My habit is to wake up each day and check the news, and to then our reconcile our checking account to our budget.
I woke up this morning to see that we were about $1,000 less than what I expected to see. Scanning the details of it, I saw that Sprint, my cell phone provider, took out my payment. I have autopay with them, so I go to my Sprint account online and find this:
They took out a payment of $1,197.23.
I had called yesterday, as is my habit, to ensure that I knew what the payment amount due is. It was $148.85.
If you look at the image above, you'll see that my account now has a credit (circled in red) of $1,048.38.
That's a gross error.
I'm now on the phone in the customer service queue - 20 minutes thus far - with Sprint. I'm obviously not the only one affected by this.
Nice little Christmas trick. I hope I have no problem getting my money refunded.
ETC: I get through to customer service, and they tell me that they have to create a "case" for my refund. That process takes 3 - 5 business days, and then they issue me a check, so I have to then wait for the mail to arrive.
I'm now on hold to see if I can cancel my Sprint account without paying $200 per phone to get out of my contract.
I hate this company.
MORE ETC: I finally got through to someone who cared, a guy named Sam. He will personally track this to ensure that I get a resolution ASAP. He promises daily contact with me to keep me updated. Cool.
He also explained that they can't do an immediate refund to our bank account because the error is over $1,000 and some department has to determine that this is not an effort to defraud Sprint.
My high school friend, Rik Schwinden, took this photo in a park in Des Moines when we reconnected several years after high school. I've since lost track of him somwhere in Minnesota.
This is what I looked like when he knew me in high school.
That picture was taken by Mike Langley, high school friend and a musician from Sioux City, Iowa, when we were hanging at his parents' house. I traded a few email with Mike a couple of years ago. He had a web site, but that appears to no longer be active. He still Googles though...
Funny how we lose track of people through the years, and then occasionally intersect.
Just thinking out loud... I want to contrast two pilots.
The first pilot knows the river. She senses the channel as if it were connected to her. She understands exactly where to steer the craft and moves it expertly up river. Her arrival time beats others because of her familiarity. Everyone esteems her confidence and experience. They need her to guide them safely, and people follow her easily.
The second pilot knows no river. He searches out the unfamiliar and explores endlessly. His boat has more patched holes than a kindergartner's jeans. He finds what paths not to take more often than what paths to take. He scares the shit out of most everyone, and few want to follow him. His value is always in question - until he charts that course that shortcuts the trade route or finds something more valuable than was known previously.
Every organization has at least one of the first pilot.
Some organizations have a pilot or two of the second variety.
Almost all organizations espouse the virtues of diversity, but diversity is more than just skin deep. Through variety, organisms and organizations evolve.
Strength and stability come via the deft skill of the first pilot.
Growth and adaptation come through the embrace of risk by the second pilot.
Every organization, like every species, needs both to survive. The tragedy is that most managers hire people who feel comfortable to them. They seek a "fit" for the organization. Pilot Number Two will never feel like a "fit." They won't conform to the company norms. If they did, they wouldn't have a passion for exploration.
This makes it quite hard for managers to recognize and hire really good adventurers. Here's what a few people have said about the qualities of the good adventurer:
"It's important for the explorer to be willing to be led astray." - Roger Von Oech
"Explorers have to be ready to die lost." - Russell Hoban
"[Explorers] never stop because they are afraid - they are never so likely to be wrong." - Fridtjof Nansen
"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be too cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down." - Ray Bradbury
Some people mistake the rebel for the explorer. They're not the same. The rebel can be a cynic; the explorer is never cynical. The explorer thinks nothing of working feverishly, optimistically chasing flirtatious ideas. The rebellious cynic sees no solutions. It's not just being a misfit that counts; it's being a romantic. The adventurer sees hope in the pursuit, and isn't running away from the company, but running toward the opportunity that few others can see. A pilot, if they're a pilot, always has a destination in mind. Managers can identify a good explorer when the job interview feels like a ride through the jungle - with the explorer driving at breakneck speed.
An explorer isn't worried about being a fit. An explorer wonders if you dare...
I read that Mike Huckabee is gaining ground in the polls. Tamara met the governor and his wife at the Iowa Straw Poll that we attended. Mike Huckabee's wife said that she loved Tamara's skirt... (of course she did - my wife has excellent style)
But I can't vote for Mike Huckabee. For a few reasons...
Reason Number 1: The boy loves him his tax increases.
Reason Number 3: The boy loves him illegal immigration.
When he was governor, Huckabee held the following positions on illegal immigration: He supported higher education benefits for children of illegal immigrants, opposed a federal roundup of illegals from his state in 2005, opposed a 2001 bill requiring proof of citizenship to vote in the state, and in 2001, a member of his administration pushed for legislation to grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
Under Governor Huckabee's watch, state spending increased a whopping 65.3% from 1996 to 2004, three times the rate of inflation (Americans for Tax Reform 01/07/07). The number of state government workers rose 20% during his tenure (Arkansas Leader 04/15/06), and the state's general obligation debt shot up by almost $1 billion...
And for all those very sound reasons, I can't get behind the guy. He's Jimmy Carter in Republican clothing. I don't think so.
In the past week, I've facilitated two demos for the web site I'm building in partnership with a company here in Des Moines. We hope to launch in a couple of weeks, and we're getting close to the finish line. The demos? They were in front of people who actually intend to use the web site - clients - and the responses were terrific. Here are a couple comments after the demos:
"Very impressive and thought out."
"The concept is cool and I think a lot more business may be driven our way."
"It looks like it is going to be a great tool."
Heartening stuff. Coupled with these was a boatload of suggestions, and in the next few days, I'll mull those over and determine what might be in or out.
It happens to be that by contract, I own the intellectual property for the web site. In effect, I'm leasing the web site to the company. This means that if it succeeds as hoped, I can trot it out to other companies and work to lease it to them also.
