Sunday, August 29, 2010

I was broke, now I'm not

Well, I haven't actually been broke in a long time. But that's the name of a book and study series that has been occupying my time lately.

Joe Sangl wrote the book. He has a blog and he's focused on helping people who are like he was (broke) and want to be like he is (not broke). Joe is crazy. He remembers when he had $1.43 in his checking account and was glad it was a POSITIVE number. He also realized that he was stupid for living that way. I mean, he was an engineer, on the fast track to make the C-suite of a major company, making good money. How could he be broke? Simple, by spending more than he made.

Only our federal government can keep spending more than they make (and I wonder about them sometimes). Each of us has to come to what Joe calls an "I Have Had Enough" moment, a moment where we decide we won't take it anymore.

The book and workbook series is going well. I'm co-leading a group of about 20 adults. We watch a video and then discuss what we read and saw and how we will react. The workbook guides you through Sangl's process.

More exciting is the Financial Counseling Coaching that we're doing. We meet one-on-one with an individual or couple (actually two-on-one as we've been doing it as a team for now) and help them with their specific needs. We help them setup a budget and identify problems. Hopefully, in the future, we'll be able to follow-up on the budget (we've only been doing it about 4 weeks).

I'm excited about the idea of helping people with their finances. I'm looking forward to someone telling me "I was broke, now I'm not."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

End of the Iraq war

You've probably heard, the last combat troops are officially leaving Iraq. There will still be troops there in an advisory role (read that - dangerous position), and the combat troops will be close - just in case - but the war is officially over.

I thought about this last night and then was reminded when I saw a post on another blog. We owe the people that have served there a debt of gratitude. In a time when the nation was more divided than ever, they served without question. The ones that I have spoken to never asked if we should be there, or why we were there, they just served.

A special thank you to Adam who was there for 8 months, to David - who sat out this war - but was there for the first Iraqi war, to his son David - who is on a ship somewhere in the ocean, to Jim who served as an aide to an Iraqi general, to the teacher's husband, who was an engineer who took time from his life here to go, and to Jimmy, a marine who helped clean up IEDs.

Next week, I will fly to Dallas for a conference. I plan to personally approach anyone in uniform and thank them for there service. It's the least I can do. If you know someone that has served, please thank them. You're welcome to comment and add their name here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Game Change - Overview

Ok, I've shared my notes from the book, it's time to wrap it all up. First, thanks to all of those who stuck it through. I've shared emails with a few people about the book and have been promised a deep discussion with the person who loaned me the book. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm not sure the book changed my mind on anything. I think it clarified a lot of things and has influenced my thinking a great deal. But no major changes. I'll also have to say that the book wasn't a great work of art. It was informational and interesting, but I had to slug my way through it. I will say, it was worth it.

About the candidates - McCain really seemed like his heart wasn't in it. He would have accepted if someone appointed him president, and he would have made a good commander-in-chief. But he bent with the wind too much on other subjects. Without the right people around him, he wouldn't have helped us through the financial crisis. And I'm not sure he knew who the right people were.

Palin has always impressed me as a bright lady, who wasn't ready for the job of VP. But then I'm not sure any person is ready for that job (or the job of president). Her selection seemed so haphazard that she never had time to prepare. Like a student cramming for an exam, she failed to grasp everything. It wasn't her fault, but she certainly could have said no. Everyone is pushing her to 2012 and she'll certainly be more ready. I have serious concerns however, about her lack of persistence with her job as governor. To me, it seems she left that job to make money. That's ok, but it has consequences.

Edwards - I can't see how anyone can trust him. He repeatedly lied and his main goal was to get into the White House (as President or VP). He could care less how he did it. I will restate something I've said many times, anyone who donated money to his campaign should ask for a refund (Warren Buffett said it first).

H. Clinton - she really seemed like she thought deserved the nomination. However, once the decision was made, she tucked it in and worked for her party. I have respect for her attitude and her methods.

B. Clinton - the book did nothing to make me trust him anymore. I've always felt he would lie, cheat and steal at any chance. In fairness, the book didn't make me trust him any less.

