Sunday, September 28, 2008

My son at the zoo last week. He had a great time and talked about all the animals he saw for a couple of days. He had a blast!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Last Night's Presidential Debate

So, I watched the debate in its entirety last night, as well as commentary from the different cable news networks. Just a few things I want to point out. I watched the debate on CNN, and at the bottom of the screen, there were three lines measuring response from three groups: Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. The Republican and Democrat lines were predictable. When their candidate was speaking, the respective response line went up, and when the other guy was talking, their response line went down. The interesting thing was the Independent reaction. Almost throughout the debate, anytime McCain was speaking, the Independent line was below the Republican line. They responded positively to McCain at times, but the Independent response was almost never more positive than the Republican response. But when Obama was talking, the Independent response line was frequently positive, and was sometimes even more positive than the Democrat response. The bottom line is that the Independents were much more favorable to Obama than they were to McCain. If this can translate to Independents going to the polls on November 4 and voting for Obama, he should win some of those swing states easily.

For being the expert on foreign policy, John McCain was not as convincing as I would have imagined. He threw in some names of people he's met and places he's been over the years. But he seemed to me to be stuck in the past. Stuck to the policies of ol' W and not very forward looking. Obama was sure to point that out on many occasions, and it was effective. I was really impressed that Obama more than held his own and stuck it to McCain that he was wrong on a number of issues, most importantly that we are in our present situation in Iraq because of the policies McCain championed along side Pres. Bush. McCain was stuck on the fact that the surge has worked. Sure, it's worked. But if we had never gone into Iraq in the first place, and focused on Osama bin Laden, we wouldn't have needed a surge to correct the mismanagement of that war anyway. Iraq was a diversion and distraction from the actual terrorists and Obama was right on that, McCain was dead wrong. Seven years after 9/11, bin Laden is still hiding out and organizing more terrorist activities.

I thought the demeanor of both candidates was also notable. In fact, there was quite a contrast. McCain, as has been pointed out by many of the pundits, rarely looked at Obama, while Obama made eye contact with McCain frequently. McCain seemed to get his feathers ruffled often and easily, while Obama remained cool, poised, and well, presidential. McCain was - as I have come to realize is typical of him - very rash, emotional, and defensive. He was quick to point out where he felt Obama was wrong on issues. In fact, a fact check on several of his claims will prove he exagerated the truth or just did not have his facts straight. All the pundits discussed Obama agreeing with McCain. Obama said on several occasions something like, "Sen. McCain is right about _____...." The Republicans all ran with that saying that Obama was agreeing with McCain on those things, and that this shows Obama's lack of experience. When in fact, if they were listening to the rest of Obama's sentences, he would follow up with something like, "...but I differ in this way:_____." Obama was certainly not endorsing McCain, but finding common ground and then drawing sharp contrasts in their positions. McCain seemed more petty and like he was trying to lecture Obama on why he was wrong. I just felt like Obama was more respectful to McCain than visa versa.

Anyway, I don't really want to get into the actual contents of the debate. By now, everyone can pretty much tell whose side of the debate I agree with the most. I just wanted to point out a few things. Neither candidate really knocked the other out. This is more beneficial to Obama than McCain. He really needed to upend Obama on foreign policy - his supposed field of expertise, but he absolutely did not. Obama seemed more level headed and thoughtful about the questions asked by Jim Lehrer, and kept McCain kind of scrambling the whole time. The immediate polls show that Obama won the debate among most viewers. Those polls were slightly skewed as there were more Democrats that responded to the polls than Republicans. That being the case, the debate probably resulted in a tie, which is a win for Obama. McCain really needed to make a strong case for himself, but I was not very impressed that he did so. His experience and judgment arguments did not go as well as he would have hoped, as Obama pointed out that his judgment has directly led to the debacle in Iraq, for which McCain had no counter-argument. In a debate that should have been a home run for McCain, he came out of it looking like someone who is emotional, quick to make a rash decision, and stuck to the old failed policies of the Bush administration, while Obama came out looking more like a thoughtful and respectful leader.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Fiscal Conservatives"

This is the greatest thing I believe I have ever seen!! Please everyone, think about it!!!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Special Comment by Keith Olbermann

I don't always agree with Olbermann, but I think in this case he is right on. Republicans have been using scare tactics all year to try and win this election. I for one am sick of it and am ashamed that the Republicans would use fear to win an election again this year, just as they did in 2004. I trust Barack Obama's judgment not to rush reflexively into war with countries who had nothing to do with an attack on our land.