I had lunch with a friend of mine last week who has done enterprise sales in the past and he said that I have a problem: it's a cool tool that I've built, but I alone am the support department. If my aspiration is to get other companies to use this, why would they buy into partnering with lil' ol' me? I encounter the proverbial "What happens if you get hit by a truck?" scenario, in which case, how do I answer that? I'm pretty good at selling things, and it appears that I have a good thing to sell, but I'll have to be extra spiffy to sell a one-man operation.
So, after noodling through what Peter said - because he's right - I've determined that I'll need a business partner. And I think I've identified the perfect partner. A few months from now, I'll approach them and see how interested they might be.
In the meantime, my evenings are full of heads-down coding. I was up for over 40 hours straight two days ago... bug-fixing, testing, coding, bug-fixing, optimizing, testing, bug-fixing... go to my day job... then home - for bug-fixing, testing, coding, bug-fixing, optimizing, testing, bug-fixing...
I'm almost there.
By the way, if anyone who reads this wants to test drive it, just drop me a line and I'll send you a link to it.
Special thanks to my friend, Annette, who agreed to test-drive it and took time out of her hectic schedule to give me some great feedback. You rock, and it's mucho appreciated :)
The headline reads, "High Income Taxes in Denmark Worsen a Labor Shortage." The tax rate for people who earn more than $70,000 is 63%, all in the name of shortening the gap between the rich and the poor.
Politicians love wealth redistribution policy because it allows them to become popular by giving away tax revenue to voters. Never mind that such policy never stimulates economic growth. Why would it?
Those who know how to make money are discourged to keep making it.
Those who don't know how to make money have no incentive to learn how. They learn instead to stand there with their hand out.
Voters who favor candidates who promote wealth redistribution policies are ignorant to their own harm. Wealth redistribution is a diet of junk food: tastes great in the short-run, but it makes you fat and lazy in the long-term. Denmark shows us that with its labor problems due its high tax rates due to "such effective income redistribution that Denmark is the most nearly equal society in the world, in that wealth is more evenly spread than anywhere else." Ah, the joys of wealth equality.
In response to this crisis, Denmark just re-elected right-leaning Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. From Wikipedia:
His government has made a major reform of the structure of government in Denmark, including tough measures designed to limit the number of immigrants coming to Denmark, and freezing the rates of existing taxes, which is 68% at maximum. Taxes have been lowered but the Conservatives repeatedly argue for more tax cuts and a flat tax rate at no higher than 50%. In general, Rasmussen is in favour of deregulation, privatization, and limiting the size of government. His government has also enacted tough measures designed to limit the number of immigrants coming to Denmark, specifically as asylum-seekers or through arranged marriages.
When I watch Hillary's "I'll take away corporate tax breaks and give them to you" commercials airing here in Iowa, it strikes me how harmful she would be as president if she succeeds in her pledge. She says that this policy will create new jobs.
Really? Follow that through...
If a company enjoys lower taxes, it has more money to hire more workers. A job is how a worker gets money. In fact, a job is an ongoing means of revenue. Every two weeks, you have more money. It's a gift that keeps on giving.
If Hillary takes away that money from the company and dillutes it in distribution to everyone, it's a small and infrequent occurrence. Are you going to take that little bit of money and create a job with it? No. (Few people today know how to create jobs and Hillary's not among that group. She's never started a business that, you know, creates jobs.)
Will that pittance of redistribution from the company tax breaks to you cause money to continue to spring forth ongoing dollars like a job would? No. You'll buy a few things with and then it's gone - at the expense of the jobs lost for her desire to take money from a job-producing enterprise. No jobs were created in this farcical exercise. In fact, jobs were lost.
Unfortunately, there are too many people in Iowa who watch these ads, ridiculous on their face, and come away thinking that Hillary is a great problem-solver.
Obama, by the way, has a similar commercial, where some older fella smiles at the end of the commercial that Obama is gonna take care of him. Hoo boy, what a hoot.
Creepy and short-sighted is what it is. It's like aspiring to build a football team that is equal in talents not by making them work to achieve it but by tying all of their shoestrings together so that they can all run at the same speed.
Argue with me if you like. I hold up the example of country after country in Europe that has tried wealth redistribution and socialist policy only to the faltering of their economies and weakened standard of living and high unemployment rates. Today's example is Denmark.
I write with passion about politics here on beatcanvas to do my little part to ensure that America is not soon an example from this hemisphere. Unfortunately, we have too many politicians who think they're smarter than the capitalist system. And too many voters who believe those politicians.
The way it's packaged by politicians, you would think that a corporate tax break was some sort of government giveaway - a giant subsidy. But it's not... a corporate tax break is simply a reduction in taxes paid to the government. The government is not handing over money to the company - it's taking less. Big difference.
And while we're on the subject, why does a corporation have to pay taxes in the first place? Does it drive on the roads? Use the bathroom? Because in theory, taxes are collected to pay for the common utilities of humans. A company is a non-human organization for people who have found a way to work together to deliver a good or service to other humans. That's it. It's a facade for the purpose of business.
Furthermore, the government collects taxes on revenue. Revenue happens when people pay a company for the good or service delivered. That profit earned by the company is then dispersed among those who worked to deliver the good or service in the form of a paycheck. But it stands to reason that if the government steps in and collects money from the company's revenue not once but twice - first from the company's income and then second from the income earned by workers - then the workers get less money because the government is now an added expense for the business.
So, a corporate tax break is no evil, as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama paint it, but a means by which to better pay the workers who earned the company's revenue in the first place. Hillary's plan to take away corporate tax breaks would rob the company's workers of the money they earned at work and seek to give it to others who had nothing at all to do with the money earned.
And that plan will create jobs??? Of course not.