M. Obama - The book didn't say a lot about her. She seems a stand-up-for-your-man kind of lady. The only thing I think I learned about her was that she still doesn't see how her "proud of my country" comment hurt a lot of people.

B. Obama - Overall, my opinion didn't change much. There were a couple of mentions of him playing the race card and I've always felt he was beyond that - that he wants to move beyond the distractions. I'll tuck away this new information and use it in my future thoughts about him.

I've always felt that President Obama was a very bright man, who found some strong people to put in place around him. He's a fast learner and knows where he wants to go. He either knows, or finds out how to get there.

The election in general. I'm more convinced that no Republican could have won the race and that no Democrat could have lost. It seemed like the perfect storm. First, McCain was the strongest Rep and he was very weak. Second, Obama was very strong and the country was ready for change. Change away from Bush. It seemed like he had been in office for 20 years, with a short recess for Clinton. Call it malaise, call it anything you like, the country was ready for something different, anything. His primary battle with Clinton seemed to bolster his style, and his chances.

More than that, I'll go to a Hillary Clinton quote - "God wants him to win." Many on both sides will have problems with that statement, but I'll stand by it. The question is, why did He want it? Sometimes, God gives us what we need, sometimes gives us what we want in order to show us what we really need. I'm firmly convinced that President Clinton was put in office to give Americans an idea what would happen when we traded our morals for good economic times. I'm convinced that Bush was put into office to have a strong person there for 9/11. Why is Obama in office? Only time will tell.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

President Obama's views on the 9/11 mosque * Updated *

It seems President Obama has finally come out with his views on the mosque that is being built at the center of the 9/11 attacks. According to this article, the president said "Muslims have the right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country." I would certainly agree with this comment.

* Update * The President has "clarified" his statements and says he won't comment on the wisdom of building the mosque. He was only commenting on religious rights. However, the President has a habit of escalating matters such as this to the national level, when they should never be addressed to begin with. Since he's raised the issue, he should either back off his comments completely or comment on the wisdom of the decision. He's done so in the past and I suspect he will in the future. My personal comments to the President remain the same. * Update *

However, I would also say that just because someone has the right to do something, that doesn't make it right to do it. I think building the mosque at the base of what had been the twin towers is a slap in the face to everyone who lost a family member there, and to many of us who watched those towers fall. As an American, I have the right to feel that way. I also have the right to go to New York and picket the place (if it is ever built) and the right to tell others my opinion here on my blog.

But I am more concerned about a shift I see in our president. During the election, there was a lot of discussion about his faith. I covered it several times in my blog, most notably here, here and here. Candidate-Obama declared his faith in Christ and I supported that declaration. However, he has recently admitted he doesn't go to church and he is continuously making gestures to Muslim leaders. I can't recall the details, but I know he also recently skipped the traditional prayer breakfast.

Mr. President, I doubt seriously you read my blog, but I need to say this anyway, remember that God tells us to "not (forsake) the assembling of ourselves together." (Hebrews 10:25) In other words, go to church. Not a Muslim church, a Christian church. One that preaches the word of God. "Hold fast the profession of (y)our faith without wavering." (Hebrews 10:23).

Mr. President, I am concerned about your faith. I mentioned many of those concerns in the previous blog posts. I've seen no change. Like many other Americans, I'm concerned about this country. But I'm also concerned for you. Use this opportunity to renew your faith. Speak to the Muslim community, but don't ignore your own.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Game Change - Chapters 21-Epilogue

FINAL set of my notes from the book "Game Change." It's the story of the 2008 election, this post covers the last part of the book - after the primaries. After this post, I will make one or two final posts to wrap up my ideas

As mentioned before, I'll publish some of my notes and comments. Some may not be in full sentence/paragraph form. Where appropriate, I'll put quotes from the book. I would really appreciate your comments as I'm still trying to make up my mind if I like the book.

Chapter 21 - Obama's reaction to the September financial meltdown. He was calling the Fed Chief and Treasury Secretary. McCain's reaction changed with the wind. It appears to me that Obama was already in transition.

A view of TARP pages 381 & 382 - very necessary. How much TARP was needed - not clear.

