John McCain: Honor and the Presidency

Time did an article back in August giving some history for John McCain.

McCain ran for President before, remember? back in 2000, and he was highly entertaining to all the reporters. He gave straight talk. And he lost.

Now, he’s not straying from his talking points. And he won the republican nomination and is at least tied if not ahead of Obama.

The article focusses on McCain’s sense of honor. And they say: “McCain stops short of drawing the line. He tends to bend institutions without breaking them”

I can’t tell if the authors consider that a flaw; it is possible they consider him a poser who is not willing ot really sacrifice everything for honor.

I come away feeling like this is a good thing. The willow can outlast the oak, because of bending, and live to strive on another day.

Politics is hard. Skilled politicians know that it takes lying in wait to accomplish things sometimes. Back off and come at it again. Eyes on the prize, and you will get there.

 

401K plans, Upward Mobility and Free Market Forces

From WSJ “How Well Do You Know…Your 401(k) Plan?” by Leslie Scism and Jennifer Levitz

In the 1970s, some corporations asked the government if they could put aside retirement money, tax-free, for their executives. Officials gave permission, provided the companies  offered the opportunity to all workers, never expecting the plans to take off….The 401(k) plan slipped in “under the radar,” says Teresa Ghilarducci, and economist at the New School for Social Research in New York. The idea was that this new plan–in which workers set aside pretax earnings in investment accounts–would supplement the rank-and-file’s old fashioned pension plan, the type that sends out a monthly check.

But as companies sought to hold down costs, more and more froze the old-fashioned plan and went solely with a 401(k). “What [the government] didn’t anticipate was the erosion of well-defined benefit plans,” she says. “They never conceived that the 401(k) would be the only retirement plan that companies provided. That’s what we economists call ‘unintended consequences’ of a law.”

The 401(k) is replacing pension plans. And it’s easy to see why. Pension plans are a real albatross around the neck of companies.  Pension plans support people who don’t work for these employers anymore.

The employer-sponsored pension plan was a market driven phenomenon to begin with. It appears that railroads were some of the first to provide the pension in America, to attract good workers and keep them.It was the Free Market at work. The Free Market inspired compaines to add pensions to wages and motivate workers to start working and stay working for them.
So what did that mean? Mr. Railroad Worker would put up with crap in what we TODAY might call a dead-end job. If he put up with crap he would have a pension at the end, and he’d have money after he was too old. His wife and kids would be taken care of.
“Career path” wasn’t part of his vocabulary.
But suppose his buddy down the street had an idea of a new business they could start and Mr. Railroad Worker would be in charge.  Mr. Railroad Worker would say, “What are you kidding? I only have 15 more years before I get my pension. I can’t quit and start a new venture with you!”
The system put a damper on innovation and job creation.

Now, with this new portable pension, each worker has ownership of their retirement money. All of us are able to change careers and start any kind of business we want.

HOORAY! The individual is in charge!

But wait..

OH NO! the individual is in charge!

Most 401(k) plans require that the individual actually put some money in. The employer will match funds, but you have to ante up. It’s your own fault if your 401(k) is empty. And you are free to screw it up.

Old-style pensions were managed by the employer and doled out a set amount each month. Pension plans could go under if the company went under, and the individual is powerless to do anything.

Pensions and 401(k) plans are both subject to the market. But the employer swallowed the risk in pension plans. With the 401(k), the risk and the reward is on the individual. The individual has the power with a 401(k).

It started out that the muckity-mucks in large companies wanted a way to feather their own nests. But in the end, all of us are more free to move around, improve ourselves and our careers and maybe even find our own path to muckity-muckhood.

It just shows how it’s best not to over-regulate market forces. If the government gets out of the way, things can shake down in positive ways. No one predicted how this would happen, but it’s resulted in a lot more freedom for everybody.

A smarty-pants article that explains it

I am tired of outrage, and I don’t really want to go on rants for a while.