Exactly the opposite would create jobs. Politicians should abolish the notion of non-human corporations paying taxes at all. Let the company disperse more of the profits to its workers in the form of either higher paychecks or creating more jobs at the company. Either way, it's better for people.
Hillary? Barack? Other "populist" politicians? They're all about robbing you, the employee, of what you help the company earn. That is the evil.
[Bob] didn't know the customers, he didn't trust the store managers, and he sqaushed the "can-do" entrepreneurial attitude of the employees. Where was the "up" in hiring the man?
Aside from those who took the risk in starting a successful company in the first place, no one is worth [Bob's] severance package of $220 million. A founder might have grown their company to earn that much, but then that's just the reward on their investment, and not a severance package.
Personally, I think any company board that decides to reward bad management with even the first $1 bill itches to be jailed for defrauding investors. Whenever I hear of golden executive parachutes after a poor stint at the helm of a company, I cringe. That's not capitalism; it's cronyism or it's bribery. Either way, it's theft and it's wrong, in my opinion.
Executives, though, are not in the same class as the business owner.
I'm gonna quote something I wrote in January 2003, in the midst of working hard to make a success of the company I previously started. (It didn't fly, but came close.) I was about 1 year into blogging at that time on a different web site than this one...
Americans began as a largely self-employed lot. In Lincoln's day, it was looked down upon to work for someone else. Self-reliance was the mode. Industrialization brought an end to that. The move toward factories had people moving from farm to city and you needed big bucks to start your own company. But that's not true today.
Today, we live in a services-experiences economy. Can you type? Have a typing service. Are you good at socializing? Have a dating service or a head-hunting firm. Can you work with databases? Perhaps you can be a consultant. Each of these requires little investment. Not everyone is wired to do this, but it is possible if you want to try it.
As I began working for myself, I noticed that my attitude about corporate structure changed - a lot. I gained a respect for owners that I didn't have before. I've always been a rebellious, stick-in-your-eye kind of employee, always thinking of something different and always championing the little guy. But now that I've transitioned to the other side of that fence, I've come to see how hard it is to run a successful business. Many of my former habits have had to die. I now see that owners and investors deserve what they have because they took - and take - the risk and they earn their reward every day.
I've learned that the rich and the risk-takers in America are the ones who start businesses. Nobody else does. These businesses are the ones that create jobs, which allow people to then afford their homes and cars and clothes for their kids. These people, heroes in my book, are the ones who make it all possible in America. Through them, we have a military that defends us. Through them, we have the money to be given to those in need. We have roads and bridges and great many things. If the rich and the risk-takers didn't start businesses in the first place, there would have been no money for any of this because there would be no jobs from which taxes are collected. That makes them heroes.
But there is an active culture war underway to fight against these people. That war seeks to dilute from them the very reward that they earn through the risk that they take. If you've know anything about my own personal story, you know that I've been very poor - even homeless - and that I've worked my way out of it. I inherited nothing. Those people who do anything that reduces the willingness of the rich and the risk-takers to create jobs for people are either ignorant to the hurt they cause to the livelihood of the people who would have otherwise had jobs, or they are strident socialists, and they need to be educated and fought.
You can read from this bit the early thoughts that fed into my recent post on wealth redistribution. For these reasons, anyone who fights against any business trying to succeed gets my blood pressure up.
For what it's worth, Bob Nardelli was one of those, in my view, who fought against business. He's just as malicious as those stunted souls in organizations like ACORN and he's twice as guilty.
A business often succeeds because the founder/owner discovered a secret sauce that got customers excited to be a part of the business. It could be the products, the ambience, the customer service - whatever - the entrepreneur figured it out. The thing grew like mad...
Later, enter some slickster, Powerpoint slides and management theories brimming at the ready, and he comes in and changes the business' secret sauce because he thinks he knows better. And he screws it up. And then magically somehow he excuses his failure away in a flurry of rational spreadsheets and market reports. The board of directors - because they know him and golf with him and saw how much he poured himself into the black hole of it all - they give him an outrageous severance package.
That's when I stop championing the company and the executive - when compensation no longer has any base in merit.
On the other hand, starting a company is the hardest exercise I know. Growing a successful company into even greater success is no easy task either, and I have no problem with outrageous rewards, should the profits merit that.
Workers generally care a great deal for the company and want to help it to succeed. But there's a difference. The workers take no risk like the business owner does.
A friend of mine recently took out a $250,000 loan to start her business. That's risk. She feels the weight of that risk every day she goes to work. Her employees don't even think about it. They show up, do the best they can, and then go home.
Or take me, for instance. This is my eighth company. I make no money while I develop this new company. I'm up until ridiculous times late at night. I'm hundreds of hours into this one, with maybe 100 more to go before it's open for business, plus the time after that in code tweaking and inevitable bug-fixing and I have no guarantee of reward. It may fall flat on its ass, as a few others have done that I started.
That's risk - working for hundreds of hours for free.
I should also count the hours spent in my previous startups and count the sometimes painful lessons I learned from those.
For the entrepreneur, it's an investment, with no promise of return. This lifestyle is not for everyone. I'm okay with that. I don't expect others to do this. But you know what? If a company succeeds and does ridiculously well, no one has the right to tell the owner what fair compensation should be in comparison to employees.
That's why I started this enterprise: I don't want a ceiling. I don't want people telling me the limit to what I can earn. I want to declare the height of my own room.
I want to decide my own fringe benefits. Like, I want to wear shorts to work every day and play Tears for Fears loudly on Friday afternoons while I sip a Negro Modelo. I want to park my bike, dripping wet with melting snow, in the front of the office. I want to hang my artwork on the walls. Sound silly? Perhaps. But that's the right of the entrepreneur, the reward for creating something out of nothing. It's thrilling and scary. And very different from being hired by a company. The trade-off is that the employee gets the security of a steady paycheck while the company remains solvent.