McCain camp caught in ugly lie...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 in Uganda

I don't want today to get by without a few remarks about the tragic events that took place seven years ago today. My day was coming to a close when I learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, yet I learned of it only a couple of hours after it happened. I was in Kampala, Uganda, doing missionary work in the district of Kololo. After a long day of work, my companion and I walked into our flat where other missionaries were sitting, listening to the radio. This was odd - due to mission rules, we did not generally listen to the radio. They told us to put our stuff down and come listen. I couldn't believe the words that were coming out of the speaker. Two airplanes had been hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center towers and another in the Pentagon, and we learned of another that had crashed in Pennsylvania. It was like a nightmare. This could not be real. Surely this had to be some kind of joke. Then our mission leaders called and told us we were not to go out the next day, but we were to stay home. It wasn't a joke, it was real.

But how could this happen? How could anyone possibly organize this sort of attack in the United States of America? I was scared. Here I was, an American, half way around the world and helpless. There are a lot of Muslims in Uganda, were we going to become targets? Before I go on, let me say that those who practice Islam in Uganda are good people. They were no extremists, and we were generally treated respectfully by the Ugandan people. I wanted to go home and go to New York to help with the clean up efforts, and help to find survivors in the wreckage. I wanted to find those responsible and take them out myself (I imagine a lot of people felt the same). I didn't want to go anywhere for fear for my life. Anger, fear, confusion, helplessness, and sorrow were only a few of the emotions within me. We stayed up later than usual that night, praying for the victims and their families.

I had a dream in August of 2000, that something happened and I was forced to come home early from my two year mission in September of 2001. When I got in to my flat with my companions, I thought this was the meaning of the dream and that we would have to go home early for safety's sake. Luckily, however, we were all able to stay in the mission field and finish our two years. But something did happen in September 2001 that was life altering.

The next morning, we went down and bought a newspaper, and for the first time saw images of what we had only heard about the previous night. Later, we went over to a neighbor's who had a TV and watched the video over some English speaking channel from Germany. The images were far worse than I could have imagined. We watched the towers fall, one after the other. It was terrifying that something like this could actually happen at home. We thought that tens of thousands had lost their lives. Although the final number was closer to 3000, that was no comfort. 3000 lives had been lost due to terrorists who hate our values and our freedoms. My sorrow deepened for those that died and for their families and friends.

Over the following months as I continued my missionary service, we kept our ears and eyes open, and were careful to be in on time and to be safe. Other than the occasional pranksters yelling, "Mzungu, Osama bin Laden is over here!", the remainder of my time in Uganda was uneventful, as far as threats or further violence. Once a few weeks later when it was raining, two Middle Eastern looking guys stopped and offered us a ride to get out of the rain. It wasn't raining that hard and we were a little hesitant to get into a vehicle with guys that looked Middle Eastern. But at the same time, we didn't want to make them mad and chance a drive-by. So we got in. It turned out good, obviously by the fact that I'm sitting here writing this seven years later. They explained that they were from Pakistan and that they wanted to show us that they were friends to America. They took us all the way to our destination, and we were left feeling that there was much good in humanity, and that those extremist terrorists were the exception.

Seven years later, it still seems like just yesterday. Those images and feelings are still fresh in our minds. Some wounds have not healed, some have - but even those have left a terrible scar and will always be a clear reminder that we must never take life for granted. We must never take our loved ones for granted. We must live life and love everyday.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Barack Obama Sept. 6, 2008 in Terre Haute, Indiana

Joe Biden Sept. 7, 2008 in Montana

My sudden change...