I ran across this article that gives a great explanation of what has been driving me crazy for so long about the Democrats. It’s thick and hard to read, so I will put some excerpts here to share the ideas.

Haidt gives us his bias:

In the psychological community, where almost all of us are politically liberal, our diagnosis of conservatism gives us the additional pleasure of shared righteous anger. We can explain how Republicans exploit frames, phrases, and fears to trick Americans into supporting policies (such as the “war on terror” and repeal of the “death tax”) that damage the national interest for partisan advantage.

But with pleasure comes seduction, and with righteous pleasure comes seduction wearing a halo. Our diagnosis explains away Republican successes while convincing us and our fellow liberals that we hold the moral high ground. Our diagnosis tells us that we have nothing to learn from other ideologies, and it blinds us to what I think is one of the main reasons that so many Americans voted Republican over the last 30 years: they honestly prefer the Republican vision of a moral order to the one offered by Democrats. To see what Democrats have been missing, it helps to take off the halo, step back for a moment, and think about what morality really is.

I do not mean to simplify the sophistication of what he says. But let’s skip ahead:

the first rule of moral psychology: feelings come first and tilt the mental playing field on which reasons and arguments compete. If people want to reach a conclusion, they can usually find a way to do so. The Democrats have historically failed to grasp this rule, choosing uninspiring and aloof candidates who thought that policy arguments were forms of persuasion.

Preach to the choir…the are always appreciative. But the pews don’t fill up that way.

I would say that the second rule of moral psychology is that morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way.

When Republicans say that Democrats “just don’t get it,” this is the “it” to which they refer. Conservative positions on gays, guns, god, and immigration must be understood as means to achieve one kind of morally ordered society. When Democrats try to explain away these positions using pop psychology they err, they alienate, and they earn the label “elitist.” But how can Democrats learn to see—let alone respect—a moral order they regard as narrow-minded, racist, and dumb?

You wouldn’t want to be narrow-minded. I think he’s not getting the whole “it”, but he’s at least trying.

Haidt admits he was a full Kool-aid drinker, and among those who were not interested in seeing a moral order different from his own. But life happens, and he went on a trip.

Travel is broadening.

He went to India, and wanted to be one of those cool anthropologists who got right in there and grokked the culture. But the Indian family he was staying with were SO uncool. Servants and servile women and everything. Not at all the liberal standard. But after time, he attained cool anthropologist perspective.

Once he was able to understand that other people sincerely held beliefs that were different from their own, he took that ability back to America with him and was able to better respect the Republican culture.

I had escaped from my prior partisan mindset (reject first, ask rhetorical questions later), and began to think about liberal and conservative policies as manifestations of deeply conflicting but equally heartfelt visions of the good society.

Now that he could concieve that there was a ‘there’ there in the Republican mindset, he was able to take his psychological toolkit and study it.

Here’s where we jump into the deep end of the pool:

In several large internet surveys, my collaborators Jesse Graham, Brian Nosek and I have found that people who call themselves strongly liberal endorse statements related to the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity foundations, and they largely reject statements related to ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. People who call themselves strongly conservative, in contrast, endorse statements related to all five foundations more or less equally. (You can test yourself at www.YourMorals.org.)

You have to read the whole article carefully to understand that. Or you could just read this analogy:

We think of the moral mind as being like an audio equalizer, with five slider switches for different parts of the moral spectrum. Democrats generally use a much smaller part of the spectrum than do Republicans. The resulting music may sound beautiful to other Democrats, but it sounds thin and incomplete to many of the swing voters that left the party in the 1980s, and whom the Democrats must recapture if they want to produce a lasting political realignment.

The democrats use a smaller part of the spectrum of morality than republicans? so the people afraid of being narrow minded are using a smaller section of their mind? a narrow slice of their mind? 

heh

But that’s not fair. Despite the hypocrisy, I don’t with these people ill. It is a shame not to hear the whole of the music. I would wish for these people who say they value open-mindedness to achieve a broader perspective.