Executives are just employees with steady paychecks. More savvy and skilled, perhaps, but just employees. Unless they know how to tweak the secret sauce into making oodles more money, Bella's right - their compensation deserves the same consideration as other employees.
The thing is that in America, no matter how outrageous the package is, it's up to the owners how to compensate executives. Such is the freedom we enjoy here in this country - the freedom to also blow wads of cash on people who sometimes don't deserve it.
They couldn't refund the money by the same means that they took it out because the amount was over $1,000, which puts the transaction into their Fraud department to ensure that I'm not pulling a fast one. By policy, they have to then send me a check snail mail.
Six days after this fiasco started, I have received the check. Here's the attached statement.
Art suggested that I send them a bill for all of this trouble. Does it work that they've decided now to give me two months free for my troubles? That's something anyway...
Last night, Tamara and I went to see August Rush, a decent movie. We saw Mike Sansone and his wife, Cindy, there. That was cool!
The theme of the movie was far more important to me than anything else, which was about the feeling of music in everything arond us. In some ways, music has more expression for me than the English language. Said another way, I feel and express things through music that I can't with words. It's the weave of melodies, harmonies, and percussion that speak to me far louder than anything else. It sets the mood. It's like eating the best chocolate. It elevates me and makes my brain smile. My standard mode of intense concentration involves music and headphones - headphones are critical so that I can listen more closely. It's a separate part of my brain that processes the music, and it dovetails well with the linear aspects of programming. Ever since I started programming, music and headphones have been my uniform for work. The combination takes me into a zone where my work is my whole world and I get more accomplished in far less time...
This morning, as I was about to get into coding, I put on my uniform and Rush was to be my aural wallpaper.
Almost 30 years ago I found these guys, and they've accompanied me on many projects, late nights, and puzzles to solve. As I listen to Natural Science from their Permanent Waves album, the grooves they create somehow fit right in with the development of functions and if / then logic and html. Just as yesterday, Peter Gabriel was my grease.
So today I say thanks... glad to be off on my way, hitting the open road with the magic of song at my fingertips, and happy in my solitude. Y'all have been great companions to me. You help me feel like this...
(That, by the way, is a painting by Frank Morrison.)
ETC: In the comments, Kelly advocates for Rush's latest release, Snakes and Arrows, which my son gave me last year for Father's Day. Kelly's right :)
Here's a snippet of my favorite track off the release.
Back in July, I told myself I could not pick up a brush until I finished this project, and now that I am just about there, every part of me craves the relief of switching gears and using my somewhat-neglected right-brain.
In mentally preparing myself for that wonderful wonderful day, I've been thinking...
Do I like this approach?
Or do I like this approach?
The first is an early table-setting sketch. Took about 15 minutes.
The second is my final pass after a few days of very detailed work.
I like both, but in truth, I kind of prefer the rougher version. It has more emotion for me.
So in getting back into it, I think I might just do a bunch of rough pieces to reorient myself to that way of seeing (because painting is not so much about what I do with my hands as what I do with my eyes).
Part of me keeps asking from the back seat, "Are we there yet??"
Any presidential candidate who wears his religion on his sleeve for all of us to see vies for pastor in chief, not commander in chief. Me? I'm voting for someone who can lead our nation to a strong military, smaller government, fewer taxes, individual freedom with no nannyish tendencies, and an America-first foreign policy.
"I didn't get into politics because I thought government had a better answer. I got into politics because I knew government didn't have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives."
So he got into politics because the answer lies in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives. Is there a dot I missed? Where's the natural segue?
I never thought I would say this, but I'm vehemently opposed to Mike Huckabee. I'll vote for Jacques Chirac before I'll vote for Mike Huckabee.
Chad R. urged me in the comments last night to check my facts before I make my decision. Chad, buddy, the words from your guy's mouth tell me clearly that he can't make sensible decisions without running it through his bible filter.
I have no problem with religion and a person's private practice thereof. But if Mike's hoping to take the Republican nomination by invoking the numbers of the Passion of the Christ crowd, then I'm squarely against Mike. Ours is not a Christian nation; it's a multi-religion nation. Jesus Christ is not our national answer.
Mitt Romney gave a really impressive speech last week on faith as applied in politics. He said this:
"I do not define my candidacy by my religion. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law. We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state, nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion."
If Republicans nominate Mike Huckabee, then I'm a man without a party. Go Jacques!
After writing yesterday about Pastor-in-Chief Huckabee, I got to thinking... what role should faith have in presidential politics?
What I came to is this... I know what I don't want. I don't want a president who uses Jesus as his or her barometer for action. Or Muhammad. Or Buddha. Or any of the other folks who cast their eyes heavenward. They lived for a different purpose than politics, and this earthly realm wasn't really their bag.
I know Christianity, so I'll discuss that. And Christians, by the charge of their Lord and Savior, are to live in view of eternity as they live to serve their Lord. Does that really make for a good president?
A president is the Commander-in-Chief of armies. Armies kill people. By design. That's their mission. To wreck things and ruin lives. That's why they carry weapons that sport real - not rubber - bullets.
So imagine you're a Christian. You love Jesus and want to be a good servant for him. As president, you might ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?" And that's where you go off the rails into Jimmy Carter-land.
The world is not made of people who want to play nice. On the world stage, the world is made of people who want power. That requires ruthlessness. Our president should not be willing to nationally turn the other cheek, but to diplomatically and ferociously kick your ass if you mess the people of America.
Jesus taught people that it's better to pray in a closet than in the public square. Faith is a private matter. It's between you and God. So anyone who grandstands their faith on the national stage in pursuit of political office begs skepticism from the audience about their intentions with both politics and faith.
I once hopped into an elevator with a guy at a hotel who wore a HUGE cross around his neck. He was a hotel employee.
