Friday, October 24, 2008

A bit overwhelming

This week I have the privilege of being in North Carolina at a conference sponsored by World Relief. My church has been donating money to their efforts in Darfur and they invited our pastor and I down to learn more about World Relief and the opportunities available for us to partner with them as a local church.

The conference started last night and continued this morning. Thankfully we are on a break where I can rest and have my mind catch up on what I am learning. I will be honest, I am quite overwhelmed with the needs of the world at this point. World Relief is involved in 18 countries most of which are in conflict or just emerging from conflict. We have heard stories of poverty, displacement, slavery, violence, health epidemics and the like. When I think about my own life and resources and weigh it against the enormous needs in the world, my first instinct is to ignore the problem and hurriedly get back to my safe, middle class life where I am not confronted with the injustice of the world.

However, there is a biblical principle: To whom much is given, much is expected. I usually apply that to money in that I am wealthier than 95 percent of the world so I am expected to give back more. But today I am thinking that this applies to my knowledge of what is happening around the world. I have been given this knowledge and now I am expected to use this knowledge and not waste it.

The preacher this morning was from Kenya and he shared the story of how his church responded to the thousands of people who were chased from their homes during the political unrest at the beginning of this year. He said that they had no strategy but love and were completely overwhelmed by the need. It was more than they could handle. This may sound strange but this is encouraging to me in that I am not the only one overwhelmed.

My temptation is always to wait and help when I am ready or when I have all the answers or resources or money or time. Yet his church was involved and didn't have any of those things. They were dependent on God to provide the resources and made do with what they had.

There is much, much more that I could write but I am still in the midst of processing everything I am learning. I hope to write again tonight and over the remainder of the weekend.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Whole Story

My friend CJ has been laying out the case that the Democrats are mostly responsible for the housing collapse and thus the need to bailout the credit industry. Well finally a journalist is following his lead and written a great article. The article also takes on the all too willingness of the press to misreport the story. It is definitely worth the read.

Why you shouldn't give money to politicians.

This just came across the drudge report. This kind of crap is why politicians are viewed so poorly by the public. Do you really think Joe six pack spends that kind of money on his wardrobe? They should have used the money to buy her an interview coach instead.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Politics and the church

My church is taking on the task of discussing politics. The sermon this week focused on how our political views can get in the way of the gospel. It was a very good reminder of how we tend to get caught up in politics and forget the real reason the church exists. In light of the upcoming election, I would encourage people to listen to the sermon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

As if ACORN wasn't bad enough

I just read this article about a mentally challenged man whose vote was stolen by the Obama campaign. Apparently, some liberal do gooder took him to vote without his family's permission and then had him vote for Obama even though he told them he supported McCain. First ACORN and now this. It's frustrating that there is so much voter fraud going on this year. I bet you won't hear how he was disenfranchised in the media. They are too busy calling the McCain campaign angry and racist.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Scoring the candidates

The reasons to vote for someone are hard to quantify. Sometimes it's the issues. Sometimes it's based on the person. Sometimes it is just a gut feeling. I am going to try and break down my top 10 issues and award points to both McCain and Obama and see where they end up compared to each other. The most they can get is 5 points per issue.

1. Abortion - McCain is solidly pro life. Obama is pro choice and even voted to protect infanticide simply because it might undermine Roe V Wade. I'm not fooled by Obama's rhetoric on this issue.
McCain 5
Obama 0

2. Health care - Obama wants to bring the uninsured into the federal system or provide help to low income families to purchase private insurance. McCain wants to tax health benefits and give a tax credit to cover some of the costs for individuals. I like Obama's plan while McCain's plan flat out sucks and will lead to more uninsured.
McCain 0
Obama 5

3. Iraq - McCain was right about the surge and wants to keep our troops there for many years to come. Obama wants to get out as soon as possible. I hate the war as much as the next person but I also want a stabilized Iraq when we leave.
McCain 4
Obama 0

4. Taxes - Obama is promising a tax cut to those making under $250,000. McCain's tax plan helps those making more money while also raising the deduction per child. That doesn't help me at all. I am better off under Obama's plan, assuming that he is serious about his plan. That's a big assumption.
McCain 0
Obama 4

5. Darfur - Both have similar voting records when it comes to Darfur but Obama has been a much more consistent champion of the cause. He also is willing to have the country take a more active role in the peacekeeping missions. McCain on the other hand sees it as another Somalia and is less likely to commit money and or troops.
McCain 1
Obama 5

