Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Obama's remarks on Wright

First, I have to give strong credit to the NY Times. They posted Obama's remarks on Wright in full, without editorial. That's what I like to see. I can read it and make up my own mind. Read the story here.

Next, I have to give credit to Obama (someone give that conservative friend of mine some smelling salts, I think he passed out. The liberal friend can stay passed out. Liberals need the rest). He actually said some good things and I agree with him. I respect his position and hope that, in the same situation, I would do the same.

Several people will complain that Obama should have acted earlier, he stayed in the church for 20 years, etc. etc. I'm not disagreeing with that, but I don't see that as the point. Obama has said what needed to be said. Some may say that it's not genuine, but I have to trust the candidate until I feel that he has lied to me. So far I may not agree with some of his plans, but he hasn't lied to me. That deserves some respect.

Obama has been hammered lately because of Rev. Wright's comments. In the past, the senator supported the pastor even if he disagreed with his words. Today was different. Obama has specifically renounced the pastor. And he did it with a little sadness.

In the past, Obama may have disagreed with Wright, but he still supported the pastor. I respect that. I had a situation several years ago where a pastor was under attack. I never saw any proof of the allegations, so I stood by my pastor. Several good friends left our church and relationships were damaged, just as Obama/Wright's relationship has been damaged.

I believe that Obama is hurt by what he sees as a betrayal. Maybe Wright doesn't see it as a personal attack, but the presidential candidate feels let down. Most importantly, he feels that Wright has spoken loudly about things that he wants to change as president.

Sen. Obama sees Wrights comments as offensive. He rightly stood silent (or near silent) on Monday until he actually saw what Wright said. That gets him another count of respect in my book. For the same reason that I go to the source of the stories, Obama did not criticize (heavily) based on sound bites.

And above all, Obama wants to get back down to business. He sees the continued comments as a distraction from the real issues of this race. "People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children. And that's what we should be talking about."

I may disagree with the Senator on what really are the issues and I may disagree with how to solve those issues, but I agree with his comments today.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Why blog?

A few months ago, my friend Neil posted this question on his blog. I recently posted some comments on a liberal blog and was asked the question, why I would post there, when it was primarily liberals who visited there. The comments were later clarified, I don't mean to imply I was made non-welcome or anything. In fact, I had a nice dialog via email after the initial banter.

But it got me to thinking about Neil's post again. Why do you blog and why do you read blogs? I'm going to list several possible answers and some comments to them. Neil, I apologize for stealing your idea.

1) Some people blog in order to inflame like-minded individuals. This is good. You'll likely attract a lot of people who think the same way. Use words like "stupid" and "narrow-minded" to describe those who disagree with you and you'll likely make a lot of points with those on your side. These blogs seem to mostly be about religion or politics.

2) Some people blog to inflame the opposition. Another good reason. See comments above. You're not likely to make friends, but then you're not likely to see these people in person, so who cares.

3) Some people blog for fun. They really don't care if anyone else reads what they have to say or not. This is good too. I confess, I sometimes fall into this category. I've gotten some good comments back on some of the movies/books I've read and added new material to my list of things to read in the future.

4) Some people blog to inform. This is tough. You need to find something that people care about, then present it in an unbiased, un-flamable matter. If you use words like "stupid" and "narrow-minded", you'll never reach those on the other side. And if you only reach those on your side, have you really informed, or were you just preaching to the choir?

5) Some people think they are journalists. This brings to mind the difference between journalism and editorializing. The former expresses facts, the latter expresses opinion. I know, the line can be blurred easily, with statements like "Randy refused to answer questions about his wife-beating habits" (if you asked those kinds of questions of me, I'd refuse, but that doesn't mean I beat her - I'm much too afraid of her).

I confess, I fall into the journalist/editorial categories sometimes. I actually never consider myself a journalist, I know one and that would be an insult to him. But sometimes I do report my findings in an unbiased manner (recent Obama and McCain post are two cases) and then follow up with editorial comments (Obama1 & Obama2, McCain).