Democrat snobbery and ballbusting from both parties

So, this op-ed piece  by Lynn Forester De Rothschild framed a lot of loose ideas for me. She was a Hilary supporter, and the piece is focussed on the shortcomings of Obama. I will have to add a few thoughts at the end regarding Ms. Clinton. But here’s what Rothschild has to say: 

I’m a longtime Democrat. … But I must face the uncomfortable truth that liberal elitism has been a weakness of the Democratic Party for more than half a century.

She previously defined elistism:

While Obama supporters attempt to dismiss the charges about their candidate’s perceived hauteur, they confuse privilege and elitism. Elitism is a state of mind, a view of the world that cannot be measured simply by one’s net worth, position or number of houses.

And then, more directly:

Mr. Obama is not connecting to millions of middle- and working-class voters, as well as women voters of all classes. Not only is his legislative record scant on issues that make a difference in their lives, but his current campaign is based mainly on an assumption of his transcendence….

his creation and display of a mock presidential seal with his name on it, his speech at a mass rally at the Prussian Victory Column in Berlin, and his insistence on delivering his acceptance speech in front of fabricated Greek columns in a stadium holding 80,000 chanting supporters have crossed the thin line that separates galvanizing voters and plain old demagoguery.

 This makes room for my favorite politician:

In this context, it should come as no surprise that Sarah Palin, mother of five, hockey mom turned governor and maverick reformer, would instantly zero in on the inherent weakness in Mr. Obama’s candidacy, and contrast it with her own compelling life story.

So, Obama is a snob and has surrounded himself with other donkey-party snob advisors. He is the one who won the nomination.

But then there is the one who almost won: Hilary Clinton–the other female candidate. And the comparisons between Palin and Clinton are on people’s minds.

Before this election, I had often yearned for a female in the white house. I had thought, if a candidate comes up I will have to vote for her regardless of her political positions. Sister solidarity!

But then there came Hilary Clinton. As much as I wanted to like her, she gave me the heebie jeebies. Mostly because of:

                          ELITISM

Thank you, Ms Rothchild, for showing that I’m not the only one who sees it across the board in democrats.

So, my impression of Hilary is that she felt she was owed this position. I say, based on what? Being married to the president? The seat next to the heart surgeon doesn’t qualify the sitter to do a by-pass.

Oh, wait. Let’s be fair, she is a Senator. So, how about that?

My impression of Hilary Clinton is that she is like a compassionate wealthy aunt. When she discovers troubles in someone around her–and she is interested in finding troubles she can help, really she is–she would sit the gentleman down to hear his troubles. Then she would put on her reading glasses, get a fancy pen and her checkbook and say, “Tell me a number.”

Everyone repeat with me:

E-Mas-Cu-Late

Or to be colloquial: Ballbusting

Self-respecting men (and most of them are self-respecting, god bless them) do not want a hand-out. Men want to be paid fairly for a fair day’s work. They want to use their strength and their skills to take care of themselves and their families. And if their families need more, men want to know that they can pull together enough sacrifice and smarts to handle whatever comes. A man who knows he has, in himself, what it takes to pull everyone through is a secure, confident and happy man.

Being handed a check means “Your strength and your skills mean nothing.”

Most men would rather carry a bag of rocks around the world than hear that message. So, yeah. Hilary could be off-putting.

Feminists seem to be missing perspective on men. Okay, yes, men are very interested in the sexuality of women. But that’s the easy answer. The bigger picture is that men respect women who are their partners.

Some women look to men and say  “look at this mess you got us into!”

Others “I know you can get us through this. Let’s work on this together.”

I’ve been accused of ballbusting. I wear it proudly. For me, it looks like this:

Working with a vendor, and the job isn’t done quite right:

“Guys, it’s not working. It needs to do this. You have to fix it. I can stay here for as long as it takes, don’t worry. It’s got to be to the spec.”

