Saturday, August 30, 2008

Initial Reaction

Like many people over the past few weeks, I have been keenly interested in who each of the candidates would choose to be their backup. I think sometimes the role of the VP in an election can get overblown, but this year both candidates chose to shore up weaknesses in their argument. In Biden, Obama looks for legitimate experience and advice, long time Washington connections, and foreign policy advice. In Palin (pronounced Pay Lynn I do believe), McCain looks for a younger face, a female face, the opposite of a Washington bureaucrat, and a person that the average family can identify with. Since I think it is obvious who I support in this election, I am going to throw out my initial uninformed reactions to the Palin nomination. And these are in chronological order and show my evolving thought pattern.
  • Apprehension since she was unknown to me before a few days ago. Maybe I have been hiding under a rock, maybe I have not.
  • Oh my, its a woman. Is she the 'token' female in the race? Is she just here to appease disgruntled Hillary fans?
  • I just checked out her Wikipedia page. She seems solid on the issues. She seems like an 'average Joe' meaning that she isn't some inside-the-beltway Yes man.
  • After hearing her during the big introduction, I would have to say that she seems anything but a 'token' face in the race. She seems legit as far as her public speaking goes, as far as her positions go, and as far as her family stands. I like this.
  • The are really touting that union connection in their family. This makes me a little nervous as my position on 90% of unions is that they are outdated and abusive.
  • On second thought, she can really work the upper Midwest states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. According to the RCP election map right now, 2 of those 3 states would get the election. While I am nervous about the union angle, it can be used.
  • She is weak on the experience side of things. However, as a governor (although limited in time), she has viable leadership experience. This is no doubt what the Obama campaign will hammer on, but this really brings his lack of experience to the forefront too.
  • It appears that the campaign is also highlighting that she is from a small out in the middle of nowhere podunk place. I am not sure how this angle will play out. Ridiculing small town America is not something that I would overplay.
  • From the political coverage that I have seen, I hear a lot of talk of this being a desperate move to try and leach Hillary supporters from Obama. The more I think about it, the less I think that is true. From what I can tell initially, this will do that very little. She holds little in common with them on their key feminist issues. What she does bring to the table is the soccer mom of America. This is a move to galvanize the Republican party. And from what I can tell it is working. The average mom in America can relate to a lot of her story. Do not underestimate the voting block of moms out there. I still think that this and most elections are won not by enticing defectors from the other party, but they are won by convincing your people to show up to the polls and be excited about it.
  • I am also hearing some apprehension from women out there. They wonder if McCain is just trying to dangle a carrot out there and sucker them in. This is a legitimate concern. The answer to that for me is her showing her competence throughout the race. But if he does burn women somehow by 'using' this pick, they will not easily forgive. If any females read this, I would love your take on this. Do you feel like you are being 'played' here?
  • This lady has reformer credibility. She has fought corruption in her own state. And most embarrassing to me is that it was corruption inside her own party. She fits the bill as someone not putting up with junk just for the party's sake.
  • I think that I have identified my favorite quality about her so far. She looks, acts, sounds, and thinks what I would call normal. She is just your average American. Too often we have some elitely educated politically entrenched person running for either party. She has a life outside of politics. This is going to be her best strength and should be played as much as possible. Obama has presented himself as a man for the common person. She is a common person.
  • Palin - Jindal 2012 really excites me now.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

re: John McCain and Habakkuk

The following entry is entirely in response to my friend Philip's blog post. I found that my comment was getting very wordy and also worth a post here. To summarize, he asks the question, "Why vote for an only sorta good candidate?". And secondly, "If you don't like him that much, why not vote for the other guy?"

Great question to ask. Let me give you my logic and my worries on this thought.

  1. I feel that I have a responsibility to vote. I have great freedom that many people in the world do not have. Many people died to gain this freedom. I take it seriously. This means that I am not going to 'not' vote if the perfect candidate is not there. I am fairly sure that there will never be a perfect candidate. Spending all of time complaining about the lack of a perfect candidate and taking no action seems like a waste of time to me. Therefore I will take a stand and make a choice, even with a limited or imperfect set to choose from. So my first decision is that I will participate in the vote.

  2. The way I vote in virtually all elections is to line up the candidates on a whole array of issues and see who I agree with on each issue. Normally it is fairly lopsided. The candidate with more check marks wins the vote. Now, when I compare the two candidates that are in the race now, I get the same lopsided affect. So my second decision is that I will vote for the best person according to my personal philosophies, thoughts, etc.

