Monday, September 29, 2008

Resign, Madam Speaker

OK, I retract anything I might have said about staying away from politics.

The House today rejected the proposed bailout plan. Although I had misgivings about it, I had decided I was in favor of betting this extraordinary amount of money on the government being able to acquire these failed assets, stabilize the economy and ultimately recover the investment. But a large number of American people felt differently and made those feelings known to their congressional representatives. Those representatives, many of whom are up for re-election in about a month, heard those voices and voted down the bailout.

I am disappointed that the legislation did not pass. I believe both sides worked to get to a plan that would begin to fix some of the problems that are severely hurting our financial system.

My disappointment, however, is far surpassed by the anger I feel at one Nancy Pelosi, our esteemed Speaker of the House. Just before the vote in the House, Madam Speaker took it upon herself to remind her colleagues one more time just what, IN HER OPINION, got us to where we are today -- the failed policies of the Bush administration.

She might be right. I am not writing today to defend President Bush. But when it was time to vote on the proposal, it was time for her to put aside her own personal agenda (although I truly believe she is incapable of doing so) and simply call for a vote.

But no, Speaker Pelosi could not resist the temptation to make it personal one more time and kick the guy who, when she presided for the first time as Speaker at a State of the Union speech, graciously recognized her and her accomplishment at becoming first female Speaker.

There are those who say her statements today actually caused some Republicans to change their votes. I doubt that is true but that is not the point. The fact is that the timing of her statements was inexcusable and indefensable and her statements have nothing to do with anything but her own partisan political leanings.

I can only conclude that Nancy Pelosi has an agenda far more important to her than passing legislation to heal the economy and help the American people, and that is to make sure that a Republican no longer resides in the White House come January.

That's disgraceful. Please, Madam Speaker, do us all a favor. Resign as House Speaker and go ahead and start posturing for a cabinet position in the Obama administration.

Friday, September 26, 2008

More Random Musings

Oh my, the goings on in our government continue to get “curiouser and curiouser.” Here are more random thoughts from my overtaxed mind:

-- I do not like the term “bailout” and conceptually I am not in favor of it. But I am also the first to admit that much of this goes way over my head. I am a lawyer who happens to work for a bank, so I have a basic understanding of regulation, but as for all the other economic stuff, I am next to clueless. I’m with those who believe that, with regard to how we got here, there is plenty of blame to go around.

-- I thought Bush did a relatively good job of conveying the gravity of the situation in his speech Wednesday night. It is ironic that he, who has espoused smaller government, is spearheading what is perhaps the biggest government intervention in history. I don’t think it’s what he wants to do, but I believe he thinks it is what he has to do. Again, I don’t understand enough to even venture a guess as to whether he is right or wrong. I hope he is right about the part that, once the government buys all these bad loans, they will eventually get their money back. Especially since it’s our money.

-- There was no way this thing was not going to get political. And I think this has essentially sealed the deal for Obama. No matter the reality of the situation, he's been able to use it to his advantage (with plenty of help from his media admirers). Unless something unpredictable happens between now and Nov. 4 (which is, of course, quite possible), I believe he is going to be our next president. The election is going to be decided by the undecided voters. I believe the majority of them will probably look at this situation and decide that we have had a Republican administration for eight years and things are not looking too good. Maybe it’s time to give the other side a try. I really hope I am wrong but that's my prediction.

-- Not sure what I think about McCain’s latest moves – “suspending” his campaign, going to Washington and trying to put off the debate. Did he really do this in the best interest of the country? I like to think he did but that’s really between him and God. The part of me that wants to think the best of him, though, believes that he had to have known that the mainstream media -- who are, let’s face it, in the midst of a love affair with Obama -- would blast him for it, which they have, and that it could/would ultimately cost him the election (which I think it will). He’s not stupid, so maybe he decided it really is more important to participate in this process and let the chips fall where they may as far as the election is concerned. Who knows, history might treat him kindly for it. But for now, the sky is falling and a Republican is in the White House (see previous bullet point).

-- I thought the account we got of Obama trying to call McCain on Wednesday was rather comical. Of course each tried to put his own spin on it but it appears that Obama called McCain at 8:30 a.m. and McCain called him back around 2:30 p.m.. Just how are those calls placed? Does each carry his own private cell phone? Something makes me think they are not in each other’s “five.” I would guess there are a few layers you have to go through to reach either of them, no matter who you are. They do each have a few irons in the fire right now (although Obama has assured us he is quite able to multi-task). If they were able to make connections within a six-hour time frame, that seems pretty good to me.

-- I am ready for it to be over. I have, since I was a very young person, always enjoyed the process. The first presidential election I remember is Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater. Needless to say, things have changed drastically since then, especially the way we get information. And I am somewhat addicted to getting that information. I don't get near as upset about it as I used to, but I can get pretty worked up. I need to get over it.

