01 December 2008

Training Week

Sitting in McCarran International Airport in Vegas on a layover on my way to training in Sacramento.

I am looking forward to the planned training. I was told that it was served "fire-hose" style - meaning that the information comes fast. On top of that, the rumor mill has it that there are two to three hours of homework each night, tests each day, and a final.

It has been a while since I was in some form of intensive training and I am looking forward to it.

Updates to come.

22 November 2008


My apologies to any readers out there. I am in the middle of a(nother) job transition and my mind has been focused on that. I promise posts coming soon.
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06 November 2008

So, who is he?

Mosaic of Presidential SealImage by webbmb via FlickrSo, you want to know the difference between where we should and should not be politically?

Remember 2000? Remember the recount after recount? Remember the Supreme Court stepping in and calling it over? (and then the Times doing their own recount? Oh yeah, I forgot, they never DID publicize the fact that W actually DID win)

Remember the "selected not elected" comments? How could you, they were being thrown around even after the 2004 elections where there was no doubt that Bush won.

The bottom line is that there was a part of the American public who just would not accept George W. Bush as "their" president.

And it's starting to happen again, but on the other side. Glenn Beck details exactly how I feel about this issue here where he speaks with a conservative that Glenn correctly labels as un-American.

Barack Obama is not the Democrat president. He is the President of the United States of America. He is my president.

This doesn't mean that I will be throwing out my values. Nor does it mean that I won't be screaming at my media outlet (TV, radio, computer, etc.) if he starts pushing things that I find asinine. But then I did the same thing with W.

Barack Obama is my president unless he does something to deserve removal from that position, and the Constitution has provisions for that. My job now is to be the loyal opposition. But, by god, if I travel out of the country, I will damn well defend my president instead of bashing him just to gain the favor of those outside the family, just like I did with the last Democrat president in 1993.

Our country was founded by people with diverse backgrounds who disagreed on many issues, but understood one thing - there must be unity. That is why the country's motto is

E Pluribus Unum.
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05 November 2008

Per My Promise . . .

Do you believe in change...?Image by carf via FlickrI promised that I would post today . . . specifically on my view of the Obama win. Here you go.

I think that there are a number of issues that fed into the win and here they are:

1. Race:

Yep, I went there. But probably not like you're thinking. I do believe that some African-Americans voted for Barack simply because of the color of his skin . . . just like there are Mormons who voted for Mitt Romney because of his religious affiliation.

I think that white guilt played a larger role, though, than the black population voting for one of their own. What do I mean by white guilt, you ask? I'm glad you did. White guilt is what drives the surreptitious telling of racial jokes. "How does every 'good' racial joke start? When one person in the group sticks his head up, looks around and then brings it back down with a guilty look." White guilt is what drives the phrase "some of my best friends are . . . " and you can insert your racial preference at the end. White guilt is what has allowed affirmative action to continue when when there may be issues that keep individuals from being successful, but race isn't one of them.

There was definitely a racial component to the Obama victory.

2. Marketing

There is a phrase in sales that has come to be considered a truism. All purchases are emotional. There is enough logic for people to justify their emotions, but the final decision is always based on emotion.

We just went through one of the most comprehensive marketing campaigns we have ever seen. And all good marketing pulls at the emotions of the people who are being pitched. Over the last several weeks I have been asking my liberal friends why they planned on voting for Barack. Every time the response was couched in phrases like "I feel like..." or "I believe that..." When asked to explain what they have to back up those feelings or beliefs, I was castigated as one who didn't understand, who was out of touch, who just didn't get it. I have one more example but it fits better in a following section but yes . . .

Barack Obama was marketed to the American people . . . and we bought.

3. Money

Again, this has both an obvious component as well as a less (for some people) visible one.

What we all know is that more money was spent on this race than any other in history. One source (that I can't verify so I'm only claiming anecdotal information here) says that the Obama campaign out fund-raised both Hillary and McCain combined. Whether he did or not, the amount of money spent by the campaign was astronomical.

But outside the the money in the campaign, we must also consider the money that other industries hope will come from Tuesday's result. Primarily I'm thinking about what has been come to be called "the old media." Both the major networks as well as print media have been steadily losing their market share to the "new media."