  3. Now, a question that is often asked these days is, "Why not punish your party by voting for the other guy because they have strayed from their core values?" This is a valid question.

    • In the past years, McCain for instance has been known as a fringe Republican. In many instances he has undermined various party positions. He has also not being a traditional conservative. He prefers the straight talk Maverick label. I think of his as one of Moderates stuck in a 2 party system. However, as fringe as he may be, he is still miles apart from Obama. These are arbitrary numbers here, so do not take these seriously. If my ideal candidate was 100 out of 100, I would consider McCain probably a 65. My favorite primary contender was probably a 90. Obama is closer to a 30. Now Mr. 90 is no longer in the race. The highest person left is Mr. 65. And 65 is a lot better in my mind than 30. So part 1 of this answer is that I still think that McCain is a lot better than Obama. So lowering my standards to punish the party really seems like a contradiction of point 2. Also, I will say that if Mr. 90 was still in the race as a 3rd party, I would vote for him.

    • But the stronger argument in my mind is the following. Laws that are enacted get ingrained in our society. They stick fairly fast and people get used to them. In punishing my party, I can enable harm to be done that will last a very long time. This is my fear. I look at legislation that was enacted for the New Deal around 70 years ago. Some of those programs (Social Security being the obvious) are already straining our budget these days and will only get worse. Again in the 1960s, the Great Society legislation was passed. It had its plus and minuses. Some of the minuses in my opinion are the Medicare, Medicaid, and Welfare systems that strain our budget as well. These are pieces of legislation that have lasting fiscal effects on our nation. We are so dependent upon them now, that it is nearly impossible to get rid of them. This is just from a financial standpoint. The nomination of Supreme Court Justices is a vastly important function of the President. Do we want more rulings that allow municipalities to take our land or deny rights to the unborn? I personally say no. I see much more harm that can be done to my country in the long term. I do not think that it is worthwhile to punish my party.

  4. Since Philip brought it up, I do not feel a calling to punish my party or my nation. There may very well be one, but I am unaware of it. I think that there are certain citizens who are hoping for this, but I am not one of them. Also, if it is the providence of God, then I doubt that I will be able to stand in the way.

On the Edge of My Seat

The Carrot Has Been Dangled
Today is the 20th of August, 2008. The show's big star has all of the contestants lined up. There is silence among them. A grimace from one who can not handle the pressure. A look of quiet confidence from another. Who will be picked? Who will be deemed worthy of the prize? They have all courted in one way or another. The star has spent time with all of them, but now it all comes down to this special point in time. Bom, bom, bom! ...And we go to commercial. Come on! Just tell me already. Am I talking about the TV show the Bachelor? Not a chance. I am talking about the Veepstakes. Who is going to be the running mate in the election? Just tell me already! The anticipation is killing me...

Yes, It Was Me
You may be wondering who jinxed the Texas Rangers, that would be me. In my previous blog, I warned the Dallas Cowboys to watch out and put the region on notice. Since that time, they have gone 2-10, lost Ian Kinsler, thrown poor stand-ins up against major league hitters, and basically lost all interest from the city. Way to go guys!

and Yes, I am still Watching
According to Forbes magazine, the Texas Rangers have the most loyal fans in baseball.
No team's attendance is less tied to its on the field performance than the Rangers', and nowhere else in the country do fans peel off at a slower rate when the club has thin years.
I am not sure that is something to brag about. But yes, count me in that hapless group.

Where's the Passion?
The Cowboys are tanking the pre-season. Fine, the Indianapolis Colts do it every year. But this assumed Super Bowl contender needs to find motivation. My fear is that the Cowboys are going to take 2-4 weeks in the regular season to find that special something. You can't afford to do that in today's NFL. I am not sold on this team yet...

This Just In
Poll results change more often than the weather. McCain is up by 5! Obama is up by 5! Its a toss up, but I think Obama has it! Not only that, all of these results are at the exact same time. I am personally part of that swing 10% of voters that flips a coin before a pollster gets an answer out of me.

My Hero
Josh Howard apparently went off on a reporter for asking him at a youth event whether or not he is a good role model. I guess the admitted drug use, street racing, and not showing up for his team could be emulated. Of course, that lifestyle doesn't lend itself to being successful in life. Someone please get this joker out of my town...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Training Camp Fun

Let's Move On
Since I am a Cowboys fan and remember the rivalry of the 90s, I have always treated Brett Favre as a enemy to be booed. This off season has turned that sport's rivalry distaste into a full on personal dislike for him. I don't believe for a moment that in the past 2 months he has had any desire to be a Packer. His actions and comments to me seem all about getting to play wherever he wanted. In the process he dragged his old team and teammates through his mess. That irks me. His constant shenanigans have wasted both their time and my sports viewing time. He tried to squish an I into TEAM and it just doesn't fit. I am thrilled that the Packers did not just give him whatever he wanted. The small town country boy rolling in on his private jet and making demands was not given the silver spoon in this case. Trading him and more importantly getting back anything of value was a great move. I hope the Packers go to the NFC championship and lose to the Cowboys while the Jets sit at home in January. Sorry Jets fans, but I can't root for you this year.