-- Well it looks like the debate is going to happen. It wouldn't look too good for McCain not to show up. Word is that Obama's going to go at him fully loaded and, in his most sanctimonious way, question why in the world McCain would want the two of them to high-tail it to Washington and do their respective jobs as senators when they needed to be telling the American people what they'll each do as president. As I said -- and I really hope I'm wrong -- I think we're headed for an Obama presidency.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mysteries of Life

What a week this has been! The happenings in the economy seem unprecedented, and to an extent they are, but I told one of my colleagues at work about a month ago that I would not be surprised to see another RTC-type organization formed. And that is exactly where we are headed.

But I am going to depart from all of these goings-on and write today about what I consider one of the great mysteries of life -- housekeepers.

Anyone who reads my stuff here knows that my wife is an amazing woman, a person I hold in extremely high esteem. She is a wonderful homemaker, an extraordinary hostess, a gourmet cook, is well read, plays Bridge (and has tried with little success to teach me) and owns a business. That's for starters.

But she knows, as we all do, that there is a limit to what one human being can do. So a couple of years ago, Wife and I agreed that it would help both of us if we engaged the assistance of a housekeeper. I am very egalitarian when it comes to the roles of husband and wife and have always tried to help with all of the household duties. But I'm no superhuman either so I wholeheartedly endorsed getting some assistance at the house.

Now when I was growing up in South Arkansas, this was commonly referred to as "help," as in, "I have help XXX days a week." And I am sad to say that "help" in those days in the South often meant an African-American lady who would either (a) ride public transportation from her residence to yours or (b) be brought to and from her residence by one of your parents in the backseat of the car.

We had "help" occasionally when I was growing up. Some of our neighbors had regular maids who were part of their families. I grew up in a small town without any public transportion that I knew of, so they were brought to their homes by one of the moms or dads. I never knew of one who had her own car.

Today, thankfully, that has all changed. Domestic help is big business and there are even companies who contract it out.

We have a couple of ladies who come to our house every two weeks. They are sisters and they bring their own vacuum cleaners and cleaning solutions. I am usually not at home when they come but I have met them a couple of times and they are nice ladies. They do a great job too.

But there is something about this whole arrangement I find intriguing. The night before they are to come, we have to clean the house. It starts with Wife doing a frantic run through the house picking up clutter, e.g. shoes out of place, yesterday's newspapers, etc. Then she sweeps the floor, scrubs the kitchen counters and loads the dishwasher. I feel bad for her so, being the equality-of-the-sexes proponent I am, I tell whatever of our offspring who happen to be at home to get off his/her rear-end and start picking up.

Is there irony here? Did we not hire these people to do what we are doing?

Not at all, says Wife. She is not about to have someone coming into her house and give them the impression they are cleaning up after slobs. And the more we do, the more they can do. I have not quite figured what the "more" is that they do but I am keeping quiet.

So when the housekeepers arrive at our house every other Thursday, they come into a sparkling-clean house. And it should not surprise you to learn that it does not take them very long to accomplish their tasks, pick up their compensation and be on their way.

There is also another intriguing fact I learned about the day the housekeepers come -- you have to eat out that night because you can't mess up the kitchen that was just cleaned (twice).

So when I add up the cost of what we pay these nice ladies plus the cost of eating out the night after they come, I'm laying down a pretty good chunk of the budget to get the house cleaned.

BUT on some things you cannot put a price. One of those things is having housekeepers who do not think I am a slob. Another is having a kitchen that is clean for at least 24 hours.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What Do You Do?

I am on the Board of Directors of a local homeless shelter and life recovery center. I believe passionately in the work that is done there. Hurting people are given the chance to start over and some amazing things happen. I work a lot with the staff and other board members on finances and strategic planning.

I believe helping the hurting and marginalized is the essence of the Gospel.

I do not get to do as much actual hands-on work at the shelter as I would like because my job now requires me to travel to another city part of each week. In that city I have a small apartment downtown, just a couple of blocks from the office I use when I am there.

Every day when I am there and I walk to work, almost without fail I will walk among people who are homeless. I have no idea what their stories are. Most days one of them will stop me or call out to me, asking if I can spare a bit of money for them.

Every once in a while I will reach into my wallet and hand them something. But most times I just walk by and, quite frankly, I just wish they would leave me alone. Sometimes I act like don't hear them. Sometimes, to ease my conscience, I tell myself that anything I give them will just be used for drugs and alcohol.

Jesus said when we give unto the "least of these" we give to Him. He said when someone asks you for something, you give more than what they ask for. He said that to whom much is given, much is required.

What do I say about myself when I walk by those people and just hope they will let me walk by? When I see one coming and I cross the street so I won't have to walk by them? When I get to my office and hate myself because I didn't have enough compassion to even look at those people?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Random Political Musings

I just can’t stay away from politics. I have had a lot of thoughts rumbling around my head in the last few weeks so here goes:

I will probably vote Republican. I’m sure of it, unless something really, really wild happens between now and the election. The reason I will vote McCain-Palin is that I think national security is the number one issue and I think John McCain is best equipped to handle it. I am afraid the Democrats way under-estimate the terrorist threat. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe in a politics-of-fear philosophy, but we have to be realistic. And the reality is they are not going away. The other reason I will vote Republican is that I still believe in as small a government as we can get away with. The Dems still seem to lean toward the big government approach. I am sure they have their reasons but I can’t buy it.