"That's quite a cross." "Yeah," he smiled. "You're obviously quite devoted." He looked me up and down and then smiled all the wider. "No. See, the thing is," he said as his voice smoothed into a whisper, "chicks love this. This gets me so laid all the time."
At that point, I reached my floor. The bell chimed.
"Seriously?" He nodded with vigor. "Oh yeah."
I stepped out and the elevator doors shut. I've never forgotten that moment.
That's how it feels to me when candidates for office trot out their faith.
I want a ruthless, America-loving, optimistic tightwad running this country. This country, and not heaven, needs to be the citizenship declared by any president.
I think the zealots get it wrong. It's not that America was founded by people expecting politics to be soaked by the faith of its leaders. No, America was founded by people who simply wanted to have their worship in private without fear of being persecuted.
What would Jesus do? I think he'd want that declaration of faith made in the closet, and not in the town square.
Over the past several months, I've worked on a project in my spare time. Here are some screenshots of the almost-final web site, with the name of my business partner blurred out for now. Their marketing brochures get printed in the two weeks. These are the teaser images - unblurred, of course - that will go into the brochure.
I wasn't really gung-ho to attend the Iowa Caucus, but after seeing more of Pastor Huckabee's religion-based campaigning and how he will stoop so low, I'm mighty motivated to keep that guy from becoming the nominee.
Want to go with me?
Call the Republican Party of Iowa (515-282-8105) and find your caucus location. If you've read this site much, you know that I've examined the candidates pretty closely. Tamara and I choose, like the editors of National Review:
Here's why I personally choose Mitt:
He's an incredibly effective large-enterprise manager. His time as a business executive, his deft salvage of the Salt Lake City Olympics, and his work as governor of Massachussettes all demonstrate that.
He embodies much of what I want in a candidate - lean government, strong military, America-loving, optimistic.
He has a very organized campaign, which we saw at the Iowa Straw Poll.
He handles the media well and comes across presidentially.
We'll be there, excited to vote for him. He's a good man, and in our opinion, the right person to be the Republican nominee.
ETC: Actually, I might be onto something. Remember when James Dobson threatened to run a 3rd party candidate if Giuliani got nominated? It's almost as if Huckabee is gunning for either the Passion of the Huckabee turnout, or if that fails, he's setting himself up to be the Christian Right's Golden Boy 3rd party candidate.
Either way, he wins. But if he runs as a straight Republican, he can lose.
After I expressed my support to nominate Mitt Romney, my long-time friend, Kelly, said that he's behind Fred Thomson. I respect Kelly's opinion enough that I wanted to find out more about Fred, so I perused his official web site.
I didn't seriously consider Fred because he appeared to squander a lot of good vibe that he had, and you can't do that when running for president. You can't win without organization, and so he didn't make my list of folks to learn more about.
But aside from Kelly's influential opinion, Fred also gave it to Carolyn Washburn, editor of the local Des Moines Register, at the last debate. Good for him to thump a media priestess. Running for president is not about a show of hands; it's about intelligent considerations, and we the people have a right to hear the substance due the candidates running for president.
So, I'm giving what bit of room I can for Fred's voice to be heard. On his web site, he has a list of "first principles." I'll quote Fred and comment:
Individual Liberty . As Jefferson spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, our basic rights come from God, not from government, and that among these inalienable rights is the right to liberty. We must allow individuals to lead their lives with minimal government interference.
"Minimal government influence..." amen brother! Mucho applause to that.
Personal Responsibility . The corollary to liberty is responsibility. No society can succeed and thrive for any duration unless free people act in a responsible way. All of us must take responsibility for our actions and strive to improve our own lives and to contribute to building a better society.
Oh. My. God. Did Fred just utter the words "personal responsibility" in a presidential campaign? What happened to government giveaways and wealth redistribution and a chicken in every pot? Fred's exactly right - personal responsibility is a corollary to individual liberty. I'm digging Fred's principles, lemme tell ya.
Free Markets . Free people are best equipped to order their own affairs, and the common interest benefits from and is improved by the aggregate success of all. We must reform our tax system, encourage investment, support entrepreneurial spirit, open markets abroad to American goods, and minimize burdensome government regulations to continue to expand the economy and bring increased wealth to all Americans.
Fred, my man - you're hitting it out of the park! He definitely knows what drives business and economy.
Limited Government . Government must be strong enough to protect us, competent enough to provide basic government services, but limited by the delineated powers in the Constitution.
Federalism . Our Constitution innovatively guarantees our liberties by spreading power among the three branches of the federal government, and between the federal government and the states. In considering any action by the government, we must always ask two questions: is the government better equipped than the private sector to perform the task and, if so, what level of government (federal or state) ought to do it. Washington is not the seat of all wisdom.
It's starting to feel a bit redundant, although my enthusiasm is not diminished for it.
Protecting our Country . The first responsibility of the federal government is to protect the nation and the American people. There is no more important task. We must have a strong and effective military, capable intelligence services, and a vigorous law enforcement and homeland security capacity.
"No more important task." Yes, exactly... because nothing else American matters if there is no America.
Traditional American Values . A healthy society is predicated on belief in God; respect for all life; strong families centered on the institution of marriage - the union of a man and a woman; and self-respect and tolerance of others. While we are all free to live our lives in the pursuit of our own happiness, the government has a responsibility to respect the right of parents to raise their children and to promote the values that produce the strongest society.
This one is worth delving into a bit.
"A healthy society is predicated on belief in God." Whether you believe in God or not, that's a true statement. Because otherwise, rather than having inalienable rights granted by God, you have alienable rights doled out by the whim of man. Which sounds better to you, o person of faith / agnostic person? If there is no God, then man is the supreme ruler of this world, and what man giveth, man can taketh away.
