Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Morning

I had to come in to work a little early this morning, and it was still dark. The route I took was quite familiar to me, but only by daylight. The tall buildings downtown look quite impressive as you round the last curve of the freeway into town.

My route passes by one of the local parks, too. The trees have lost quite a few of their leaves, most of which seemed to be blowing along the road. It was quite the sight watching the leaves in the headlights, scattering and swirling around the car tires, like miniature wildebeest stampedes across a asphalt Serengeti.

The office building I work in looks entirely transformed at night. There are a lot more windows than I'm normally cognizant of. By day the building looks like two brick slabs interrupted by a vaulted greenhouse structure between them. At night the building seems almost entirely glass, linking the three sections into a more coherent whole.

There was a breeze, and I was expecting it to be cold. One normally associates blowing Autumn leaves with cold wind. But this one was warm and moist like a friendly embrace.

As I headed for the building I was left with the impression that today is going to be more than just a little unusual. And not just because I met Marie Antoinette on the stairway.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What $600 Million Won't Buy

Evidently it won't buy a state-of-the-art credit card processing system.

(Via Instapundit)
Barack Obama has proved the greatest fund-raiser of all time by a long shot. His campaign has raised more than $600 million - $150 million in September alone. But the campaign has also failed to adopt standard protections against fraudulent giving.
- NY Post

I'm in IT. I'm pretty sure any self-respecting credit card processing system vendor would try to sell the Obama campaign "standard protections against fraudulent giving". I'm sure they would have done their homework and known what the federal elections regulations were--and since it likely would have meant MORE money for them, they would have tried to sell Obama on it. They evidently failed.

You would have to specifically turn down that kind of protection to NOT have the basic guards against credit card fraud.

And this is the person who wants to implement tougher regulations on everyone else.

Physician, heal thyself.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Let Boys Be Boys

Dr. Helen Smith, in an interview with Mens News, had this to say about the message society is giving our boys--and their options in coping with it:
It sounds innocent enough but imagine the negativity you receive on a daily basis as a boy in our society. You go to school where you are told you may be a potential rapist or sexual harasser, then the teacher tells you to settle down or you will be sent for medication, the girl at the mall is wearing a “boys are stupid, throw rocks at them” t-shirt and then the TV is telling you that you are a bed-wetter or drug addict. It’s no wonder our boys are now more interested in video games than in school, learning or later, college. At least video games are challenging and not telling them they are somehow inadequate.

As a parent of children of both genders I want to make sure they all get positive, uplifting messages from society. I'm so glad to belong to a church that emphasizes boys and girls equally--each has different abilities and roles, but each is absolutely critical to our ultimate destiny.

And yet it's religion that is frequently decried as "out of touch". Silly me, I thought that would be a much better message for my kids than "girls are sex objects, boys are cavemen, and they're both better off without each other." Think about it--that's what society is telling them.

I'm Vox Potpourri, and I DON'T approve that message.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Joe vs. Barry

By now everyone has heard about "Joe the Plumber", who expressed his concerns about Obama's tax policy and was told he'll need to spread the wealth around.

It's sad and perhaps terrifying to see the media frenzy as everyone digs into Joe's background for every little snippet they can find to discredit him. It would be less sad if the media had shown the same enthusiasm about Obama's connection to William Ayers or the John Edwards adultery scandal. Surely the American public can see the disconnect here. Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber deserve a full-court media press, while every question about Obama is met by cricket chirps.

But what bothers me the most about the exchange that started this all is what Obama told Joe:
"I just want you to be clear – it’s not that I want to punish your success – I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you – that they’ve got a chance at success too."

In short, Joe should subsidize his own competition. What's more, if Joe can do this under the current tax structure, why can't anyone else? Either it's possible now or it's not. It does not good to make it easier for those too poor to start their own business if you then turn around and make it more difficult for them once they DO start their own businesses.