With the looming "fairness doctrine", that the Democrats have insisted that they will pursue, I believe they saw a chance to regain that which they have lost. The fairness doctrine will mean the end of AM talk radio. Radio stations will be required to carry shows that have contrasting points of view. The problem is that there just isn't the market for liberal talk radio. How can I make this claim? Look at Air America. They couldn't make a go of it because they just couldn't get the ratings to justify advertising prices that would have kept them afloat.

And the problem is that those same Democrats believe that the major networks provide a fair balance of information. Really? The reason that "new media" has flourished is that millions of Americans feel that the major news outlets don't acknowledge their views or even provide a balanced view of what is happening in the world.

And how can I say that the media pushed Barack on us? Compare the Couric interviews of Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. Sarah got lambasted because she doesn't read newspapers or magazines.

The horror.

Joe Biden talked about how, at the beginning of the great depression, FDR got on TV to help calm American's concerns. Problem? FDR wasn't the president at the beginning of the great depression and TV didn't exist. The result. Nothing, nic, nichevo, nada. He got a pass. That was just "good ole Joe, making a silly mistake again." Bull shit. Old media annointed thier savior and did everything they could to ensure that he was elected.

So, yes, money played a major role in the Obama victory

4. Education

And by edcuation I'm not referring to our structured education system. Rather I point to the fact that most people don't understand our system of government. Oh, I'm sure that most people could tell you that we have three branches of government and that those were instituted so that we could have checks and balances. No, I mean that, as a people, we don't understand - indeed I don't believe we have been taught or respect our system of government.

First, I'll start with the example I mentioned above. Recently at work the topic of Barack's citizenship came up. When asked my opinion I stated that I thought the issue was a non-starter. This really shocked those with whom I was chatting because there appears to be some decent information to show that he may not be a natural born citizen. Add to that he has done nothing to clarify the new charges and everything to obfuscate.

I made my point by calling over the resident Obama cheerleader - who (I feel) was treating this election no differently than any of the other sports that he follows. I briefly explained the issue and then aske what I think was the pertinent question. "If you found out that Barack was not a natural born citizen, would you vote for him anyway?" To his credit he didn't come back with an enthusiastic "YES." Rather, it was a challenge for him because that was one of the requirements of "the thing" but "if he could help make a difference in the country . . . ." Do you see my contention about education?

If that weren't enough, let's go to my bigger issue on this topic. I cringe when I hear people - especially politicians - talking about what the federal government should do for us. They have entirely missed how and why our federal system was structrued they way it is. The Constitution details what the federal government is supposed to do - and reserves most of the burden for the individual states. It then (in the Bill of Rights) it details (on purpose) what the federal government will not do to the citizens of the country.

In my understanding of the founder's view, they felt that everything should be done on the smallest level possible. The family should be responsible for doing everything they can on their own. There are just some things that individual families can't do. For example, they can't build sewer systems, or electrical power systems, or health care systems, or . . . well, you get the idea. So each consectutive level of government was supposed to take care of as much as they could and only when it just didn't make sense was a higher level of government involved.

The federal government should be in charge of the military. We don't need 50 individual armies running around, doing thier own things. It doesn't make sense for each individual state to make treaties with foreign governments. It does make sense that there be a body to arbitrate between individual states. I will even go so far as to say it is fine to have the federal government develop things like educational standards to ensure that our children remain competitive in the world. However, implementation should be at the state level, not the federal level.

This is a huge soapbox issue for me (as if you couldn't tell) so I'll hit more on this in a later post. For now it is enough to say that . . .

The lack of edcuation about how our system of government is designed to work played a role in the Obama victory.

5. True Believers

Finally, one thing that makes most conservatives different from most liberals I know is that conservatives acknowledge that liberals have a right to thier liberal viewpoints and don't denigrate them as unintelligent just because they don't believe the same way. I acknowledge that there are those who do understand for whom and for what they were voting.

I just don't believe that they had a major impact on the Obama victory.

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27 October 2008

My apologies

I apologize to anyone who was waiting on my Constitution post on Friday. I wish I had a decent reason. I simply shut down and went to bed when I got home. I'm shooting for this Friday.

24 October 2008

If only my choice could have this impact . . .

I will be posting my (new) Friday Constitution post later today. Until then, please watch the following courtesy of CNNBC (AKA moveon.org):

If only my not voting would have this result, I would gladly give up that right . . . for this year anyway.

23 October 2008

Another John Galt Post

Atlas ShruggedImage by K. Sawyer via FlickrI had an interesting intersection of two idea paths that lead me to believe that we are moving ever closer to the time that the productive people in America just up and leave.