Ok, I've probably inflamed some people with these comments. I will say they are not intended for any of my regular readers or the person with whom I recently exchanged emails. But they do reflect an opinion of what I've seen in blogs and in comments on blogs.

The real question is why do you read and/or write blogs?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

You shall not murder

Last Sunday, our pastor spoke on the sixth commandment. Now most people will think, "well, I haven't murdered anyone lately" and immediately tune out, but he showed how this verse (Exodus 20:13) applies to each of us.

What impressed me the most was the timing. This was right after my friend Neil posted his blog on the subject "Three ways churches get it wrong". I was pretty sure how my church fit into this picture, but not 100%. I think we passed the "Neil test" (thanks Neil!).

I decided that the topic was important, and I decided to post the sermon outline here. This may bore you, but I'd encourage you to read it all. The audio of the sermon isn't up on the web yet, but it should be soon. You can click here for our church website, then click on "Listen to Recent Sermons (this was April 20,2008). It's possible that our pastor said something I didn't approve of, but I can't think what it would be. In general, I approve of everything in the sermon.

The outline of the sermon covered four parts: 1) The big idea, 2) What the commandmend does NOT say, 3) How the commandment applies to families and 4) the bottom line. My outline below is from the outline handed out and my comments during the sermon.

The big idea: The main focus of the sermon is that life and death is up to God. Job 14:5.

What the commandment does NOT say (three points):
1) This does not ban the killing of animals (Genesis 9:3). My pastor (and I) do NOT feel that this justifies Michael Vick. We also feel if you want to be vegetarian, that's fine (you're probably more healthy).

2) It does not ban capital punishment (Leviticus 24:17)

3) It does not ban going to war (Ecclesiastes 3:8)

So what does the commandment say? How does it applies to families (the focus of the current series). There were four points:
1) God stands opposed to suicide. (Job 14:5). Subpoint: suicide is the #1 killer on college campuses and #2 on high school campuses.

2) God stands opposed to euthanasia (Job 12:10)

3) God stands opposed to abortion. (Psalm 139:13-16). On this point, he said he had spoken on abortion recently (I haven't followed up to check, but have no reason to doubt him). He said that 25% of all pregnancies ended in abortion. I doubted this figure, but found this website that backs it up. He also said that 30 million abortions have been performed since it was made legal.

4) God stands opposed to contempt. (Matthew 5:21-22) Jesus made this very personal. He said "anyone who says 'You Fool' will be in danger of the fire of hell".

Ok, so now it's clear what the commandment says and what it doesn't say, what does that mean to you? Here's the bottom line (straight from the notes) God planned you and made you. He wants you to know Him (Jeremiah 24:7).

If God cares this much about you, what will your reaction to him be?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hipaa gone wild

In case you've never heard of it, HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (I won't make nasty comments about who was co-president in 1996). This law helps in a lot of ways, one of them is in the area of privacy about your medical records.

However, many health care providers have trouble understanding this law. For example, if I call to get information on my wife's health care information, they won't give it to me. That's ok, we learned the way to fix that. We have medical directives, we have power of attorney and every time we see a doctor for any reason, we fill out forms to tell the docs they can share our information with our spouse. This way, I can find out anything on her, she can find out on me. Some couples may choose not to do that and I won't argue the reasons here. It's our choice.

So, I get this call from a health provider who won't share anything with me. She says it's her policy. All she will say is that she wants my wife to call her (it's to set up or reschedule an appointment, I know that - I even know the details of the appointment).

Well, in saying she was with a health provider and leaving a message, she has already violated the HIPAA law (if I wasn't authorized). I think this lady needs an education in HIPAA.

A leg up vs. a hand out

I recently read the biography of blogger who is all for government assistance for people who need it. He said "you see, I believe in the power of the Federal Government to help people help themselves – as it helped me." (See his full post here.)

It struck me that this person and I are very similar in a lot of ways. You see, I received federal government assistance when I needed it. The Basic Education Opportunity Grant paid for a lot of my college for three years (my senior year, I made too much in my part time job to qualify). I've also received government help in other ways that I can't detail here.

But even though he and I have some similarities, we're still different in our approach? What then, is the difference?