6. Energy - Both claim to support renewable energy. McCain wants to drill for domestic oil and supports nuclear power but unfortunately doesn't support ethanol. Obama is more committed to wind and solar and less so to drilling. He also wants to raise fuel mileage standards.
McCain 4
Obama 4

7. Economy - Neither one has a whole lot of credibility in fixing the economy. Both voted for the bailout which ended up as nothing but a give away to wall street and other special interests. One good idea from Obama is allowing early withdrawals from 401ks without penalty. McCain wants to cut business and investment taxes while Obama is more likely to infuse the economy with government cash.
McCain 0
Obama 3

8. Terrorism - McCain has a lot more experience in foreign affairs and will be more forceful in combating our enemies. Obama wants to bring other countries together to help our cause. Unfortunately, he also wants to revert back to the old days of treating terrorism as a crime instead of an act of war.
McCain 5
Obama 1

9. School Choice - McCain has been a long time supporter of school vouchers and charter schools. Obama is in bed with the teachers unions which means he wants more money and little reform or accountability.
McCain 5
Obama 0

10. Character and Experience - McCain has built up a lot of good will and trust over the years. However, it appears he is willing to compromise some of his integrity in order to win the race. Nothing that can't be repaired but it does undermine his image of putting principles above politics. McCain also has years of experience fighting the system but few results to show for it. Obama has virtually no track record of accomplishments or reform. None! And I truly don't know if he believes every thing he says or not. What is his moral compass? His association with ACORN and Jeremiah Wright scare the hell out of me.
McCain 4
Obama 0

Total out of possible 50 points:
McCain 28
Obama 22

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mom's Birthday

This weekend my Mom turned 60. I decided a couple months ago to throw her a surprise party. My Mom's friend Brigid, my Stepdad Mike, my Aunt Nancy and I have been exchanging covert phone calls and emails planning the party for over a month. I thought for sure she knew ahead of time but everybody kept the secret. My Grandpa even had to lie to her and tell her that he was going away for the weekend with a lady friend to deter Mom from going to Pittsburgh for her birthday.

Saturday night the party finally occurred and it was a smashing success. We had 35 friends and family at the party including several from out of town. Mom was totally surprised. It was great to see the look on her face when she walked through the door. It was a look of profound appreciation and amazement that so many people were there to celebrate her.

We had several old pictures of her growing up and some of us shared a favorite memory with Mom. I tried give a really moving toast but ended up crying halfway through it instead. Mom received lots of gifts but I think the best gift was having so many of her loved ones gathered in one place.

It was a great night. A night where everything just felt right. A night when family all got along and old friends caught up with each other. A night of showing just how much Mom means to us.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Negative Attacks

Lately there has been an awful lot of attacks on Obama by the McCain team. They are desperately trying to link to him William Ayers who is a former terrorist. The hope is to discredit him by association and when they tested this attack in a poll I am sure it scored quite well. While I think Obama and Ayers do have a relationship I have no faith that this line of attack will actually work.

There are a couple main principles to effectively attacking your political opponent. First, the attacks have to be believable to the average voter. On the surface I would say that people could believe that Obama has allied himself with less than reputable people. After all, he is a product of the Chicago political machine. But the McCain people have made the mistake of pushing this too far by implying that Obama endorses Ayers terrorist acts. Most people are simply not going to believe that. How many people can honestly say that Obama condones acts of violence against the country? Maybe some radical, fringe voters will buy that but to the typical voter it doesn't really pass the smell test.

The second principle is that the attacks have to be relevant. Here is the larger problem for McCain. Quite simply, when the stock market is in free fall nobody cares whether or not Obama knew William Ayers. To be effective the attack has to fit into the overall theme of the campaign. For instance 2004's campaign was predominantly about the war and who would be a better commander in chief. Attacking Kerry for his flip flopping undermined his image as a strong leader and played into fears over whether or not he could be President in a time of war. The 2006 campaign was all about corruption. In that year I think Obama's shady associations might have resonated with voters. But this year the election is all about the economy.

To beat Obama this year, they have to undermine voter confidence in his ability to handle the financial crisis. Ironically, just the opposite has happened as McCain has appeared erratic and reactionary the last few weeks while Obama has been calm and poised. This is why Obama is gaining and McCain is losing ground.