The first was John Stossel's Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics that aired a few days ago. In the segment about farm subsidies John is interviewing a couple of House Representatives - most notably Shelia Jackson Lee. At the tail end of the segment John asks "If we need to subsidize food, then why not housing and food as well?" Shelia Jackson Lee's response says it all "Don't push us."

Compare that with this transcript from the Glenn Beck show where he is discussing "trophy kids." These are the millenials - the kids who grew up being told that everything they did was great. These are the kids who got trophies even when their team came in last.

Guess what? These kids are now coming into the work force - and they are shocked to find out that employers expect them to do a good job - that they don't get validated just for showing up. These kids now want their parents to come in and have a "sit down" with the employers to make sure that the employer knows just how good little jimmy is and how they better treat him right.

Perhaps we should protect jobs as well. They have in France. In large business in France it is so hard to fire an incompetent employee that some companies have entire floors of people who get paid to do nothing. Just show up and get paid.

I am just waiting for the anti dog-eat-dog legislation to be proposed.

It'll probably come from Shelia Jackson Lee.

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21 October 2008

Now I remember

Looks like it's gonna be a prolific post day.

Based on this video, I remember why I miss 1994.

I miss the Contract with America and the boldness of a man who could drive that vision. My hope is that we will be in a position for another "revolution" in 2010.

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Now I Remember . . .

Now I remember why yesterday's video was so concerning. It reminded me of the Soviet propaganda that I saw during the late 80's/early 90's, just updated. More recently, it reminded me of Vladimir Putin's propaganda from the last couple of years.

Enjoy the video of the former Communist turned "Kapitalist". I believe it to be a good follow up to the video from the former? Marxist turned . . . well, has he turned?

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20 October 2008

So very . . . disturbing

So very, very disturbing on so many levels. Like millions of voices crying out . . . .

All I can say is that I'm grateful that it didn't end with the standard "I approved this message" disclaimer

Oh, and if there was any question . . . I am not.

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A new tack

Second page of Constitution of the United States.Image via WikipediaSo, I've been listening to Glenn Beck lately. He's about the only radio talk show host I can stomach - probably because his slant is not about being conservative or liberal (even though he is obviously conservative). Rather it is that he is concerned about what is right for America. In fact he is my political Dr. Laura, if you will. Except I can listen to his show.

< Dr. Laura Tangent >
Please don't get me wrong. I love Dr. Laura and her perspective. I can't listen to her show because I always want to reach through the phone and strangle her callers. She is waaaaay more patient that I will ever be. Kudos to her. This is just in case someone who knows her well enough to read and tell her about my little blog (laughable) or in case she, herself, reads this blog (even more laughable - does anyone read this blog?) that they will understand my rant and (hopefully) take my comments in the spirit in which they are intended.
< /Dr. Laura Tangent >

Where was I? Oh, yeah, so I was listening to Glenn's (wow - look at me, being all informal here) show today while he was discussing the Constitution and how, in times of trouble, it is those that have not only read the Constitution but studied it along with the founders' writings to understand intent, that will be the leaders when things go to crap. And I agree with him that, eventually, things will go to crap. I just don't think that we are quite to the crap phase yet. (I could regale you with what I believe about the current situation, but then you'd think I was a conspiracy nut)

Back to the point. From now on I will be writing a Constitutional post once a week. I'm considering Friday, but I'll mull it over and get back to all one of you who read this fine, fine piece of work.

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17 October 2008

Sometimes the Socialists Learn

Freedom of Choice album coverAfter reading this article, you can see one reason why I am opposed to socialized health care initiatives.

The rundown for those who don't follow links:

Hawaii has just canceled their Universal Child Care initiative. Why, you may ask?

"People who were already able to afford health care began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free,"

Really? People will take advantage of a government program?

These programs only "work" in two places. On paper in Utopian dreams and in a strong socialist/communist system where everyone is required to participate.

The only socialized medical systems I know of that seem to remain functional without financially burdening their citizens are those that have a minimal universal health coverage that take care of major issues. Above and beyond that, people have to either pay for themselves or purchase their own.

I imagine it is possible for us to have some type of UHC in the US if we changed one aspect of our current governmental process. We would have to spend less than we take in. Then we could create an actual budget. Not a budget of "wow, we really need all these programs so we'll come up with the money somehow. That was the consumer failure side of the whole sub-prime mortgage issue.