My first thought is that I am always willing to give someone a leg up, but don't want to give them a hand-out. But then, the question remains, what's the difference between this other blogger and me?

Well, part of it may center on our definitions, but I'm not sure that's all that different either. I think both of us would want to help those who truly need it and I don't think either of us would want to help those who are just to lazy to work.

I guess the net of this post is that we truly aren't that different. We may have differences in the ways we wish to help, or we may have differences in our priorties. No, I'm not losing my conservative bent and no, I'm not rearranging my priorities. But I do believe we have to work together.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I had a bad dream last night and I'm hoping someone can interpret. I was down by a lake (or maybe an inlet of the ocean, there were very minimal waves) with my two younger children and some friend. My children were younger than they are now, maybe 10 years younger. I have no idea where my oldest was, maybe she was back fixing lunch. I also have no idea who the friend was, I'm not even sure I saw him, I just knew he was there.

Anyway, we had decided it was time to go back in (where ever "in" was) and we were packing some things up. My daughter picked up a steak from the marsh using a fork she had in her hand (I've no idea why the steak was there or why she had a fork or why she thought it was important to pick it up - dreams make no sense to me). I was picking up a couple of tool boxes (why would I need a tool box?) when I noticed the crocodile rise out of the marsh.

As I noticed with disgust that the tool boxes had turned over and the tools were somewhat scattered in the marsh, I reached for the only defensive weapon I could find, a long screw driver. I told my daughter to throw the steak to the crocodile, hoping it would slow him down a little and abate his obvious hunger for just a few minutes. It didn't help.

I yelled at the kids to head up to the house and began poking at the croc's mouth with the screw driver. The last thing I recall was telling my friend that he should protect himself and that this didn't look good. I recalled how I had seen videos of crocodiles and how fast they could move and how much they could jump. I felt like I was going to lose an arm at a minimum.

It was then I woke up. 4am and couldn't go back to sleep. Now for some facts: 1) I'm really not sure if it was a croc or an alligator and can't recall enough details to make a difference. Not that it matters, I was going to be it's lunch. 2) I can't recall that I've vacationed on a marsh in a very long time. We did rent a house that backed up to a canal along the beach a couple years ago. But unless you went out on a dock, you couldn't access it. 3) I can't recall ever seeing a crocodile or an alligator except at zoos and such. 4) If you & I are together and I ever do see one, I know how to run. I don't have to outrun the croc, I just have to outrun you.

Any interpretations?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I hate traffic

On Wednesday morning, I flew to DC to work with a customer. Guess who else flew into DC about the same time? I'll give you a hint, he has a special car named for him. He's not married and he just turned 81.

So, when I arrived at about 8:30 (the plane landed early), traffic was a mess. I ended up in the wrong lane and crossed the river into downtown DC. Well, I got to see some of the protestors and other crowds around. Then I got back across the river only to be caught up in beltway traffic.

Things didn't go well Wednesday and I had to work a long day. Evening spent catching up on email and then hit the sack early for some much-needed sleep. Today was better and I even got out early.

But tomorrow morning, I have to go into DC again. Actually Chevy Chase (not the man, the city). I have to be there at 9am and some folks are suggesting I leave at 6am. It's supposed to be a 25 minute drive, how could it take 3 hours?

Oh well, tomorrow night, I'll be back in Greenville, where we thing a 45 minute commute is long. I hate traffic.

(In case you didn't know it, the Pope is in Washington and his birthday was April 16)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cost of unwed parenting and divorce

A new study says that unwed parenting and divorce is costing the US taxpayers $112 billion a year. Say that out loud. $112 BILLION. With a "B".

The study suggests that state and local lawmakers invest more money in programs to help out marriages. Seems like a good idea to me...

Read the full article here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

the five people you meet in heaven - book report

Ok, just for the record, the book is fiction and probably not scripturally accurate. But it's a good book.

So what happens when you die? Does your entire life pass in front of your eyes? Do you see your family? Do you come back as some other being? Is heaven the Garden of Eden? Well, Mitch
Albom says you meet five people. These are people who have had some impact on your life and have passed on before you. In some way, they changed your life forever. Their purpose is to tell you one thing about your life. To answer one question.