And I do stay. And they do get it done. And they love me; they know I’m tough, but they know that I will give them what ever they need (from me) to get the job done as quickly as possible.

These guys rave to their bosses to me, and dont’ want to work with anybody else in the company. Yeah, I bust their balls ’til the get it done, but with ME, they can get it done. And they feel good about their work and about me.

 So…Palin is, in my opinion, that kind of ballbuster. She’s tough, she’s not asking for favors and she’s not dispensing largess to the less-fortunate.

 And she’s telling men–women, too, but this is the language men speak–that they can stand up on their own and she’ll help them.

Donny Deutch got a lot of heat for this, but I think I know what he means here:

“men want to mate her” is only partly about sex. It unfair to men to say that’s ALL they think about. Having a mate is different than getting it on. There’s the kind of girl you bring home to mother, you know? And Palin, unlike Hilary, presents herself as more of a tough partner (“lying in bed next to you”) who will hold you to the standard of your best self.

I see the feminists reacting squeamishly to this statement, but I can see that men are able to and DO hold women in higher esteem than the feminists give them credit for.

Hey democrat politicians…Drop the “we know better than you because we ARE better than you” elitism.  Don’t ever forget that Americans can handle themselves fine. We could use Washington to handle their business, and leave us alone to handle ours. Keep things legal and fair, and let us live our lives.
 

The cognitive dissonance is deafening

So, Salon.com…

I mentioned them before, and there are so many examples of new journalistic atrocities that I hesitate to even bring them to my reader’s attention.

However, this piece by Rebecca Traister struck me because of it’s introspection, unique  among the screedy panic. She professes to hold long cherished feminist beliefs, but takes stock about how this female is different:

 I’m…startled by how Palin herself is testing my own beliefs about how I react to women in power.

Good…baby steps…

My feelings about Palin have everything to do with her gender — a factor that I have always believed, as a matter of course, should neither amplify nor diminish impressions of a person’s goodness or badness, smartness or dumbness, gravitas or inconsequence. Why are my rules changing?

AHA! Is this the psychological breakthrough moment? Is this moment of honest introspection going to lead to greater acceptance and healthy broad-mindedness?

Wait, she goes deeper into her conflict:

In this strange new pro-woman tableau, feminism — a word that is being used all over the country with regard to Palin’s potential power — means voting for someone who would limit reproductive control, access to healthcare and funding for places like Covenant House Alaska, an organization that helps unwed teen mothers. It means cheering someone who allowed women to be charged for their rape kits while she was mayor of Wasilla, who supports the teaching of creationism alongside evolution, who has inquired locally about the possibility of using her position to ban children’s books from the public library, who does not support the teaching of sex education.

Let it out, Rebecca. That’s it! define what you find so contradictory. By acknowledging how very different this feminist’s beliefs are from your own, you can more thoroughly accept the diversity of females and therefore female empowerment…!

Palin’s femininity is one that is recognizable to most women: She’s the kind of broad who speaks on behalf of other broads but appears not to like them very much. The kind of woman who…achieves her power by doing everything modern women believed they did not have to do: presenting herself as maternal and sexual, sucking up to men, evincing an absolute lack of native ambition, instead emphasizing her luck as the recipient of strong male support and approval. It works because these stances do not upset antiquated gender norms.

oh…I’m so disappointed. Rebecca, Rebecca…Nobody said you had to be maternal and sexual, if you don’t want to be. But please understand, many women choose to be those things because they want to all by themselves. I know that your university’s masters degree program told you otherwise, but that was just an ivory tower not where real people live.

It’s not sucking up to men to follow your natural inclinations. And it is every woman’s right to speak up for what she believes is right. It’s every PERSON’S right to speak for what they believe. Even if it’s not what you believe.

You know what the music means…I’ll see you next week. We’ll talk more about how other people can have different opinions than yours and it’s still okay. And you can tell me more about your dreams.