No, in fact, if I were able to reform the whole system, here is what I would do if I could:

I would return to the original constitutional tax system. The federal government would only be allowed to pay for things that the individual states were unable to do effectively themselves - defense, postal systems, and setting national standards to be implemented and governed by the states. They would then levy taxes to the states to cover those costs. If the individual states felt strongly about specific programs such as UHC, social security, improving education, agriculture, providing breaks/incentives for business, etc. they could do so on their own.

I really am a strong believer in the concept that the farther away decisions are made from the individual people, the less input the people have on those decisions.

This also would allow people to move if they didn't like the way their state handled programs to another state that more closely matched their ideals. Current example: If the citizens of Massachusetts feel that their statewide UHC program has overly increased their tax burden and feel that their voice isn't heard in the states socialist political climate, they are free to move to somewhere on the other extreme . . . say . . . Wyoming. Or they can move to any other state that most closely meets their social, political, moral, etc. values.

If we had national UHC, there is no longer an option for the individual who feels that such socialism robs them of their liberty (like me).

Many of the far reaching federal programs fit this same mold. Education, for example. I have no problem with the federal government deciding that our children need to meet certain standards to be competitive in the world. Great. Set the standards then allow the states to implement and enforce those standards.

But Travis, what happens if the states don't implement or enforce <!--whine>

Simple - the children from those states don't have the advantage that those do who come from states who do implement/enforce.

<Whine>But Travis, that's not fair!

No, no it's not. But then neither is life. For some reason we have come to this bizarre mindset that things should work differently for human beings than for the rest of the world. Really, stop and think about what would happen if we did have a true economic failure. Those who have been sitting around whining about fairness will either figure out that life isn't fair or they will be crushed by those who are going to survive.

Under my model (and the founder's for that matter) life ends up being more fair than otherwise. If you don't like what is going on where you are and you can't effect change - move somewhere that is more in line with what you desire.

Your topic appropriate musical treat for today comes from DEVO. Enjoy

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16 October 2008

The answer to Obama's desire

John Maynard Keynes - Socialist Economist{{ru|Джон Мейнард Кейнс}}Image via WikipediaWhile speaking with "Joe the Plumber", he said that he didn't want to punish anyone's success but he wanted to make sure that those who helped him reach is success were able to share in the wealth.

Funnily enough, there is a mechanism in capitalism to ensure that this is the case. For a humorous view of this, please take a look at this Veggi-tales clip. You'll need to get past the opening scene until you get to the Yodeling Veterinarian of the Alps.

For those of you too stuffy to watch animated vegetables sing, the story is this:

There was a veterinarian in the alps who had gone a little crazy. His approach was to yodel to the animals that were brought to him. After the yodeling, the Vet's nurse would then (surreptitiously) let the clients know what they could do for their ailing pets. The clients would then call to thank the Vet profusely.

As the practice grew and the Vet gained success, the nurse eventually asked for a raise. The Vet said no. The nurse then exercised his power by not offering his advice to the clients . . . to a humorously disastrous result.

In the end, that is the power that all those who "help drive success" have. I don't argue that there are times where a business owner is successful in spite of himself - where his employees are the actual drivers of success. But this is the anomaly. Usually it is the business owner who not only took the risks and worked the hours to create his success but he is the one who used his discretion in hiring the employees to help increase that success.

Employment is a contract - a covenant, if you will - between employer and employee. The employer agrees to pay a specific amount to the employee for a specific job to be done. The employee agrees to do the specific job for the pay the employer offers. If, at some time, the job changes or the employee feels that they offer greater value than the employer is paying for, they have the option to renegotiate the contract or to find new employment. The employee ultimately holds the power. If they feel passionately about that job, they can encourage other employees to join them in negotiating or leaving - creating a crisis where the employer will either meet the demands or hire new employees.

This is the free market capitalist system. The business owner is not guaranteed success. The employee is not guaranteed a job. The system that guarantees such "rights" is called socialism at best and communism at worst.

I have seen first hand the effects of both socialism and communism. I differ from many on the fiscally conservative right in that I don't believe that the two are one and the same. I had the opportunity to live in post-communist Poland and see the lingering effects of that economic system. I saw people line up to buy things just because there was a line. The stories I heard about why people did that boggled my mind. They would buy whatever was being sold because they never knew when or if the item would be sold again. Even if they couldn't use it, they knew they could barter it with someone else who may (or may not) have something they needed. But they were guaranteed a job and they knew that they would have a job to go to.