Mitch tells a story about Eddie, the maintenance man at the amusement park down by the pier. Eddie was a veteran who felt like his life never quite amounted to much. Then on his 83rd birthday, he dies in an accident at the park, trying to save a young girls life. He feels two small hands in his hands, then nothing.

Eddie meets his five people and they explain details about his life that he never understood. Why did he get shot in the war? Why do some people live and others die?

I really enjoyed reading this and went through it in short time. I kept wondering, who would my five people be? Which people in my life had the most impact? Mr Gaines, my high school history teacher? Mrs. Jones the math teacher? How about Dennis from my first real job?

Who would be the five people you meet?


Can you stand another post about my short-term bachelor-hood? It really shouldn't be that big of a deal, I do a fair amount of cooking and cleaning around the house on a regular basis. Probably not 50%. But it's not unusual for my wife to come home and find that I've cooked dinner.

So last night we ate the Chicken Creation from the CrockPod (CCCP - no wait, that's something else). I started it on Saturday, then finished it last night. I think stitting in the fridge overnight actually helped it.

As I go through the recipe, I'll tell you any changes I might make.

I began with 3 boneless chicken breasts. I put them in the crockpot and turned it on high. I then added a can of cream of chicken soup, filled the can with water and got the parts that stuck to the can. Salt & pepper. Then I found some celery in the fridge and added that. I wished I had some chopped mushrooms, but I didn't. I could have used mushroom soup, but that wasn't available. I thought about adding a chicken bullion cube, but hey, I already had two things with chicken flavoring.

I cooked it on high for about 5 hours. At that point, it cut very easily and looked cooked throughout. I let it cool for a while, then placed it in the fridge overnight (our crock pot is 2 parts, the heater part and a ceramic pot). Yesterday, I took it out and and put it back on the base.

After it heated up good, I added some milk and flour to add gravy. I realized, that I should have taken the chicken out, so better late than never, I put it on a plate and wisked the gravy to mix the flour thoroughly. I didn't measure either, it was probably about 1/2 cup milk and about 6 tablespoons flour.

I wish I had used less flour. The gravy came out too thick. Also, there's a kind of flour you can get in a round box that is realy well sifted. I think it's called Baker's Choice or something like that. Instead I used flour out of a bag and it just doesn't mix as well.

Anyway, I put the lid back on the crock pot to let it heat back up. (That's when the gravy thickened a little too much). While that was heating, I made Minute Rice (it lies, it takes 5 minutes). I follow the directions on the box, just added some butter (about 1/2 stick for 4 servings). I was going to make potatoes, but my wife doesn't like rice, so it was a good chance for me to enjoy it. I also made some mixed vegetables.

An excellent dinner and easy to make.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bachelor for a few days

My wife is out of town for a few days, so it's just my son & I here. I make a terribly boring bachelor. Last night was Saturday night, and what do I do?

Well, first I made an early dinner. Incrediby Easy Cheeseburger Pie (recipe is on the box of Bisquick). Then I started making something else for today or tomorrow. It's chicken in the crock-pot. I'll serve it with mashed potatoes or something.

Then I went to the grocery store. Something told me I needed to go. Most important item to get: syrup for my son's pancakes. Then I walked down the aisle with peanuts. I really shouldn't have, but I picked some up. One of those party-size plastic cannisters.

No, I didn't eat all of them last night, but I made a dent in them. I love peanuts. But then I just sit here in my easy chair and veg out in front of Law & Order in 3 flavors and munch on nuts.

Anyway, it's only a couple days. Today is church, then probably eat our afterwards. Tomorrow I'm going to visit a friend whose daughter is having minor surgery. Then Tuesday, my daughter is taking me out to dinner. Then I go out of town the day my wife gets back and my bachelor-hood is traded in for out-of-town-hood.

So it's really a short (but boring) bachelor time.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

On Location With an 'Obama in 30 Seconds' Crew

I confess, I'm no fan of the Senator from Illinois. And Moveon.org is not high on my list either. They have sponsored a contest for a group of amateur film-makers to create their own commercial. The best commercial will air on TV in Pennsylvania and the winning team will get $20,000 in equipment.