In short, Obama's plan will give more money to the poorer people, but it won't encourage them to do well enough to start creating jobs for other people. If you're a young plumber with dreams of starting his own business some day, which would you rather see? A tax break that helps you keep a little more money now--assuming you have a job--or a job with a plumber who can help you get the experience necessary to accomplish your dream?

In Short, Obama wants to make more people dependent on government money while discouraging the creation of jobs. How will this help the economy?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!

That's seriously my impression of both candidates after last night's final debate. We just barely passed a bill to spend $750 billion to save the economy. Now both of them are convinced we need another $50 billion plus to bribe--I mean help the middle class.

Enough already! I'm not sure how much more "help" we can afford. Seriously, either the rescue package is going to work, or it's not. Tacking on a list of additional goodies they forgot to shove into the deal is not going to help. The fact is that the professional money-handlers not only screwed up, but screwed up in such a glorious fashion that we have little choice but to bail them out, lest they take us all down with them. Fine. We'll pony up the cash. Or rather, China will.

But let's not keep piling on more just because we haven't gotten over the sticker-shock enough to realise that $50 billion is still a lot-o-cash. That would buy the entire company I work for, and we're a Fortune 50 company.

One thing is obvious from last night. Neither of these clowns are professional money-managers. For three debates in a row none of them have admitted that we can't afford everything they want to do. They both want to spend more money while cutting taxes. As if we weren't already running a deficit. You may note just how quickly both of them ran away from the question of "how soon can you balance the budget".

I don't know how Obama can cut taxes on 95% of Americans when 30% of Americans don't pay taxes. And I'm not sure how McCain can cut taxes on businesses in one breath while slapping a medical benefits tax on them in the other.

So here's my Christmas Wish: For the economy to recover before either one of these clowns can take office. I know they feel obligated to be seen doing something before the election, but seriously: keep them away from the economy. In their cases, laissez-faire is the best approach. Or have Adam Smith hold the invisible hand over their mouths. Otherwise our best hope is that Congress remains divided and unable to agree on anything, like passing their economic plans.

And it's a sad day when government gridlock is the only things standing between us and oblivion.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Random Thought

Why is it that being "on the same page" is considered the standard for coordination? Shouldn't we be aspiring to better? Like being on the same word?

Just a thought.

A Call For Sense

As it looks increasingly likely that Obama will be the next president, many people on the right seem to be preparing to live by "Do unto others as they have been doing to you". They want to give Obama and the Democrats the same grief that the Left has been laying on Bush and the Republicans.

Rick Moran has other ideas:
"There is no more important aspect of democracy than the minority accepting the will of the majority. The constitution gives the minority certain protections against getting steamrolled by the majority. But it doesn’t give the minority the right to torpedo the legitimacy of the winner.

This is more than a question of “fair play” or being a “sore loser.” The Constitution says we have only one president at a time. Given the importance of that office, it is stark raving lunacy to seek to destroy the man occupying it."
I have to agree, as much as it's tempting to join the former group. Politics in America has become too focused on "Winning" rather than doing what's right. We're not always going to get our way. If that means we have to retaliate and scuttle an otherwise perfectly acceptable proposal for revenge purposes or just because it was put forward by the Left then we're certainly no better than the Left and do not deserve to ever lead again.

Indeed, why would America want anyone in power who acts that way? The Left and Right are nearly indistinguishable from one another in their behavior, while getting increasingly far apart on anything that matters. As Americans we're left with no viable choice. In such situations it's perfectly acceptable to call a timeout and make the squabblers take turns. Let's give Obama four years, then some Republican four years, and back and forth.

Until one side grows up and proves they want what's best for America and that they're truly ready to lead, that's as good as we're likely to get.

Whomever is elected (and frankly there is lots to dislike about both of them), I will try my best to be supportive. I'll use whatever influence I have to change their mind if I think they're wrong, but ultimately I'll do my best to accept the outcome without complaint until it's time to vote again. Any complaints will be registered at the ballot box.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Debate Means "Take Worm Off Hook", Right?

I recorded last week's Presidential Debate and watched it Wednesday night. Then I watched the VP Debate last night. Let me tell you, two nights in a row of debates is not a healthy thing. Ultimately my vote has not changed, though I'm less sure of it. My opinion of the candidates has, though.