My experience with socialism came from working with a subsidiary of a German software company. They had employees who, after a couple of years working at the company, decided that their work was too taxing and just stopped doing what they didn't want to do. When I asked the owner why the employee stayed or why he didn't fire the employee get someone else, he explained that the German system A) took 50% of the employee's pay to provide the wonderful social services but that those were only available at the full level as long as the employee remained employed and B) required the company to continue to pay the employee if they fired him, up until they found a new job. . . regardless of how long it took them to find the job. The owner would rather pay full price for half done work than pay twice for one employee to do the work and one non-employee to find, or not find, work.

Wow. I guess that is the basis for the "The World Owes Me"

Not for me. No thank you. I want to know that I am successful because I earned it, not because someone legislated that success and made sure that we all were exactly the same.

Be the same as everyone else if you want. Count me out.

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15 October 2008

Witold Pilecki

Witold Pilecki, Polish hero of Home ArmyImage via WikipediaToday I learned about one of the unsung heroes of WWII - Witold Pilecki.

Please take a few moments and learn a bit about a man who served his country and all mankind.

Krwia i blizna
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OMFG . . .

Dagny Taggart Where Are You?Image by NickStarr via FlickrOMFG, which stands for "Oh My Freaking Goodness" in my local parlance - as opposed to it's more popular sibling.

And why this reaction . . ?

"Community banking executives around the country responded with anger yesterday to the Bush administration's strategy of investing $250 billion in financial firms, saying they don't need the money, resent the intrusion and feel it's unfair to rescue companies from their own mistakes.

But regulators said some banks will be pressed to take the taxpayer dollars anyway." (reference)

Really? We are going to force banks to accept the money? I really like this quote from the article: Peter Fitzgerald, chairman of Chain Bridge Bank in McLean, said he was "much chagrined that we will be punished for behaving prudently by now having to face reckless competitors who all of a sudden are subsidized by the federal government."

This really does sound like we are punishing people for being successful. I really feel a John Galt post coming on.

I really recommend that those who haven't read "Atlas Shrugged" take the time. And don't feel bad about skipping John Galt's monumental speech later in the book. Everyone did.

My Concern is why we are forcing government help on people who don't want it. This moves us from a socialist position - where the government offers to "help" whether their help is the best solution or not, to communism - where by god (note the small "g") you WILL take our help, whether you want it or not.

I am disgusted that we have allowed our government to become an entity that robs us of our freedom to fail and learn our lessons from those failures.

And I continue to search for a way to positively impact my society as an individual.

Any ideas would be gladly considered.

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14 October 2008

Soapbox Time

Book cover of Yep, it's soapbox time. I really didn't have a topic for the day but one dropped itself nicely in my lap this evening.

So I've mentioned that I live in northern Utah, where the population is predominantly Mormon.

I remember dating a girl while I was serving in the Army who pointed out that the Mormons she knew were all nice. How accurate that statement is. Mormons are just nice. Much the way southern and Evangelical ladies are nice when they say "well bless your heart." Anyone who knows a southern belle knows how damning that phrase can be. Much like Sarah Palin recently shut down a heckler in a recent speech.

Mormons are a different type of nice. It is a self-effacing screw you type of nice. My case in point: Tonight I went to the local grocery store to pick up a can of whipped cream. As I'm hitting the checkout line a lady rushes to make sure that she was in front. I really didn't mind. I really wasn't in that big of a hurry. My family was waiting for me to return with the whipped cream so we could have it with the pumpkin pie slated for dessert.

As we move forward in the queue and she is the next in line, she sends her son to the far side of the store to grab a Pepsi for his brother. Recognize that I have only one item. The person behind me has two items, the person behind them has only one item. Rather than doing what I (and any considerate person) would have done and let others go ahead until her son returned, she allowed the checker to start ringing up her items. And we waited . . . and waited . . . and waited for her son to return.

The lady was obviously uncomfortable with the delay she was causing everyone. She started avoiding everyone's eyes and saying she was sorry. Indeed, she was very nice. And so was I. I suffer from the same affliction of being nice.