Pg 385. McCain cancels Letterman. It was Letterman's reaction and the actions of some of his guests that has convinced me that Letterman is not an entertainer, he's a politician. As such, I'll watch him when I agree with him, turn him off when I don't.

Obama's "above my paygrade" comment about a fetus' human rights was ridiculed (p390) This is the one time (well not the only time) I agreed with him. However, he received a pay increase a few months later and changed his tune (or never meant it in the first place).

Hillary's comment (pg 393) "God wants (Obama) to win." - A very telling point.

Chapter 22 - Pg 396 Palin was concerned about her image in Alaska., even though it was solidly Republican.

Katie Couric interview with Palin - she didn't see it to go that badly, but when it came out she blamed oters, said she shouldn't have done the interview. Palin said "if I'd known everything I know now, I would not have done this." (pg 401)

Lieberman (Jewish) prays with Palin (Christian) "providing (her) with Talmudic wisdom" (pg 403) Interesting combination.

Debate prep and the election campaign was hard n Palin. She was away from her family. All this impacted her. When her campaign staff focused on what she did well, she excelled. When they took her down the usual campaign roads, she did miserably.

Palin goes on attack (pg 408). "She was emerging as a big-time control freak." (Pg 409).

Page 413 - Biden said "mark my words, it will be not six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy." I was always amazed that this fot flack from the left and the right.The book implies that it hurt Obama because it reminded people of his inexperience. I thought it showed Biden's confidence.

Pg 415 - "The truth is, the McCain people did fail Palin."

Chapter 23 - (Page 421) The McCain battler gets ugly. Very ugly. McCain tried to rein it in.

Colin Powell saw "McCain's selection of Palin... as polarizing." How? If she was as ineffective as the book says, how could she be effective at polarizing?

"How fully Obama understood the alchemy or tides of history, the tides of history, the collision of man and moment.. was impossible to know." (Pg 426 - IMPORTANT POINT!)

Epilogue - Hillary as Secretary of State. "Hillary felt the pull of patriotism and the call of duty. She believed that when the president asked a person to serve, there was an imperative to say yes." The first time I encountered this feeling was in the documentary "Fog of War" - a story about Robert McNamara (see here for my post on that story).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Game Change - Chapters 18-20

More of my notes from the book "Game Change." It's the story of the 2008 election, this post covers part of part 3 of the book - after the primaries.

As mentioned before, I'll publish some of my notes and comments. Some may not be in full sentence/paragraph form. Where appropriate, I'll put quotes from the book. I would really appreciate your comments as I'm still trying to make up my mind if I like the book.

Chapter 18 - "McCain and Obama had much in common. Both ... argued that Washington was broken... and ascribed its (problems) to hyperpartisanship..." (pg 323 - seems even more broken and more partisanship now than it did in 2008)

"There was one minor hitch... McCain and Obama didn't like each other." I would go further and state that they don't understand each other Michele's "proud of my country" comment was a slap in the face of many veterans and patriots. But she never understood (and still doesn't understand) why.

Obama u-turns on campaign finance. No one should be surprised. He said "you can always change your mind" (see chapter 2 comments).

"The lengthy Democratic nomination fight meant that the Obama forces had operations in nearly every state." In contrast "in mid-June (McCain's campaign) was still a mess." (Pg 328 - a big bonus for Candidate Obama. Their response to the situation - McCain built a wall between him and the press, Obama tore down the wall. As a result, the press saw them differently).

Did Obama play the race card? Pg 332 says he did. Did McCain? pg 331 says he "warned his team to steer clear of anything that might open him up to that charge." Pg. 333 Obama sees McCain as playing the race card. Can black & white compete without one thinking the other has brought race into the challenge? This chapter is almost convincing me that Obama is not past the racial issues.

Chapter 19 " Process mattered to Obama." (Pg 338 - How did this play in his decision to go for the surge in Afghanistan? How about his handling of the Shirley Sherrod issue?)

Pg 339 Michelle Obama remembers Hillary's comments about RFK. To me, she seems very sensitive.

More of Edwards' lies. To his wife and to everyone. I agree with Warren Buffett. People who contributed to his campaign should ask for a refund.