First there's George Bush. It's as if he wasn't even there. Oh wait, he wasn't, though you'd never guess from listening to Obama and Biden. They like to make us think that McCain will be more of the same, but there are a whole lot of conservatives and/or Republicans who struggle with McCain because he's NOT like Bush, too. I think Palin didn't attack hard enough in pointing out to Biden that "you're focused on the past".

Frankly, I think the "McCain voted with the administration 90% of the time" line is ridiculous. What does that mean, exactly? Bush's only chance to vote is by vetoing or signing anything that gets passed. Bills that never pass the Senate are never seen by Bush, period, so there's no way to know if Bush would have voted for them or not. It's an impressive-sounding statistic with no substance at all. And how often did Obama vote with Bush? Oh, they don't tell you that one, but since I don't think that Bush has vetoed more than 10% of the bills that come before him, I suspect that percentage is pretty high, too.

Anyway, moving on to the actual candidates instead of the convenient punching-bag.

I've only heard Obama speak once before. I have to admit to falling a bit under the "Obama magic", though only as far as losing some of my conviction that he's consciously, intentionally adopting wrong-headed policies. I'm a bit more willing to give him some benefit of the doubt. And, contrary to what some pundits claim, I did not think the number of times he said "I agree with John on that" was a point against him. I like to see candidates give each other a little credit. I wouldn't have minded seeing some reciprocation from McCain.

But Obama's shallow experience was evident. He kept mentioning that "I wrote a letter to so-n-so about that" or "I spoke to so-n-so and told them--". If that's all he's got to show on the issue I'm not convinced. He's a US Senator. He should have proposed legislation, not letters. He should have at least called for a congressional hearing. Where's the political risk-taking in writing a letter? Being aware of and voicing concern over a problem is not what we pay our leaders for. We expect them to do something.

I was more impressed by McCain's depth of experience. But he was, if anything, too calm. I'd like to see him show a little fire, if only in dicussing his own policies. Is he taking the "McCain's got a temper" criticisms so seriously he's afraid to even approach anything resembling passion?

I've not had much exposure to Biden prior to this. I found him likable. So likable, in fact, that I didn't think to question some of his obvious errors. As Michael Totten asks, when has the U.S. or anyone else ever kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon? When did he and Obama call for NATO to move in there?

But perhaps I was too busy being irritated with Palin. Some say she did a good job of keeping Biden on the defensive. I guess that's one way of looking at it. I was just bothered by how she'd keep returning to old topics, sometimes with so little connectin with the current one I nearly got whiplash. Yes, she held her own up there. I think I was expecting more, somehow.

All four of them were very astute at twisting facts on each other's records. I've been doing enough research on my own to catch them in the act. They're all guilty, and it's gotten to the point that if anyone says "So-n-so voted against X" I immediately ignore it. Chances are it's out of context. Chances are there were other circumstances in play. Chances are it's just so much spin.

The same goes for "quotes". Like Biden's, "Senator McCain said--these are his actual words--said that he was 'Suprised by the sub-prime crisis'." He repeated it several times, verbatim. And yet that's a sentence that is blatently open to interpretation, even without including context. I'm just not buying it.

So in attempting to use candidates' records and words against them, all any of them have succeeded in doing (at least for me) is to convince me I can't go by their records or snippets. All I can really go by is their own stated positions. And that's risky, too.

Ultimately I'm less sure of my vote, but only because I'm less sure of all of them together. There's not one of them I can trust. And that's sad.

On the bright side, they've all kept the debates thus far civil, even cordial. There hasn't been the spirit of meanness I recall from previous election years. Good for them.

We could use more bright spots, though. It's been a long, dark night. I'm tired. Can we vote already?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

More From My Man Michael

Michael Totten interviews a member of Hungary's parlaiment and the Parlaimentary Assembly of the Council of Europe about the situation in Georgia, as well as the broader picture. As usual, a must-read.