I wish I could be more like my friend John. I don't know if it is because he is Australian, or because he is an "A" type personality. Regardless, I know that his response to the lady's claim to being sorry would have been "no, you are not. If you were truly sorry, you would do something to remedy the situation. You would have thought ahead and allowed others to go ahead until your son returned. So, no, you aren't sorry."

But, golly, she sure was nice.
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13 October 2008

Oingo Boingo Had it Right

This video details some (probably not all) of my concerns about Barak’s fiscal policies.

He is speaking with a small business owner (the plumber) who asks him a pertinent question “Your plan will raise my taxes, won’t it?” Barak avoids the question by saying “It’s not that I want to punish your success, I just want to make sure that everyone that is behind you, that they have a chance to share in the wealth.”

His words resonate with the everyman who feels he is lower on the totem pole. Of course that wealth should be spread around, shouldn’t it? The problem is that it doesn’t take into account that it is the small business owner who takes the risk. He is the one who puts up his own money or gets the credit to get his business running. He is the one who has to make sure that resources are available. He is the one who has to make sure that all the bills are paid. He is the one who has to make sure his employees are trained and are doing what it takes to generate the income to cover all the expenses and (gasp) make a profit.

What Barak (and all Utopian liberals) are describing is Marxist theory the redistribution of wealth. The problem with communism, or socialism for that matter, is that it is an impossible utopia that depends on everyone involved be altruistic – to care as much about everyone else as they do themselves. This denies the reality of human nature.

Maslow’s hierarchy describes how humans value, starting with survival and working towards self-actualization. I believe there is a similar hierarchy for the way humans react socially. At the core, at the survival level, they are concerned only about themselves. They then care about those they have accepted as a family unit. I use accepted because some people have a closer familial relationship with individuals who are not biologically related to them. From here, the concern is for the local community, and it spirals out to regional, national, and global levels, as they perceive each previous level is resolved.

I believe that there is a recent mutation of this concept in the liberal community where, for some reason, there is a new self-loathing. We see this in the “hate humans first” crowd – those who think that humans are the cause of all of the ills in the world; in the “hate America first” crowd – those who think that all of the world’s ills are due to the existence of the US’s capitalist foundation. We even have a “hate Christian’s first” crowd and a “everything that is not the status quo is better” crowd.

This doesn’t mean that the current politico-economic system in the US is perfect. In fact, I believe that Adam Smith would be spinning in his grave if he saw how things are working now. Smith’s theory presupposed a connection between private enterprise and the local community. I see why my liberal friends are disgusted when we see politicians selling out just to stay in power and corporations doing whatever they desire, regardless of who it hurts.

That being said, socialism isn’t the answer. When we place a burden on the small businessmen of America, we do exactly what Barak said he didn’t want to do – we punish their success. In my mind, if government wants to socially engineer business so that they “spread the wealth to those that back them”, they should do so by giving them incentives to do so, not by taking away that which they have earned through their risks. Oh, wait, that’s corporate welfare, now isn’t it? Hmmm, I’ll have to ponder that one.

Oh, and click the Boingo album cover for a musical and philosophic treat.
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12 October 2008

Back in the Saddle

I apologize for anyone who has checked this blog over the last several weeks. Like just about everyone I know, I have the sense that I am overwhelmed with everything required of me.

My life looks like this: I am married; we have five children; I work full time as an Intel contract employee I go to school at the University of Phoenix; I have a calling in my ward (Troop Committee Chairman); I am struggling to control my blood sugar, blood pressure, and my activity level; my wife and I recently finished Financial Peace University and am now writing budgeting software because the course was life changing but I can't stand the budgeting tools I've seen; I should be reading my scriptures and meditating; I should be improving my brain by reading from the best books; and I committed to blogging.

I'm sure I'm leaving something out of the list.

That being said (typed), I also recognized that I was wasting a huge amount of time doing frivolous stuff. Not that I'm opposed to frivolous. But it seemed to be dominating a great deal of my time (damn you, hulu).

So I went back to planning methodologies I have used in the past. I will be working on and adapting my new process over the next couple of weeks. I'll keep you posted with how that goes.

All this to say that I have repented - my I have turned my heart back to where it once was. I will be writing something on a daily basis. I'm looking forward to see where all of this goes. I hope you are too.

11 August 2008

Doctrine, Policy and Tradition

This is my first foray into a deeper subject. As is ButtonGear, I am also a member of the predominant local denomination. Also like ButtonGear, I don't fit the local mold. Primarily because I am not a Utah Mormon.