The Rule of Law . We protect our liberty, secure our rights, and promote a just and stable society through the rule of law. We owe to ourselves and our fellow citizens our own adherence to the rules, but tough law enforcement and punishment for those who do not. A free and independent judiciary that interprets the law by adhering strictly to legal text and respects its limited role in our system of government is essential to our security and freedom, and we need judges who understand that role if we are to preserve our republic and freedom.
Conserving Our Nation’s Resources . Each of us is put on Earth for a limited period of time. We must always strive to ensure that the resources we use to lead our lives are here for future generations to enjoy and use as well.
I don't disagree with these last two, but they need no comment.
(Unfortunately, Fred's web site was written with .NET, and .NET does this really irritating thing where not every page has its own web address, so it's quite hard to link to his white papers and his list of statements on issues because the link doesn't change by clicking on the tabs in the First Principles page. A little persistence through the menu at the top of the page resolves my need for links, however...)
Fred's a good guy, and his stands are very appealing to me. If the guy could show some organizational muster, I'd donate to his campaign and volunteer my help. Will that happen before January 3rd here in Iowa? Let's hope so...
So, the Des Moines Register has issued its endorsements. Big deal. But there is this nugget of self-promotion in the article:
In 2004, the newspaper’s endorsement of John Edwards coincided with his dramatic surge in the state. Edwards, then a North Carolina senator, moved from single digits in an Iowa poll taken in November 2003 to a second-place finish in the state’s 2004 January caucuses.
This year? Clinton, she might get a bump because a few of the few Democrats in Iowa who actually read the Des Moines Register might think that the Register editorial staff is informed enough to help them make a decision. But it won't dent Obama's 9% jump on Hillary.
And no Republican voter looks to the Des Moines Register for advice on voting. The editors at the Register don't get Republicans. Which is why they backed McCain.
While the 3 Kings get most of the credit for bearing gifts and traverse afar, it was the 3 Princesses who did the packing, arranged for the camels, got the map (really King, you're going to rely on a star? What are your plans for the daytime?) and of course, shopped for the baby.
Ain't that the truth. If it was up to the guy, baby Jesus would have received a squirt gun and a lottery ticket purchased from the corner convenience store in the early morning of the blessed day.
Someone who has been close to me in the past has spent the last year being nothing but an affront to me and, more weightily, to my wife. No one messes with my family, I don't care who you are. You cannot suggest that you care for my family and act like that.
The person called me this morning to "make amends," but evidently knew nothing of what that means. I said that before I could move forward, I needed to understand why I saw the hurtful behavior that I did.
"I don't want to get into specifics. I just want to move on." "I need to know why you chose to act as you have. I need that to know that it won't continue." "No, I don't want to get into that. I'm just calling to make amends."
No conversation, no discussion. It was more a desire to sweep it under the rug and pretend it's all over and that we're past it. I can't play that game, and said so.
Without any evidence that something is changed, different, improved, reformed, etc, I have no recourse but to believe that my wife and my family will be subjected to the same behavior we've experienced. I have more respect for them than to allow that.
Growing up, my mother always use to say, "I don't want you to merely 'say' you are sorry, I want you to mean it, and show me that you are."
What's ironic is that we all take for granted the powerful intentions behind two little words that our society applies to just about every situation in a cavalier manner. From the most egregious offense to accidentally bumping into someone, "I'm sorry" has become our generation's catchall: an exonerating phrase that we believe will cleanse us of our "indiscretions."
Sorry folks, but according to experts, in order for an apology to hold any credence, it must be an earnest expression of a sincere sentiment. Professionals point out that owning up to our errors is one of the most difficult things to do. Yet, they profess that acknowledging your responsibility, and seeking and asking for forgiveness, not only benefits the offended individual but also helps you make peace with yourself.
The following are basic guidelines for implementing an appropriate apology:
Live Up To Your Responsibility: Don't justify, rationalize or project blame onto someone or something else. Remember, we all have control over how we act. Acknowledge that you're at fault, caused pain, and take the blame that belongs, rightfully, to you.
Own Your Error: Fully accept that you were wrong and that you realize the unnecessary aggravation, pain, and hurt you brought about. Showing this kind of understanding offers the other person confidence that you are not merely offering an obligatory apology but are in fact aware of your offensive actions and their detrimental effects.
Be Explicit: Experts recommend avoiding simply apologizing for your behavior. Be specific about which actions you are most concerned about and the impact (you feel) they had. This allows the other party to feel comfortable about you assessing and examining the situation and offering them the confidence that you will try to curb it, or get professional assistance to deal with it.
The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth: Be honest with yourself and the person you've hurt about EXACTLY what you've done wrong. Examine and discuss the root of the problem, as well as potential alternatives and solutions. Show the other party that you've considered the gravity of your actions and WHY it triggered such a negative response. This in-depth understanding offers confidence about your sincere desire to get to the root of the situation and move forward without ever looking back or repeating your actions.
Let Your Guard Down: Be prepared to have the other individual express their disappointment, frustration, and even anger. According to experts, refrain from getting offended or defensive. Remember, YOU were the initial instigator. The other person's feelings are valid and legitimate, and they have a right to be angry with you. Offer them that right and make it a priority to make your apology heartfelt.
Avoid Conditional Apologies: Refrain from "qualifying" your apology based on only certain things you felt where hurtful. Place yourself in the other person's shoes and try to understand how what you did or said affected them. Experts also suggest avoiding words and phrases such as "but" and "if."
If At First You Don't Succeed: Apologize more than once if you have to, say experts, especially if the offense is "serious" enough and the person needs a little extra convincing. Wait for the right time and choose your words wisely. Consider also gestures that will exhibit your sincerity.
You mess with my family, you are persona non grata; I don't care who you are. If you apologize from the heart, and it's obvious that you regret your actions, no worries - we move ahead.