Ok, I know people are wondering how in the world I could be supporting Barack Obama. After all, I've considered myself a lifelong Republican and was a very devoted Mitt Romney supporter during the Republican primaries. I even posted a month ago about about how Pelosi and the Democratic congress should quit playing politics and do something for America. Admittedly, I've never been happy with John McCain, and if Mitt Romney had won the Republican primaries, I'm sure I'd be just as big a supporter as I was during his candidacy. I think Obama appealed to me because, like Romney, he is not a Washington insider, and as Romney was fond of saying, you can't put the same people in different seats and expect different results. McCain has been there for 26 years. I began taking a serious, objective look at both candidates. I went to both candidates' websites and compared and contrasted their plans for the economy, Iraq, and taxes among a host of other issues. I also read anything I could from economists to party strategists and even pundits. Let me be clear, in the past I, like many others in the South (especially evangelical Christians), have voted mainly on socially conservative issues. Fiscal conservatism has also influenced me, but as we have seen by the years of a Republican controlled congress, they cannot be trusted to be fiscally conservative. In the history of the United States, I don't believe there has ever been a congress that has been as reckless and irresponsible as the Republican controlled congress has been. The pork barrel spending has been shameful and wasteful of Americans' tax dollars. Having said that, I am still socially conservative, but let me say this as emphatically as I can, abortion and homosexual marriage are non-issues in this election!!! There is too much at stake in this election to cast my vote based solely on social issues.

The number one issue in this election is the economy. The economy alone has been enough to change my way of thinking, but to be sure, is not my only reason. McCain's plan for the economy is, to put it bluntly, bone-headed and complete nonsense. Exxon-Mobil makes $12 billion in profits every quarter, and now John McCain wants to give them an additional $4 billion in tax cuts. What sense does this make? I'm paying upwards of $4 per gallon for gas while the oil companies are profiting $48 billion a year, and now their going to bank $52 billion?? How is that helping the middle class. He wants to give other big business billions of dollars in tax breaks - companies that are sending our jobs 0verseas. What tax breaks will the average Joe get? None. Zip. Zilch. Republicans think if you give the wealthy tax breaks, the money will trickle down, but it never does. The CEOs get a pay raise, but the average worker gets nothing. Since WWII, anytime we've had a Republican president, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the economy goes south. But when there has been a Democrat in office, the rich stay rich, many of the poor move into the middle class, the average American's income increases dramatically, and the economy grows dramatically. But this year is different, because America is no longer the economic power of the world. Competition from China and India is growing faster than we can keep up with. More on China later. We must make a stand and do something to remain the economic superpower of the world. McCain's plan for the economy is NO DIFFERENT from the current president's. Jobs will continue to go overseas and our economic woes will only continue and worsen. Thanks to Bush's brilliant handling of the economy 605,000 jobs have been lost this year. 85,000 just last month. We cannot afford a continuation of these same failed policies. Obama's plan, however, will repeal the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Big oil and big business will pay their fair share of taxes, and 95% of American workers will receive tax cuts. Think about what that would mean. The more money in the middle class families' pockets, the more likely they will be out spending that money purchasing products from businesses. This creates jobs in manufacturing and retail. His plans will also focus on new energy, creating hundreds of thousands of "green collar jobs." And the bottom line is this, we are borrowing billions of dollars every year from China to buy oil from countries who hate us and to finance a war that has been reckless and caused us to lose the respect of nations across the globe. As a result, in eight years, Bush has successfully managed to double the national deficit. China's being all quiet about it, but a day of reckoning will come and China will practically own the United States. How in the world can we pay down the national deficit when John McCain is cutting or eliminating taxes on those who should be paying the most?? It's absolutely senseless. There's a reason young voters are drawn to Obama. We don't want to be responsible for the debt incurred by the recklessness and greediness of today's president and his dismal policies and those of his preferred predecessor. If you're filthy rich, hey, you've got nothing to worry about. You do as well under Democrats as you do under Republicans. If you're poor or middle class, you have great reason to be worried if John McCain is elected President of the United States.