In spite of this being about Obama and sponsored by moveon.org, I am a commercial junky. I really like watching commercials and some of them are very good. Reagan's "Morning in America" commercials and Clinton's "3am Phone Call" are good examples. They make you think. Regardless what you think about the candidate, those commercials are good. And I haven't seen a lot of good ones lately.

But the one commercial shown in this wired article, really wasn't up to par. You can click on the link provided and read the story, then click "next image" to see the still shots around the commercial. When you get to the last shot, you can view the commercial itself.

Somehow, I felt like something was missing. The script was missing a lot. If I hadn't read the article, I wouldn't have gotten the point at all. Even with reading the article, it still seemed pretty dry. Maybe they will add more to the ending or something. Maybe this one won't win. But it just doesn't cut it for me.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

John McCain's foreign policy speech - Commentary

Ok, I'm finally to a point where I'm ready to comment on John McCain's foreign policy speech. If you haven't read it, please go here to see the whole speech or here to read my summary. I probably didn't do it justice, but I tried.

First let me say that I am flattered with the way Sen. McCain read by blog a few months ago about foreign policy. Back on January 18, I outlined what I felt about foreign policy and McCain's speech lined up pretty closely with mine (see my post here). McCain indentifed "dangers posed by a revnachist Russia" as one of the challenges that NATO faces. He must have also read my post titled "Russia is still our long term greatest enemy" (see here).

While I don't actually think he reads my blog, I am impressed with his approach. He voices a quote by Harry Truman that basically says that God has put us here "for such a time as this" (to borrow from a sing. It's clear that he's a man of history and a man of faith. He's also a man that reckognizes that we face "new opportunities, and also new dangers."

McCain realizes the requirement that we must lead, but that we must also work with "the collective voice of the Eurpopean Union" and others. Some of my conservative counterparts see this as a problem, but I do not. Gone is the day when we can afford to act unilaterally and while I believe we did NOT do that in the recent engagement in Iraq, that is best left for another topic. For now, I think it's critical that we work with the EU and other nations.

As a part of being a model citizen, McCain believes we should close Guantanamo and work with other nations to decide how to handle "dangerous detainees under our control". He also says we need a "successor to the Kyoto treaty." I put these two together because I believe they both are examples of McCain bowing to pressure. While these are good ideas, they don't rise to the same level as the rest of his speech.

McCain stresses the need for working with our Latin American neighbors and quotes JFK. He talks about the Asia-Pacific area and mentions that more people live under democratic rule in Asia than anywhere else in the world. That's amazing. I have to assume it's true, the news media hasn't pounced on him. But he doesn't stop there, he address the need to deal with a rising China. "but until China moves toward political liberalization, our relationship will be bassed on periodically shared interests rather than the bedrock of shared values." Simply put, a real relationship can only be realized by changes in China.

McCain also addressed Africa and the problems unproportionally attacking that continent: HIV/AIDS, poverty and malaria. He addressed North Korea and Iran and the fact that the "international community must work together (to)... contain and reverse" their nuclear capabilities.

Most importantly, McCain realizes that "passive defense alone cannot protect us... we must also have an aggressive strategy of confronting and rooting out the terrorists wherever they seek to operate." Not only does he favor a strong military, he also says that we must "win the 'hearts and minds' of the vast majority of moderate Muslims". What a change. Yes, we need to work on hearts and minds, and yes we need a strong military. Seems like for as long as I can remember (through both parties in the White House) we've had one or the other, but not both.

But McCain didn't shy away from Iraq and Afghanistan. First McCain acknowledges that post policies that relied on folks like the Shah of Iran and even Saddam Hussein have caused the problems we face today. He identifies that "we can no longer delude ourselves" that this is the easy way out. Instead, we have to "expand the power and reach of freedom" to these areas. Democracy is the key.

And McCain shows some impressive statistics on Iraq. Statistics that show that things are improving, even if the political progress isn't as good as we had hoped. He then says that we have a "moral responsibility" in Iraq. "If we were to walk away (we would) consign them to the horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing, and possibly genocide that would follow."