Instead of going after Obama for being friends with Ayers, they should aggressively argue that Obama has no experience dealing with the economy at any level. He has never run a government or private agency and never had to balance a budget or make hard economic decisions. McCain should pin him down on specifics in the bailout package and ask him to explain it in detail at the next debate hoping that he will not be able to explain it. Make the case that if he can't understand what's in the bailout package then how can he understand how to fix our economy.

He should also use Obama's calmness against him by saying that he doesn't really care about the stock market crash because has plenty of money already. Paint him as out of touch with the average voter. Ask this question: If he feels the same unease about the economy as you do, why isn't he much more visibly upset over it?

While this line of attack might not be enough to beat Obama, at least it plays into the campaign narrative and into the minds of the voters.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Problem with Politics

I just read a very interesting article in the NY Times about Congressman Tom Davis and his reason for leaving congress. The article does a great job highlighting the problem with our current system; A system that drives out pragmatic problem solvers and replaces them with power hungry ideologues. No wonder the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Ballot initatives

I just recieved this from the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency. It is a non partisan explanation of both ballot proposals facing the Michigan voters this fall. It's a little wonkish, but I thought it might be helpful to provide information to others as they decide how to vote. For what it's worth I am voting no on both proposals.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Lions

The worst thing about living in Michigan is that every week we are compelled to watch the Lions on Sundays. Everybody, I know was ecstatic when the team fired Millen last week but unfortunately they couldn't fire all the coaches and players as well. Today's game was the worst performance I have seen in quite some time and that's saying something considering the Lions' history of getting completely dominated. The team today completely quit and it's embarrassing that people get paid millions a year are so unprofessional and incompetent. The worst thing about today is that I was going up against Chicago's defense in two of my fantasy leagues. Thanks to the Lions I am now trailing both leagues.

So what can the average fan do now that we no longer get to take out our emotions by chanting "fire Millen"? The first thing is to boycott the games. I realize that people have paid good money for the tickets but that is just the point. It's not worth paying 50 bucks to see them give up. I think an empty arena would send a great statement that the fans will only care when the team cares about winning. Another benefit is if the games don't sell out then they have to black out the game in their area sparing the people of Detroit from having to watch this mess.

Another thought is to simply stop buying team merchandise. But a more visceral idea is to organize a demonstration where fans can bring their Lions gear and burn it in a huge pile. The season is already going down in flames, the least fans can do is use that fire to disinfect themselves from the team.

Lastly, instead of calling into the local radio stations to complain about the team, just ignore the Lions all together. Talk about the upcoming Red Wings or Pistons seasons. Heck even bring up the Bears or the Colts. In fact, maybe every fan could adopt another team to cheer for instead of the Lions.

The final word: Since the Lions have given up on the season, it is time for their fans to give up on them.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The debate

My friend Tameshia came down this morning and wanted to talk about the debate. She is a liberal and not surprisingly Palin annoyed her and she thought Biden won handily. I on the other hand, thought Palin gave a folksy, reassuring performance. It's funny how one's political lens really does influence how we see things in real life.

So admitting my bias and the fact that I was rooting for Palin to have a good night here are my initial thoughts. I thought Biden was strong, intelligent, gracious and presidential. But he was also irrelevant as every one watching the debate wanted to see how Palin would handle herself. He could have showed up naked and nobody would have noticed as Sarah Palin was the story. The public wanted to know if it was going to be the Palin from the convention or Palin from the Katie Couric interview. Thankfully for Republicans it was a return to the convention mostly.

Yes she was a little weak on substance sometimes and didn't answer every single question head on but that really wasn't her job. Many pundits thought her goal was to demonstrate again to the public that she is a credible leader who could take over the presidency if McCain dies. In fact, there was a question on that very topic. Instead she saw her goal as connecting to what you might call "middle American voters" with her charm and use of common vernacular. She didn't try to come off as a policy expert but instead ran as an outsider against an unpopular Washington DC culture and I think it worked fairly well.

Scoring debates is always hard because voters are unpredictable. Al Gore bashed Bush in their first debate but lost votes because he sighed a lot. To use a betting term, my gut tells me that Biden may well have scored more points last night but as the underdog she covered the spread. And as those who gamble know, covering the spread is what wins the money.