 6%. Surprised?

And the actual rate of decline is modest, as well — in fact, in the most recent published numbers, you have to “seasonally adjust” the home price average to get it to be negative. Here’s a chart of the change rate:

Housing appreciation rates, through second quarter 2008
Housing appreciation rates, through second quarter 2008

There are other subtleties. The numbers I am using are from the US Government’s Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. That somewhat clumsily-named organization looks at and reports price averages (including refinances) over about 280 areas around the country, covering the huge majority of the US geography and population. The index used by the news media, though, is the Case-Schiller Index — since it focuses on cities that rose rapidly, it produces more dramatic declines. It has only twenty areas of interest, and they are relatively small.

If you can pick your data, you can continue to say “Woe, Despair, Agony On You.” But I prefer a larger — and more accurate, picture.

And a couple of other points bear mentioning. The “reset” issue, where people who obtained short term rates that reset after, say, five years, is much smaller than it could have been. Those people got loans at typically 5% to 6% — but now, mortgage interest rates are … 5% to 6%. So, the resets are not particularly dramatic. There are people that got into very unusual deals, hoping that it would work out, and for some of them it hasn’t — but these are hardly the average case.

Nothing about a temporary drop in home value causes you to lose your home. Continue paying the mortgage, and it’s fine. People are being frightened into doing silly things, despite the fact that in five or ten years their homes will be far above even last year’s peak. We are too short-term a society — and this is what the media is counting upon. For the more misery they can convince you of — and cause — the more you are likely to vote their candidate in. Or so they evidently believe.

In the meantime, candidates both major parties are using the current climate of fear to call for large increases in government regulation.

“We caused this problem, let’s make it worse!”

Well, they don’t actually admit that — but it’s true that regulations forcing loans to un-creditworthy people are a big part of the problem, such as it is.

But note what is really happening: The failures of banks are the FMs are not <i>directly</i> the result of foreclosures — they are for the most part the result of the loss of investor confidence and resulting loss of stock value — which prevents them from using lines of credit and other financial vehicles that are a necessary part of the business.

So, to a very large extent, it is the cry of gloom and doom that has precipitated the actual problems in the market.

The housing rise will correct itself; it largely has already, and the prices are now, generally, back to 2005 levels. The average over the past ten years, and the next, will show a nice steady increase, and eventually the current blip will be hard to see on a chart. (Black Monday, October 19th 1987, was a gigantic problem, far worse than anything we see today. And now it’s a minor twitch on the DJIA chart.)

Hang in there — and don’t get spooked. Especially if it will cost you money, or push you to make decisions out of fear.

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Small Town Values

I live in a small town, close to a large city (Los Angeles).

We moved here about ten years ago, and I had lived and run my business for decades before that in much more populated areas and sprawling metropolises.

The differences are remarkable:
– The feeling of community, of pride in the town itself, is far beyond anything I’ve previously encountered. People are actively happy to live here.

– Regular folks meet and are friendly with members of local government, in stores and gas stations. This produces, on both sides, a feeling of greater involvement in civil affairs.

– The result is that problems are seen as something for “us” to solve, rather than for “them” to fix for us.

– The citizens are also friendly with each other. Whether they know you or not, they are quick with a smile, polite in traffic, and courteous in social gatherings. Civility is prized, which suits me very well.

– The community holds little awards ceremonies each year for the top teacher, top student, top service organization, top volunteer et cetera. There are ten categories, and the turnout is very large.

– Disagreements get discussed rather than shouted, and even politics have a very different feel. (The Los Angeles Times wrote about this effect in Iowa.) I support a local Democrat, though at the national level I am quite thoroughly on the other side; it’s no problem and we have dinner together from time to time.

– The charitable involvement is very large for a small place, and the percentage of volunteers is heartwarming. There are fund raisers of one kind or another on a weekly basis, helping homeless, orphans, battered women or whomever.

– A lot of the community grew up or spent much time in the cities; they are quick to say that they have no interest in going back.

– And, of course, you can walk the streets at any hour with no concern for your safety. When we finally had to lock our front door (not due to local situations) years after moving in, my Lady and I didn’t know where the key was.

– There are gays active in the community and in business, and they are welcomed. And there are many religions and many churches here, and non-theists, too, are welcomed and accepted. It truly feels like a community of thousands of friends.

Is it possible for someone to move here from a city, and stay holed up and uninvolved? Certainly — and to them, the place will seem unremarkable.

But that friendliness, that “small town value” feel, will pull at you — and it is hard to resist.

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