Regardless why you think we went to war, or if you think it was right or wrong, this fact should remain clear. If we leave now, we condemn many of those people to death. We must not do that. If you think we should leave, have to wonder if you WANT this war to be a failure.

While I may disagree with parts of his speech (he leaned to heavily on international cooperation, included words on Global warming and Kyoto that shouldn't be a part of it), I have to say I agreed with a large part of the speech. Most importantly, McCain and I agree on the issues that matter most, defense, Iraq, Afghanistan and the War on Terror.

Unlike many others who want to abandon these countries,

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

State of Fear - Book Review

I just finished this book by Michael Crichton. If the name doesn't ring a bell, he wrote The Terminal Man (1972) about a computer "troubleshooter" who was afraid of machines - they implanted one in his body to control epilepsy (my alltime favorite book). He also wrote the Andromeda Strain which was made into a great Sci-Fi movie. Most people will know one of his other works, Jurassic Park (not my favorite). Congo was also one of his good books. Sphere was one of his works, but to be honest if left me confused.

This book promised to be good and I was VERY impressed. The characters are all involved with the Global Warming movement. I don't want to give the plot line away, but I will say that it is intense. The action keeps you turning page after page. There's even a lecture about the banning of DDT, a recent topic of one of my blog-friends (see "Dangerous environmentalism" on Neil's blog here.)

The chapters in the book are short, some as short as two pages. That helps those like me who have inherited ADD from their kids. It allows you to put the book down and breathe a little. Even with those breaks, I finished the 600+ page book in record time (for me). It's an excellent book.

While the book is fiction, Crichton uses references to real material that he says are factual (I don't doubt it, but haven't checked it). He finishes the plot line, then adds an Author's Message to give you insight into how he really feels. If he hasn't made you mad with the plot-line, you'll find his message enlightening. He ends the message with two simple sentences: "Everybody has an agenda. Except me."

He also includes an appendix explaining why he thinks politicizing of science is a bad idea. He shows a scientific idea that warned of an impending crisis supported by leading scientists, politicians and celebrities, supported by distinguised philanthropists and researched by leading universities. Supporters included T. Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Churchill, supreme court justices, inventors, novelists and playrights. I won't tell you the "scientific" idea, but will tell you it was discredited in the 1940's and isn't even discussed in proper circles today (If you really want a spoiler, email me and I'll tell you).

To says this is a must-read book uses an overused and abused term, but I'm not sure what else to say. Other than I enjoyed it and it's probably the best $8 (paperback) spent in recent times.

* Corrected typo. I really should proofread *

Monday, April 07, 2008

Boycott the Olympics

I have to confess, I haven't had a lot of time to think this through all the way. I may decide to change my mind later. But the fact that Sen. Clinton is suggesting that Bush boycott the Olympics (see story here), seems like a bad idea.

Didn't we do this once before? Maybe in Summer 1980? President Carter decided to boycott the Olympics (USSR was the bad guy back then). As I recall, the ones that suffered the most were the athletes. And the farmers too. Carter announced a grain embargo on the USSR, and the price of grain bottomed out as there was more grain than could be sold.

What did we gain out of the Olympic boycott of 1980? Nothing. Embarrassment. And a lot of athletes who had worked for years only to have the gold snatched from their hands.

*Updated spelling as per offline comment*

Sunday, April 06, 2008

John McCain's Foreign Policy Speech

I love this part of the elections process. Politicians actually give speeches that mean things. With the internet, you can find their speeches and analyze the words they use. I actually believe that the words mean things and I credit the politician themself for the ideas. Of course, they all use speech writers, but it gives a real glimpse of the candidate.

A little over a week ago, John McCain gave a speech on Foreign Policy (read the full speech here). The speech was fairly long, about 3850 words and he stayed on topic throughout. McCain started out with some background on his family that explained why he says "I detest war". McCain says that "when nations seek to resolve their differences by force of arms, a million tragedies ensue." This is an attempt to summarize his statements. I'll post my opinion of them in the coming week. I encourage you to read this summary and read his entire speech. If I missed something you think is critical, point it out.