The second major issue in this election, for me at least, is Iraq. Those who know me know I've been a big supporter of President Bush and going to Iraq and taking out Saddam Hussein and so forth and so on. That was, of course, until I realized we were spending $10 billion per month every month we are there. There's a couple of problems with this. First, Iraq is sitting on top of $80 billion in the bank that they are not using for their own reconstruction. Why should they? We're paying $10 billion on it every month. The second problem is the Iraqi government is asking us to leave. They feel they are sufficiently stable and no longer need us there to keep the peace. They want us out, they have subscribed to Obama's plan of a timetable for troop withdrawals. And even now, President Bush has seen the light and is working to come up with such a timetable. John McCain stands alone, wanting to keep us in Iraq indefinitely, indefinitely spending $10 billion every month. Just think what the U.S. could do with that $10 billion...perhaps invest it in energy sources that would free us from dependence on Middle Eastern oil, put it into social programs that will help Americans rise above poverty and illiteracy, fix our education system or Social Security or Medicare??? Hey, it could even go toward our ever increasing national deficit. There are any number of worthy causes that would benefit the American people. McCain cites national security as a reason for staying. Ok, but as far as I can tell, the longer we stay there, the angrier certain groups of people will become with us and may seek to launch an attack deadlier than 9/11/2001. Obama has it right. We need to leave Iraq, which was a distraction from the real problem, which is again growing in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan - the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. This is where our our time and military resources should be and should have been from the beginning.

I watched both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. There was a stark difference between them. The Democrats, Hillary, and Barack all gave speeches that were substantive and relevant. They laid out their plans for change and improving American life and liberties. They defined for us what we can expect from a Obama/Biden presidency. On the other hand, the Republicans talked about John McCain's experience as a POW. Every one of them. That was the only talking point any of the Republicans had. They didn't even mention the words "middle class", spoke fleetingly about the economy, although refusing to discuss how they'd improve it, and other than yelling "Drill, drill, drill," ignored our growing energy crisis. John McCain wants us to Fight! with him. Fight for what? He hasn't told me anything he's going to fight for, except to lower taxes for businesses and oil companies who are already paying little to nothing. Oh yeah, he did mention his healthcare plan, although in his old age, he must have forgotten about mentioning the fact that his $5000 refundable tax credit will be considered income, potentially thrusting Americans into a higher tax bracket and thereby increasing our taxes. It's pretty pointless too, since insurance for a family would cost on average $12,000 annually. So let's recap, his healthcare plan will cause you to pay more taxes, and will be insufficient to afford a family health insurance. Obama, first of all, is going to lower 95% of American workers' taxes, and make available the same healthcare plans members of Congress receive at the same rates. If your happy with the plan you currently have through your employer, you can keep your plan and your premiums will be lowered. Hmmm...I wonder which plan will be better for more Americans?

John McCain likes to paint Obama as an elitist. This is the most laughable charge coming from the mouth of John McCain. As I recall, Barack Obama took out student loans to get through law school. Granted, he went to Harvard, that's pretty elite. But he also just finished paying back his student loans within the last few years. He got a nice home in Chicago, can't blame him for wanting to have a nice home in a nice neighborhood to raise his daughters. John McCain has SEVEN houses and he doesn't even know that fact. Who, I ask, is the elitist? If you can't even keep up with how many houses you have, you're pretty elite. I have an extremely hard time believing that John and Cindy McCain have an inkling of an idea what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck. McCain, who jokes about the middle class being those making less than $5 million a year, is so out of touch with the middle class and our struggles. He thinks the economy is "fundamentally sound." His economy may be fundamentally sound, but I'm working two jobs as a registered nurse and having a hard time making ends meet. The economy I live in hasn't been as kind to me as McCain's economy has been to his.

And finally, McCain's serious lack of judgment has me scared out of my mind if he becomes president. I wrote at length in a post last week how I felt about his pick of Sarah Palin, and in the time that has ensued, I have only more questions than answers. He did not vet her at all. She was picked at the last moment to change the momentum of the campaign. This political pandering is dangerous to our national security and shows McCain is willing to do anything to win this election. After all, he's changed his position on almost every matter of policy except the war in Iraq. That will be the topic of my next post.

So, to my family and friends, I have not given myself over to the dark side. I still consider myself a social conservative, although I absolutely do not consider myself a Republican, and still have the values that I was taught and raised with. However, I also have an analytical mind and so have concluded that in order to have a stronger dollar and economy, jobs, national security, healthcare that works, and actual change, the obvious choice for president this year is Barack Obama.