Palin and Hilary…Main Stream Media and snobbery

My new friend Bethany, an Obama supporter and now commenter on my blog, brought up the point that Hillary was also mocked as a woman vying for power in politics. The below is my response to her. I realized I rambled on too long to bury  this response in the comments section:

Yes, I agree that sexism is rampant.

But the disparity is staggering…Hillary got dished on, but not to the extent that Palin is getting.
It’s been barely two weeks, and already they have Palin dolls in sexualized schoolgirl outfits?

And this from Salon: http://www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2008/09/09/mistress_palin/

The MSM (main stream media) is tipping their hand…Letting the broader public see the
usual chatter that is reserved for in-crowd-behind-the-palm-snide-snickers to be shared when the mikes are off.

[let’s pause and let this travesty sink in for a moment…Palin, her political power entirely sexualized. Can you imagine if this were a column sexualizing Obama, for example?  The racist stink off such a column would befoul the area for at least a 100-mile radius.  But who is taking Greg Kamiya aside to explain that he is an emabarassment to the freedom of the press?]

This post from Lileks is what I mean: http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/08/0908/091008.html
He is usually a mild-mannered homebody with a love of retro music and city history. But Mallik’s column was just too much for him.

I am not saying that every democrat is as bad as Mallik and Kamiya. But, to paraphrase Jesus, a little
leaven goes a long way. And these outrageous accusations toward Palin (not even fact-based…’Dominatrix’?!) are piling up really high.

So…I don’t ask that everyone I meet agree with me.

But maybe I should amend my guidelines for “How to have an open-minded discussion” …#9 in
particular…to include “Snobbery” along with sexism, racism and violence as a stopping
point where someone is morally obliged to speak out.

At what point do compassionate democrats start to feel guilty by association?

Oh, one more thing. This is hardly a new train of thought for me. Check this post from
three years ago:
http://writtenbymurphy.com/wonderblog/?p=626

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

“Conservatives have a bad history with The New York Times,” she said, looking at my press ID, still smiling and still very friendly. “How can I be sure that you won’t take my words and twist them to suit some agenda that you already have?”

 

Part of the  Palin thing…A big part in my mind…is for us conservative-types being able to point at how she’s being treated and stereotyped. We can point and say:

“See? SEE?”

Yes, the Main Stream Media has a bias. And it’s influencing the broader culture’s tone. I’m personally tired of it. I have a right to put forth my opinion, too, once in a while. Even if I don’t agree with you, nameless-person-i’m-trying-to-talk-with.

But I try to do it with respect. I wish I got more back.

The election is all good…but there are 5 TRILLION dollars on the table

So okay, now that i have given myself the responsible title of informed citizen, I have to stay diversified.

Palin is very fascinating, and so is the presidential race. But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are about to be…um…hmm…changed.

Here’s the deal:

they have combined assets of 5 TRILLION dollars. That is a lot of money. That’s mortgages, basically. They pwn the mortgages in america.

So, of that 5 trillion dollars in debt that they are collecting on…They have 14 billion dollars that they are NOT going to collect on (the number of mortgage dollars in foreclosure).

The gummint stepped in and said they are taking over this establishment. That means firing the current men handling the job, and assigning new guys. And it cost:

200 BILLION dollars to do this takeover. And that is just the first step in the takeover.

I just don’t know exactly what to think of this.

But here is how I understand the numbers:

out of 5 trillion, 14 billion dollars lost is .28% of their assets gone.

That seems like a very risk-averse environment. Heck, we lose more money than that in the couch cushions.

But I guess I didn’t amass money in the trillions either. Maybe if we watched our ha’pennies we’d be a lot richer.

But then again, maybe it’s like the stepping on a butterfly when you go back in time scenario…The little things matter.

Talking it over with my co-workers, they thought that maybe the initial 14 billion in lost money was feared to be just the beginning. Could be that too.

Things are not entirely stable, either with the cause or the reaction.