The DNC - everything fell into place. H. Clinton, B. Clinton, the delegates. Then Obama delivered the speech he need to deliver. Nothing could go wrong.

Chater 20 - McCain, Lieberman and Graham "the trio was dubbed the Three Amigos." (pg354 - sounds more like old college buddies, always looking back and what used to be.)

"McCain's VP selection - pro-choice pick would cost him votes among Republicans and gain him few, if any independents." (pg 358)

I get  general feeling of rushto vet Palin (pg 360) "They weren't searching for problems, they were looking for a last second solution." (pg 362) McCain's attitude? "High risk, high reward." (pg 363)

"The attacks on Palin were as frantic as the vetting process." (pg 367)
The clothes (pg 369)
Her tutoring process (pg 370). She seems a fast learner, with a lot to learn. Will we see more of her on 2012?

Pg 373 McCain picked up a lot of white female vote with Palin. Bill Clinton said "Good old boys, they can relate to her."

Friday, August 06, 2010

Game Change - Chapters 15-17

More of my notes from the book "Game Change." It's the story of the 2008 election, this post covers part 2 of the book - the Republican frontrunners. See previous posts for the Democratic story

As mentioned before, I'll publish some of my notes and comments. Some may not be in full sentence/paragraph form. Where appropriate, I'll put quotes from the book. I would really appreciate your comments as I'm still trying to make up my mind if I like the book.

I thought it was interesting that the authors took 14 chapters to discuss the Democratic primaries and only 3 to discuss the Republican primaries. Could it be bias on the authors' part? Or just that the Democratic primary was more interesting? In this case, I think it's the latter.

Chapter 15 - McCain "really just didn't give a ####. The details made his head hurt." (pg 274) "The McCain's were a military family and if John wanted to serve, Cindy wasn't going to stand in his way. Four uses defined her ethic: 'I support my husband.'" (pg 276)

John's relationship with his wife surprised, sometimes it was very bad: "McCain let out the stream of sharp epithets, both middle fingers raised and extended, barking in his wife's face." Why all the profanity? I noted this before (see here) with the Democrats. I know if I spoke to my wife the way McCain did, she would NOT appreciate it. Sometimes, he was very protective and loving with his wife.

Rumors of Cindy's McCain's affair. Sh denied it and no proof was offered. Rumors of an illegitimate child that McCain later adopted. Is this what we subject our politicians to? Unfounded rumors?

McCain was for the Iraq surge in 2006, when the surge wasn't cool. I guess I forgot how big a part the Iraq war played in the election. Also, there was a lot of discussion of McCain's war hero status. Did it really carry that much weight? The authors thought so and at least one liberal blogger I follow agreed.

McCain's speeches were frequently disjointed due to last minute changes and they were poorly attended (during primaries). Not only was McCain not excited, the crowds and his campaign workers weren't either.

The authors mentioned the Immigration Bill of 2007. With this subject being hot (again or still?) I should do some research on it.

Chapter 16 - Rudy Giuliani was pro-choice, pro-gay rights, 3x married, had a public affair with wife#3 while still married to wife#2 (see here for my comments on that subject). He was about as liberal as he could be. Why was he running as a Republican?

Charlie Crist (Florida) was view as being in Rudy's pocket and John's pocket depending on the day of the week. Mitt Romney flip-flopped on abortion, gun control and gays.

"That two candidates as flawed as Giuliani and Romney were the best poised to step in and capitalize on McCain's implosion was start testament to the weakness of the rest of the Republican field" (pg 295) - Could any Republican win? Could any Democrat lose?

"McCain would listen to everyone, take their advice, then bounce that advice off the next person in the loop." (Pg 296) My recollection was that happened once during the debates on taxes. His lack of devotion to any cause cost him a lot of support. Iraq may have been the sole exception - he was devoted to winning in Iraq.

Chapter 17 - Vicki Iseman affair alleged with McCain. See earlier comments about unfounded allegations against politicians.

Even after winning the nomination, crowds were weak at McCain events.

"McCain had failed to drive a message." (pg 318) - This sentence speaks a lot.