Saying the Right Things
I am always somewhat irked and very leery of the how the Cowboys treat their team as a rehab center for people who have messed up but have talent. Do I want a headcase on my team? No. Do the Cowboys care? Apparently Not. This years special project is Adam Pacman Jones and so far, he is staying clean. Do I like this guy at all as a person? From what I can tell from the past, no. Will I cheer for him if he stays clean? Yes. For what its worth, I am very skeptical that he stays clean once he gets back to the big city.

The Spurs of the NFL?
I wonder about the Patriots this year. For many years in the NBA, the Spurs have been the model franchise, aka the dynasty. How have they done this? By blowing off most of the regular season, shoring up their playoff position, and dominating the playoffs. Did the rush to the perfect season drain the Patriots last year? Many might say yes. Do the Patriots try to pull a Spurs this year? Maybe. I can see the question "What is it all for if we don't win the Super Bowl?" being asked. I can also see the Bill Belichick of last year running up the score in every game. This will be an interesting story to watch.

On The Record
I thought about doing my season predictions here, but I figured that I should wait until at least another couple of weeks. Baseball is all that I have really been following, so my official prediction would be like throwing darts at win numbers.

Lonely At The Top ?
We are constantly told about the NFL is the number 1 sport by far in America. Since the Rangers have surged in Dallas, I don't sense the full scale bull rush to the football world like I have in previous years. This city used to switch entirely to football in mid-July. Baseball is winning over fans; maybe not in attendance just yet, but in the consciousness of fans. Watch out football, here we come...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

An Outsider's View

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a man that was before my time in many respects. Therefore when I heard that he had passed away a few days back, I did a little research to learn more about him. He won a Nobel prize for his Gulag expose that brought to light many of the problems with the former USSR. In 1978 he gave a speech to graduates of Harvard that really shows off his skill. He was able to use his outsider's view of the U.S. to look at us and point out places that needed improvement in order to better our society. I will highlight some of them below.
  • When the modern Western States were created, the following principle was proclaimed: governments are meant to serve man, and man lives to be free to pursue happiness. (See, for example, the American Declaration). Now at last during past decades technical and social progress has permitted the realization of such aspirations: the welfare state. Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the morally inferior sense which has come into being during those same decades. In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings. Active and tense competition permeates all human thoughts without opening a way to free spiritual development. The individual's independence from many types of state pressure has been guaranteed; the majority of people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about; it has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, leading them to physical splendor, happiness, possession of material goods, money and leisure, to an almost unlimited freedom of enjoyment. So who should now renounce all this, why and for what should one risk one's precious life in defense of common values, and particularly in such nebulous cases when the security of one's nation must be defended in a distant country?

    Even biology knows that habitual extreme safety and well-being are not advantageous for a living organism. Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious mask.
    He points out that living a life of total abundance leads to a weaker society. He also shows how man's search for contentment is usually never ending and constantly yearns for more.
  • The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.
    This quote really focuses in on a societal shift that I think hurts us as a whole. What this points out is that the freedom to do whatever I please for freedom's sake leads to moral decay and a sense of being totally shielded by rights. When you fall into this mindset, you lose your sense of being obligated to treat others well because of the focus on your own freedom.
  • Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the 20th century and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press. It stops at sensational formulas.

    Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within the Western countries, more powerful than the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. One would then like to ask: by what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible? In the communist East a journalist is frankly appointed as a state official. But who has granted Western journalists their power, for how long a time and with what prerogatives?
    He really takes both the press and their readers/viewers to task. Why do I say readers? Because we demand instant knowledge and instant perfection that is unattainable by human standards.
  • All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the Twentieth century's moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the Nineteenth Century.
    This is a sharp jab that really hits home. We pride ourself on our achievement, but at what cost.
  • There is a disaster, however, which has already been under way for quite some time. I am referring to the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness... ...If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it... ...It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times.

    Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?
    This is by far my favorite quote of his. He really calls out man's search for achievement and asks whether it is all worthwhile without a higher spiritual calling.