(I would like to have a link showing the numbers I have above, but I got them from the weekend’s WSJ. And that paper takes money. The link would be broken if I put it there. And nobody else has it so succinctly  referrable. Sorry…)

Preliminary report on the presidential campaign

So…Watched the Republican convention this week. I have long felt leanings toward the republican party, but I’ve not been inspired to pay that much attention.

Until now.

So I watched, and I was duly inspired. And then I hit the internet hard to see what other people thought. I read the columnists and the head bloggers.

And then I read the comments.

“Chris, everyone keeps saying that the candidates didn’t talk about the issues. But both McCain and Palin did bring up a bunch of issues!”

He is more jaded, having been in tune with politics for longer than I. “People hear what they want to hear. They have an issue in mind, and if the speech doesn’t mention their issue, they say ‘they’re not talking about issues!'”

Hmm…Good point.

But a speech is only so long. And everyone wants the speeches to be full of energy and dynamism. I’m sorry, but issues are not that interesting to listen to. Percentages and statistics make people go for a bathroom break.

So it’s not fair to criticize a candidate for not talking about issues in a speech. Speeches are not the medium for that.

What is?

THE WEB.

So I hit their respective websites. Oh LORD, there is a lot of information there. Both Obama and McCain have put up a ton of positions on various topics. It would take a week to sift through all these.

Knowing that the mention of a topic does not indicate a pro or con position, only that the topic deserved some attention, I made a list of what these guys listed on their websites.

These are taken from McCain’s website and Obama’s website

 Overlapping issues
Economy
Education
Energy (Energy & Environment per Obama)
Ethics (Ethics Reform per Mccain)
Healthcare
Immigration
Iraq
Rural (Agricultural Politics per Mccain)
Technology
Veterans
National Security (Defense per Obama)

Obama unique
Disability
Faith
Family
Fiscal
Foreign Policy
Homeland Security
Poverty
Rural
Service
Seniors and Social Security
Urban Policy
Women
Additional Issues

Mccain unique
Climate Change
2nd Amendment
Judicial Philosophy
Fighting Crime
Natural Heritage
Sanctity of Life
Space Program

There is good overlap, but the differences are interesting. The amount of information on these is staggering. It’s a LOT of reading, and I am somewhat ashamed of neglecting my duty as a citizen because I didn’t start researching this sooner.

The “Faith” issue on Obama’s side was interesting, so I clicked on that. Disappointing. 2 quotes from other people about the importance of a speech he gave, and then a YouTube of the speech.

I believe this is atypical of Obama’s entries, though.

McCain’s National Heritage this was also intrigueing, since Chris and I just got back from Yosemite National Park. He and I want to visit all the National parks in our life together. McCain says he thinks national parks are important, and he also brought up Fish&Game as a tool for conservation. Wetlands and Open Space are something he wants to preserve. Nice.

And the Space Program! Mccain specifically mentioned the Space Program! Exciting, since I will never forget the year I worked for NASA.  McCain is pro space program. For two purposes: advancing reseatch and to keep national pride. huh. I wouldn’t have been so sentimental about national pride, but perhaps as a military guy, he has a keen eye for the practical usefulness of high morale. But as far as the research part, i am SO for that. Two things that came from the space program, without which our lives would be unthinkably poorer:

Microwave ovens

The internet

I started to read their respective takes on the economy, but it was complicated. That will take more time. I’ll report next week what I find.

 

 

DRIPPING with disdain…My town and Sarah Palin’s: Wasilla

This is why I was first horrified by Palin’s nomination. Wasilla is not a lovely town.

But hey, it IS a town, and not every town is cute. Slate has this tour of the town of my teen years.

I approve of her choice to invest in a sports complex. I believe I’ve read an enormous portion of the books lining that library’s shelves, and I love the Wasilla public library dearly. But lets be real. Wasilla has a teen population that may or may not graduate from high school. Education is not so valued in the woods.

A sports complex for the community is a lot more practical.

Oh yeah…I have a new handy catchphrase from this  post “hipster douchebag.” The post is long but worth reading.