McCain further sets the stage by saying that he is "an idealist, and (he) believe(s) it is possible in our time to make the world we live in another, better, more peaceful place, where our interests and those of our allies are more secure."

McCain quotes President Harry Truman: "God has created us and brought us to our present position of power and strength for some great purpose." McCain believes this is as true today as it was then.

"The United States must lead in the 21st century, just as in Truman's day. But leadership today means something different ... Today we are not alone. " McCain envisions a "a new global compact -- a League of Democracies"

McCain believes we should close Guantanamo, the place where we keep prisoners from the war on terror. McCain is focusing on building reputation with other countries. And he wants to acknowledge global warming and move beyond the Kyoto Treaty (which was never ratified).

McCain also makes a point out of saying that "more people live under democratic rule in Asia than in any other region of the world. " That's something that I didn't know. He wants to work with NATO to address "the dangers posed by a revanchist Russia" (I looked up the word - it means revengeful). He wants to expand the G-8 to include Brazil and India and doesn't want to "tolerate Russia's nuclear blackmail or cyber attacks" and to expand aid to Africa and to fight malaria, "the number one killer of African children under the age of five."

"If we are successful in pulling together a global coalition for peace and freedom ...It will strengthen us to confront the transcendent challenge of our time: the threat of radical Islamic terrorism"

"We learned through the tragic experience of September 11 that passive defense alone cannot protect us... we must also have an aggressive strategy of confronting and rooting out the terrorists wherever they seek to operate, and deny them bases in failed or failing states. "

But he doesn't focus only on the military aspects, "Our goal must be to win the 'hearts and minds' of the vast majority of moderate Muslims who do not want their future controlled by a minority of violent extremists. In this struggle, scholarships will be far more important than smart bombs." (That was a sound bite that no one picked up).

McCain addressed the current war on terror by saying "Our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are critical in this respect and cannot be viewed in isolation from our broader strategy." As a student of history, McCain realizes that "We can no longer delude ourselves that relying on these out-dated autocracies is the safest bet." This policy has been in effect for decades, but it has led us to the failures we have today.

McCain's speech finished by explaining why he's running for president, he wants to "keep the country I love and have served all my life safe." It's clear that he thinks his direction in foreign policy is crucial for the safety of America.

Comments on this speech will come later this week.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Unfair advertising

A local car dealer had some ads on TV, saying you could by a car for $44 per month or even (most recently) no car payments for two years. The ads featured a lot of yelling, and even more fine print. I used my DVR to slow things down and read the fine print. Seems that after 3 months, the $44 per month went up and the two years with never a car payment wasn't really available. To me, the ads were confusing at best, deceptive at worst.

Now, at least 50 people have agreed with me. Unfortunately, they found out the hard way. They bought cars and then saw the car payment balloon from $44 to $478. When they tried to turn the car in (as promised by the loud spokesperson), the dealer suggested they refinance - no bank will refinance when you owe more than the car is worth.

So now, the SC Dept of Consumer Affairs is in the game, writing an official letter to the car dealer and giving them 10 days to resolve the problems. The car dealer says the problem is with the disclosures and that both he and his ad agency believe the ads and disclosures are proper. I don't think he's trying to spread the blame to his ad agency yet, but time will tell.

To me, there are several things wrong here. First, any consumer who believes you can buy a car for $44 or no payment, should not be allowed to buy a car. Probably not allowed to even drive. It's just not safe having an idiot like that on the roads.

This doesn't excuse the dealer. I could probably sue them because I had to watch those loud, obnoxius ads. My blood pressure went up each time they aired and I'm sure it shortened my life expectancy. The ads were misleading and the dealer should have to buy back each car that was sold in the last year. The purchase price should be every dime the consumer paid (including interest).

However, the buck shouldn't stop there. The ad agency that created these ads is also guilty. As a professional group, they should understand and avoid deception. (This doesn't remove guilt from the agency). I'd like to see a list of other companies for whom they developed ads and I'll avoid those companies too. If you're choosing an ad agency, you should choose a reputable one. Their penalty should be equal to whatever they were paid for these car dealer ads.