The person actually said this to me in an email afterward:
My intent was to make a sincere apology without anger or attitude.
Here's a clue: if your apology risks delivery with either anger or attitude, then you had no heart for an apology in the first place and nothing is any different than it has been. The rest of the email was just more of the same venemous hubris shown to us in the last year.
Here's a time-wasting Christmas game for you. It's about decorating a tree and sorting out ornaments. I highly recommend it to PR, who was stalwart in getting the fam a new tree this year. This will help you practice.
A little tired, I'm writing a quick Christmas post for the day. I brought my wife home from the hospital today. She had a procedure done. Everything's cool, and so my post tonight centers on one thing:
Christmas is about grabbing those you love and wrapping yourself up in the warmth and joy of them and loving them as much as you can right back.
America is a unique country, with wide open passions and concerns among its electorate. We have everyone from the "corporations are evil and greedy" crowd to the "business creates jobs and prosperity" crowd. We have the "separation of church and state" crowd to the "morals and God/Allah-fearing leader" crowd. We have folks who believe that "government can solve problems" to those who "revile and distrust anything that stems from government." "Consitutionalists" vs. "living document." Guns will protect me and mine vs. guns kill innocents. Tax the rich vs. no taxes. And so on...
Everybody has a pet issue or three.
In the course of it all, it's inconceivable to some that "the other side" can arrive at the conclusions and the decisions that they do.
Ah democracy, this great soup of every pathos known to man. In that soup, there is power in numbers.
Unions kicked that into high gear back in the 19th century. Unions found safety in numbers. Collectively, they made the business owner bow to the will of the workers. Chutzpah!
Today, we have self-aggregating groups: AARP, blacks, Christians, feminists, and so on. Every one has a pet issue or three. People connect with like-minded people and stir up others. Money pours into the cause, marketing springs from it, activity swirls around it. Busy busy busy. The cacophony becomes the white noise of life, and occasionally something catches someone absentmindedly listening and they are found murmuring, "Yeah! Me too!"
The danger in this is that we then look to leaders to guide our actions. To be effective in numbers, we want to be routed in the manner that helps achieve the goal of the group.
Mankind has always looked for safety in numbers. It's not that unions did something new; they just did it to someone who seemed impenetrable: the boss. And they succeeded. Together. Formula!
Seeking out others to help strengthen your voice to create a chorus and volume is not a bad idea. But I think it's human nature to take it further than is responsible to go. We abandon our individual identity in the wash of those with whom we stand. We are then tarnished by the company we keep. We become individually weaker at the expense of becoming collectively stronger.
At the suggestion of Annette, I read Atlas Shrugged a while back. In it, Howard Roark says:
It's so easy to run to others. It's so hard to stand on one's own record. You can fake virtue for an audience. You can't fake it in your own eyes. Your ego is the strictest judge. They run from it. They spend their lives running. It's easier to donate a few thousand to charity and think oneself noble than to base self-respect on personal standards of personal achievement. It's simple to seek substitutes for competence - such easy substitutes: love, charm, kindness, charity. But there is no substitute for competence.
That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers. They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They're concerned only with people. They don't ask: 'Is this true?' They ask: 'Is this what others think is true?' Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull. What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce? Those are the egotists. You don't think through another's brain and you don't work through another's hands. When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness. That's the emptiness I couldn't understand in people. That's what stopped me whenever I faced a committee. They've been taught to seek themselves in others. To seek joy in meeting halls. I think the only cardinal evil on earth is that of placing your prime concern with other men.
Unfortunately, to an increasing number of people, if you care - if you really care - you sacrifice yourself to the cause. Self-sacrifice is lauded and necessary. (Cue applause...)
Howard says further:
Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give what has not been created. Creation comes before distribution - or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement.
Men have been taught that their first concern is to relieve the suffering of others. But suffering is a diease. Should one come upon it, one tries to give relief and assistance. To make that the highest test of virtue is to make suffering the most important part of life. Then man must wish to see others suffer - in order that he may be virtuous. Such is the nature of altruism. The creator is not concerned with disease, but with life. Yet the work of the creator has eliminated one form of disease after another, in man's body and spirit, and brought more relief from suffering than any altruist could ever conceieve.
Men have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others. But the creator is the man who disagrees. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with the current. But the creator who goes against the current. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to stand together. But the creator is the man who stands alone.
Men have been taught the the ego is the synonym of evil, and selflessness the ideal of virtue. But the creator is the egotist in the absolute sense, and the selfless man is the one who does not think, feel, judge, or act. These are functions of the self.
Here the basic reversal is most deadly. The issue has been perverted and man has been left no alternative - and no freedom. As poles of good and evil, he was offered two conceptions: egotism and altruism. Egotism was held to mean the sacrifice of others to self. Altruism - the sacrifice of self to others. This tied men irrevocably to other men and left him nothing but a choice of pain: his own pain borne for the sake of others or pain inflicted upon others for the sake of self. When it was added that one must find joy in self-immolation, the trap was closed. Man was forced to accept masochism as his ideal - under the threat that sadism was his only alternative. This was the greatest fraud ever perpetuated on mankind.
This was the device by which dependence and suffering were perpetuated as fundamentals of life.
The choice is not self-sacrifice or domination. The choice is independence or dependence. This is the basic issue.
You don't hear those words much any more... "independence" or "personal responsibility" or "achievement." And the thing is that those who place a lot of weight in those words won't be looking for a cause to join or a leader to guide them. Personally, they don't need that. The tragedy is that such folks are then seen as greedy and uncaring and selfish. That's so high school - jeering the successful. Ayn Rand calls it the "greatest fraud ever perpetuated on mankind," this knee-jerk desire to hold high the victimized and punish the self-sufficient.