That said, the Republicans must tell me more about how they are going to deal with the economy and health care. John McCain says he is not going to raise taxes and, while I appreciate that, how does he propose to get things stable without it (remember “Read my lips – no new taxes?”)? Obama says to expect a modest tax increase on the wealthy. Frankly, I appreciate that he is being up front about it.

As for health care, the system is broken. I do not know what to do to fix it but one of these people running for president needs to come up with something. How did we get to a system where the insurance companies dictate treatment? And how is it that (some) doctors assume that, because of their lofty education, they are entitled to be millionaires? Is there not some middle ground somewhere? I was having dinner with a surgeon recently and he was lamenting the threat of universal health care. I asked him point-blank, just for the sake of conversation, why he would be so opposed and he said “Because I wouldn’t make as much money.” Sorry, Doc, that doesn’t do it for me.

I like Sarah Palin. I admire her strength, her poise and her grit. It looks like she has done a good job in Alaska, standing up to bullies and special interests, including those in her own party. But is she ready to be president? Can she rise to the occasion? I hope so. This is too important for on-the-job training.

Come to think of it, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter had both been governors before ascending to the presidency. I don’t recall them having a lot of foreign policy experience. Not that they are good examples.

I don’t think anyone can deny that Sarah Palin has been treated unfairly by the media and certain Democratic underlings since McCain announced her as his running mate. It is really comical when you think about it. Feminist organizations like NOW advocate a wide variety of equal rights for women and so do I. But you know it is driving them crazy that a conservative woman is possibly headed for the nation’s second highest office. Have you heard any of the NOW members coming to her defense? The silence you hear is deafening. That’s because they want equal rights for women and they want women in positions of leadership, but not Sarah Palin-type women. In other words, if you’re pro-choice and Democrat, they’re on your side. Anything else, well, you’re on your own.

Can Sarah Palin handle the job of the vice presidency with a family of five children and soon-to-be one grandchild? Hello, are we asking the right questions here? Ever read Proverbs 31? That woman was a wife, a mother, a businesswoman and a servant to the poor, for starters. I don’t know if she did it all at one time. I bet she had a really supportive husband and some good employees but don’t try to tell me she was a fulltime stay-at-home mom. Solomon saw fit to include her in the Book of Proverbs. Can Sarah Palin handle the job of vice-presidency given her current station in life? Please. God created each of us – men and women – with unique gifts and characteristics. If Sarah Palin believes this is her time, even on the heels of having a down syndrome baby and learning that her teenage daughter is pregnant, all I can say is you go girl, and may your husband and children rise up and call you blessed.

I like Barack Obama. I think he is a good guy and I think, much like Bill Clinton, if I were to meet him, we could be friends. I was impressed with his remarks at the Saddleback Civil Forum and I believe he is a committed man of faith. I think he is a good husband and dad and that he truly wants to make a difference, do good things and unite the country. He and I have a fundamental difference of opinion in that he sees the government as the vehicle for doing good and fixing things. I see it as the vehicle for enabling the people to do good and fix things. Too many times, through oppressive laws and taxes, the government stands in our way. But I like Barack Obama and I am praying for him during this election.

Speaking of the Saddleback Forum, I thought it was great. The moderator, Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist who formed his congregation from scratch as an alternative for those who had become disillusioned with church, and who subsequently authored the insanely popular “A Purpose Driven Life,” is not an evangelical cut in the mold of Falwell, Robertson or Dobson. In an appearance on Larry King Live following the forum, he confirmed that he comes down squarely in the middle, which frustrates both the right and the left. He counts both Obama and McCain as friends. Though he is pro-life, he is also equally if not more passionate about social issues such as justice for the oppressed, AIDS and the environment. He is part of a new breed of evangelical that is taking into account the totality of the Gospel message and finding more there than being anti-abortion and pro-family – much more.

As one who has been a part of the evangelical fold for most of my adult life (though I am becoming more and more uncomfortable with the label), I could not be more delighted with Warren’s entry into the faith and politics discussion. I was furious after the September 11 attacks when both Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said that America had, in essence, gotten what it deserved after years of moral decay. I was equally angered just a few weeks ago when James Dobson picked apart a speech Obama had made some two years earlier, calling into question his faith and his “fruitcake interpretation” of the Scriptures. Falwell never spoke for me and neither do Robertson or Dobson. I have often found their comments to be more divisive than helpful. We owe a debt of gratitude to those like Rick Warren who are bringing about civility not only among Christians, but all those who long for a more civil discussion and analysis of the political process. Something makes me think he took seriously the passage where Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”


P.S. There are those who might think I have a romantic or unrealistic approach to this. I have read other blogs where the writers are much more critical of the candidates than I, and in many instances, rightfully so. Those folks are probably a lot smarter and informed. I'll give them credit and take into account their opinions. These are just my thoughts to date for what they are worth.