And finally, the TV stations that showed the ads should share in the blame. They should have known that these ads were just flat wrong and should never have aired them. They should give up the revenue they earned for the ads and be forced to run apologies. Maybe they should even be forced to run shows with no ads (Star Trek or Andy Griffith would be a good idea)

See the story here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I look to the mountains...

Yesterday morning, I drove to Wilkesboro, NC to see a customer. If you don't know where that is, it's close to Boone, NC. If that still means nothing to you, think of Appalachian State University. If that still means nothing to you, look at a map, go about 50 miles north of Charlotte and then west (left) about 30 miles.

Wilkesboro is at the foothills of the mountains. You go over one small mountain to get here. It may cause your ears to pop, but nothing major. As a city, it's not that great. But the country around it and the ride up is beautiful. A couple years ago, I stopped and took a couple of pictures of an old school on the way down. For some reason, the school just caught my eye.

The school is Wittenburg Elementary, the area (not really a town) is Wittenburg. The building was constructed in 1932 with additions in 1951 and 1980.The cafeteria was added in 1957 and the gym in 1967. The school housed K-8 students for a long period of time and then was a K-6 school until 1999 when a new school was built at another location. The building was vacant for two years and since 2001 it houses offices the county government and is used in the afternoon the our Alternative Program.

I emailed the head of the school district to get this information. They were a little uncomfortable with me taking pictures, apparently there had been some problems and they thought I was with the press.

This is my first attempt at adding a picture, I've been shamed into it by my kids.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I Walked the Line - My Life with Johnny

I recently finished reading this book. Not to be confused with the movie or song "I Walk the Line" which I commented on back in November, this is the story of Johnny Cash's first wife, Vivian.

My main comment from the movie was "it turns out that the man who wrote the song 'I Walk the Line' simply didn't." (Read the full post here)

But this story is different. Vivian Cash did walk the line. While her husband was off on tour, she was busy at home raising four daughters. She kept her faith in God (mentioned several times in the book) and tried to straighten out her husband. Even when she realized he was cheating, she tried to make things work.

The first Mrs. Cash expressed some of her doubts, some of her regrets, but it's clear she holds her head high. It's also clear that her love for Johnny never died.

A large part of the book (over 1/2) is basically a reprint of love letters Johnny sent to her while he was stationed in Germany. While it gets rather soupy, it establishes the way that he felt. You can also see (if you look) the early stages of the abuse he later sent her way.

What was most interesting to me about the love letters was that you could see Johnny's love for Vivian growing during the time he was away. Writing an average of one letter a day, the bond between them grew. I wonder how many people would write that many letters today?

This book is a good read. I had to wade through the soupy love letters, they will be interesting to others. I would encourage anyone to read this book.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Mid-Life crisis

I've long said that I was cheated out of my mid-life crisis. When I turned 40, personal events in my life dictated that I remain focused. I was a new single dad, raising three kids 15 and under, I didn't have time for a mid-life crisis. As much as I wanted a Mazda Miata (I figured I could park it in the back of my pick-up), I settled for a mini-van as my second vehicle.

But now I'm thinking maybe I could have a post-mid-life crisis. I have a little over a year left before I hit the next big birthday (I will be out of town that year so no surprise parties allowed). Maybe I could squeeze it into the next year. I've made it known for a couple of years that I'm not satisified with my job. I'm very good at it, but I'm at the peak of my position. There's no "upward mobility" left and it's just getting boring. I have no interest in management, I've seen too closely what they do.

I've blogged several times about becoming a hermit or getting "lost" in such a way that no one can find me. But when it comes down to it, I enjoy my family and friends way too much. So maybe I could just quit my job, and start something new. Kinda risky, especially for a man who doesn't like risk. But who knows? I'm open to suggestions.

P.S. If I do have a post-mid-life crisis, I may get that Miata and change jobs, but there's little else resembling a mid-life crisis in the works. I have a wonderful wife now and as we approach our 7th anniversary, there will be no 7th inning stretch.