I think that all of us, at one time or another - regardless of religious background, go through a phase where we question everything we have been taught. I think this hits those of us in the LDS community more heavily than others as we have some pretty odd beliefs . . . in comparison to the rest of the Christian community.

One thing I re-discovered in my search was a concept that my father explained to me as I was much younger. The church (and all churches I suppose) operates on three legs: Doctrine, Policy, and Tradition.

As I understand it, the doctrine of a religious community is comprised of those core issues they feel are requisite for salvation. All organizations, regardless of type, require policies to operate smoothly. As organizations mature, traditions grow and are the spice or flavor of the community.

As my father explained, policy and tradition can (and will) change. The doctrine remains as the core of the church. Problems arise when people start equating policy or tradition as doctrine. Some topics that often arise: "Coke (Pepsi, Dr Pepper, Mt. Dew) - are you going to hell for drinking it" or "White shirts - mandatory wear for all worthy priesthood holders?

The challenge becomes greater because of the tradition where anything said over the pulpit at General Conference is now scripture. On that same plane, if the Prophet makes a statement, it must be doctrine.

Bupkis! Brigham Young said that those of African heritage wouldn't receive the priesthood until the millennium. I loved President Hinckley. He was a Prophet of God. I also know that there are times that Gordon Hinckley's opinion came across the pulpit in conference or when he was conversing with Larry King.

So, the point of all this?

To my knowledge, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings one concept to the table that I haven't seen anywhere else. The concept that you shouldn't base your beliefs on anyone's say-so. We believe that you should consult your Heavenly Father with your questions and he will answer. Quite frankly, that is why I am here. I took Moroni's challenge but did so differently. My initial concerns weren't whether the Book of Mormon was true or whether Joseph was the Lord's prophet. I needed to know that there was a God. If not, nothing else mattered. If so, then I would continue the search.

So, I asked and got answers. The answers I received were not quite the answers I expected or even wanted. I know that there is a God and that he is my Heavenly Father. I know that He sent His Son Jesus the Christ and that he was anointed to atone for the sins of the world. That is the foundation for my testimony. This created a level of pain because I knew that it meant that I needed to change my life.

Back to the point. The process I followed is part of LDS doctrine. There is a God and you can converse with him to find out his will for your life. That is an example of doctrine. That we practice the ordinance of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper is doctrine. The apparel of those officiating in that ordinance is policy based traditional. The bread and water used in that ordinance are policy based and traditional. I imagine that, in a worst case scenario, we could even use a caffeinated beverage in place of the water should the need arise.

Again I have probably overwritten. This has given me something to think about, though. Where is the division in the LDS faith between doctrine, policy, and tradition? The church helped cover this somewhat in 2007 with a press release entitled "Approaching Mormon Doctrine" ).

Me too ... two?

The blog you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the nerdy.

For the sake of relative anonymity, I'll refer to myself as ButtonGear.

It's probably not a GREAT disguise, but it will do.

My participation in this Blog is actually in opposition to the desires of my wife. Rather recently, I started a personal Blog and at a family gathering, someone mentioned it openly - which I assumed to be no particular issue. My wife, however took great issue with my blogging.

In short, she expressed that bloggers are silly slackers who peddled their worthless opinions, thereby wasting their time and efforts. A "real" writer would be paid for his words and efforts, not "give it away for free." She made it clear that - since I was at least college-educated, had a fairly good vocabulary and am a reasonable communicator - the definition of a blogger and her definition of me was completely incompatible.

Certain members of my family were amazed that I immediately "tucked my tail between my legs," as it were and simply said, "ok," since I had publicly argued with her about far less important issues. I just felt it was not worth the argument.

However, after some thought and encouragement from others, I decided to accept the invitation to participate in this blog ... anonymously ... for now.


Mostly because I feel that I have something to say -- even if I never make an intelligible point; even if no one reads or cares about the words I string together; even if my wife feels it would be far to degrading for me to spout my observations and opinions of life, the universe and everything.

So ... Briefly: Who am I?

I'm an about-forty-something white heterosexual Christian male with 3 kids, a wife and a mortgage. I live in Northern Utah, where despite being (I believe) a faithful member of the local predominant religion, I feel I break the "local mold" (read: tradition) by having original thoughts and opinions about subjects ranging from the origins of life and the universe to politics and religion.