My writing of this comes from listening to campaign ads recently. Hillary wanting give out gifts of government. Edwards lambasting greedy corporations and hailing himself as the would-be hero who was "born to this fight." Huckabee rallying Christians to him by hoisting his evangelical banner high overhead, ready to embrace and baptize the world. Obama holds out "Hope" to the people of America in the form of giveaway after giveaway. All of them pandering to be a leader to save us.
Of course, none of these folks have ever created anything that spawned jobs. Instead, each of them leached off the forced and unforced donations of others. That's their recipe for success: champion the victimized.
We need a party of the Achievers, those who believe that personal responsibility and independence are the highest public virtues. It would be the "Don't Mess with Me" party, which has the simplistic platform: leave me alone in my personal life and don't let other nations mess with our nation.
I have to say, as I watch the campaigns, I shudder big time.
You know, John F. Kennedy had it wrong in his famous quote.
Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.
Better rendered, it is:
Ask not what your country can do for you, or what you can do for your country, but what you can do for yourself.
"Rugged Individualism" doesn't represent our nation so much any more as does "Anticipated Dependentism."
That's crap. I'll quote it again because it's said so well:
Creation comes before distribution - or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement.
That's something that the second-handers - Edwards, Clinton, Obama, and Huckabee and all of their devotees - don't fathom at all.
We need the party of the Achiever. Do you know of one? I don't. Because it's neither Republican or Democrat, and unfortunately those who esteem personal responsibility don't have the numbers. I hear hints of promise in the words from Fred Thompson's campaign. I see Mitt Romney's individual executive successes. Other than that... not a drop.
I recently said that I was looking very strongly at Fred Thompson. There's a lot to like about Fred. His positions are outstanding. But as much as I admire a person's words, it comes down to the ability to execute, and I have to say that Mitt trounces Fred big time in ability to execute. Runs rings around the guy without even breaking a sweat.
So after much consideration, I'm firmly with Mitt. I think regardless of what happens, he'll go the distance and execute well. Now that he has Tancredo's stamp of approval, Mitt has gained more oomph against Huckabee's love of illegal immigrants. I expect Tancredo to campaign hard in support of Romney. Tancredo hates Huckabee's stance on immigration and will fight to make sure he loses.
(By the way, I appreciate Huckabee in the sense that the competition will make Mitt stronger. That said, I also expect that Huckabee believes he has been destinied for the presidency by God, so I expect his deep consideration for a third-party run if he doesn't get the Republican nod. More on that in bit...)
I might be wrong, but here's how my prediction for the Iowa caucus on January 3rd shakes out:
Obama and Romney finish first in very tight races. Clinton and Huckabee finish second. Edwards and Thompson finish third.
I almost put Paul finishing third, but while his support is stratospheric in terms of passion, he just doesn't generate broad appeal. So serve him up as a wildcard for the night, but no higher than third.
In New Hampshire's primaries, I expect Romney to hold the lead and eke out a win. His organization will prove better and churn out the turnout. McCain will finish second. Huckabee will finish third.
Democrats in New Hampshire? It's a toss-up for Clinton and Obama, with John Edwards a distant third.
South Carolina gets interesting, and harder to predict. But if I'm right in these first two early states, I expect a lot of fallout happening for the third tier candidates, and this is where we see Duncan Hunter fall out and support Romney. Giuliani will be rumored to be considering throwing his support to someone, but will say it isn't so quite yet. He'll end up supporting Romney or McCain after not winning one state primary. Huckabee's support will fade a bit, but he'll still win South Carolina. Romney in a strong second. McCain in third. McCain will then fall out and support Romney.
Democrats in South Carolina: Chris Dodd falls out and endorses Clinton. Joe Biden falls out and endorses Clinton. Bill Richardson falls out and endorses Clinton, and Hillary wins South Carolina easily. Obama second. Edwards third. Hillary gets her mantle of "inevitability" back.
Ultimately, it's going to come down to the best organization on the ground. This is where Romney has an edge. If Thompson had the organization, he'd have a chance, but it just isn't there - he never executed to achieve one. McCain doesn't have a strong organization anywhere. Giuliani either...
And while Clinton has an edge here with organization, Obama will give her a run for her money, but lose when it's all said and done.
The Christian Right will court the hell out of Huckabee to run third party because they hate Romney's faith. Here's where we measure Huck's ego. And this is where Huckabee negotiates hard with Romney behind the scenes. I have no idea how that will turn out, but I think at least 50% of the Christian Right vote to follow Huckabee, wherever that leads, be it third party or backing Romney.
I expect Romney to choose Sarah Palin for VP, a very successful evangelical Christian who is also the very conservative governor of Alaska. That will cement his conservative credentials, bring a strong woman to his team, and help heal any rift with evangelical Christians.
And I expect that Bill Clinton will overpower Hillary as he increases his desire to win her the election. He's starting it now. That machismo, on his part, will lose her the election. Doesn't really matter who her VP is. Bill is the co-president and can't help but drive from the back seat of the bus, no matter how far back you put him.
And that will be that. President Romney and Vice-President Palin, our first woman vice-president.
Of course, I could be completely full of it. But this is my last post about politics until the general election starts, so I thought I would put all of my thoughts out there.
Just a note... my web site was scribbled on last night through an exploit in SQL Server, which replaced much of my database content. The backup has been restored, but I lost some recent comments and a few posts. I have some work to do to prevent juveniles from doing that kind of thing in the future, but it's at least repaired for now.
I read that WordPress and other tools have suffered the type of attack that my site suffered yesterday. It's called SQL Injection. Without knowing my username or password, they manipulate my database just through the web address that they type in or by information they type into a form I have here on the site. So I spent a couple of hours tonight addressing any pages that might suffer this vulnerability and things should be secure now.
What pain, though. I lost a lot of great comments from you, and frankly, I miss them.
In the meantime, here's my current progress on a painting for a patron of my art - about halfway done.