My education consists of public schooling, a B.A. in Communication, a 2-year volunteer ecclesiastical mission to Germany, and (at the risk of sounding trite) the school of medium-hard knocks. I am not a great lover of literature or graphic arts, but I am (mostly) a self-taught musician who enjoys a rather eclectic assortment of musical styles. I even compose a little myself.

I have struggled over the years to define myself both professionally and politically. I consider myself relatively conservative, but have recently found that I have very small but curious outcroppings of what can be considered liberal leanings (like perhaps unions are not the minions of Satan).

... I will likely pontificate on my various belief systems as this blog progresses.

In short, I find myself at a number of crossroads in my life and I find this blog a fortuitous forum in which, not only to share my beliefs, but to document my journey of self. I am grateful for the invitation and opportunity to participate.

08 August 2008


So, I have been working on the foundation for this blog now for a while. After speaking with those currently involved, I updated the description of the blog and gave a brief description of the purpose of the blog.

Part of my challenge is that there are so many topics that are important to me that I don't really quite know where to start.

I did get some good advice from a blogger whose work I really enjoy. His site is http://www.bigredkitty.com/. It is definitely a topical site and doesn't touch what I or my co-writers will be discussing, but his information about blogging was priceless. Here is the gist of it, modified so that it isn't quite as specific to the topic of his blog:

1. Don't re-post from other sites without adding something of your own.
2. Don't steal ideas.
3. Make more whitespace: Massive chunks of text turn people off. Break up the paragraphs.
4. Focus: Once you find your niche, write about those issues. Your fans will get upset if you write about non-topical issues.
5. Don't worry about your niche, people will come based on your topics, but they will stay based on your writing style.
6. Don't write for the readers: Worry about your writing not the readers, the readers will come.
7. Write frequently: Once per week isn't going to cut it. The more you write, the better you'll get, and the more people will visit you to see what you have to say today. Daily, if at all possible. Schedule posts for the future if you can.
8. Adapt and evolve. If your audience doesn't want X anymore, don't give them X unless it is a core issue for you.
9. Don't change just for change's sake. Your blog has to meet a minimum readability standard, absolutely. But people will read you for your words, not your background image.
10. Love what you do. Your blog is for you . If you think it's for someone else, it becomes a job. Jobs stink and so will your blog.

/Thanks Daniel

Finally, to wrap up this entry, some personal information.

I am married with five (yes, I said five) kids. Quite happily married, by the way. We recently moved to Utah from Southern California. I really miss California. The move came because I have had some great employment experiences, many of them well above my education level.

Early in life someone said one doesn't need a degree to be successful in life. I lived that concept with a level of pride. I even have empirical evidence of this . . . I am amazed by the number of people who either educated idiots or are borderline useless but are validated in life because they are "educated".

While I still believe this is true (I will put what I've learned through my non- standard education path up against that of at least 80% of those who would be considered "educated"), I also recognize that there is definitely a Boy Scout mentality to the employment world. By that I mean that you have to have earned the correct merit badges in order to advance to the next rank. It became clear to me as I was managing one of the largest construction companies of its type in California as the housing market started to crash, that I would need a degree to really move my career forward.

So we loaded up the truck and we moved from Beverly . . . Long Beach, CA actually. Talk about an ego hit. As my wife and I looked at our life, we realized that we were far from where we needed to be. So, we cut our expenses drastically, moved in with family and are changing our lives to live prosperously. This means that I am back in school. We are digging out of debt (in another post I'll blog about Financial Peace University). We are working at choosing to act rather than be acted upon by external forces thus gaining control of our lives.

That's probably way too much so I'll end for now.

18 July 2008

Welcome to the Grey Ranks

The format of the Grey Ranks blog is being developed. It will be a collaborative effort of a few individuals who feel strongly about their community and what is happening in it. We hope you enjoy reading what we have to share.

For this first post, I wanted to explain the blog title and, with it, an idea of why we are blogging. The best description of who the Grey Ranks were comes from wikipedia:

Grey Ranks (Polish Szare Szeregi) was a codename for the underground Polish Scouting Association (Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego) during World War II. The organisation was created on September 27, 1939, actively resisted and fought German occupation until January 18, 1945 in Warsaw and largely contributed to all resistance actions of the Polish Underground State and some of its members (Grupy Szturmowe) were among the best trained troops of the Home Army. source

There is a good deal more that maybe I'll cover in one of my posts later on.