Be Where You Are

An article has made the rounds on all flavors of social networking between all my theater friends.  It involves a guy who got so fed up with a fellow audience member’s cell phone use during a live performance, that he actually made quite a scene by removing the device from the woman, damaging the device, and publicly shaming her.

I’ve been in several live performances where cell phones went off.  I was in one memorable performance where a performer stopped, bowed their head, waited for the cell phone to be silenced, and then continued on.  Nothing can be so destructive to live theater – especially to a live drama – as a ringtone. 


What is the problem?  I’m not asking this rhetorically.  I’m literally asking – what is the problem with using a cell phone in a theater?  Why is this in such bad taste, especially in a live performance?

I believe it comes down to a single answer: it signals you don’t want to be where you are.

See, whatever is on the other end of that phone is more important than the person singing their guts out for you on stage, more important than the pretty girl you brought with you as a date, more important than the $200 you spend on tickets, and more important than being courteous to the people around you.  Is there a reason you can’t just stop it and be where you are?

Studies have shown that humans are actually terrible at multi-tasking.   (Yes, you too, women.)  We can really only focus on one thing at a time.  If you are staring at your phone, you really aren’t listening to your wife (sorry, sweetie) – and you most definitely aren’t really taking in the full experience of the offering that’s being given on a live stage.

So this is my new movement.  We have “slow food” and “eat local” – and now I present to you Be Where You Are.

And we can take this further than just the theater.  If you’re on a date, be on that date.  If you’re at dinner, be at dinner.  If you’re enjoying TV with your spouse, be with her.  I don’t think life will stop if you briefly read a TXT message or check an email, but you might just want to consider putting the device away, shutting off work for the day, and being somewhere else.

I’m going to try to do better at this.

Want to Fix Health Care? Create a New Donut Hole!

I have a new idea for fixing health care in the US, and <shocker> it’s not socialized medicine!  In fact, it has a lot to do with something we all love and is totally unhealthy for us:



As we look for solutions to the Medicare crisis in America, most politicians completely oppose reforming the current Medicare system.  Especially during election time, the first words out of any politician’s mouth are “for current seniors, there will be no change in benefits.”  If this is truly a fiscal crisis (as national debt hawks purport), then this approach does nothing to solve the near term problem.  Medicare costs will continue to rise 6-10% per year until they bankrupt our entire economic system.

But why are medical costs rising exponentially when health care itself only gets slightly better each year?  It’s because current insurance programs, Medicare included (and as the largest), obfuscate the true economic cost of health care.  Providers are raising their prices and insurers (including Medicare) are increasing payments year after year.  This grows unbounded because there is no consumer visibility, and no consumer pressure to lower costs.  When you need to go to the hospital, you don’t shop around for it, you go to the nearest ER or the facility your physician practices at and your insurance covers.

And here’s my new, revolutionary plan to fix this: create a new, better donut hole!

What do I mean by creating a donut hole?

Remember all that chatter about “closing the donut hole” in Medicare Part D?  Put simply, in the initial Medicare Part D, the cost of the first $2900 of prescription medications were paid for by Medicare.  Once the total cost of your annual prescriptions passed $2900, you paid 100% of the cost of the drugs until you reached $4900, at which time Medicare once again would cover your costs.  That gap in coverage was referred to as the “donut hole.”

I’m thinking we need a HUGE new donut hole in Medicare – TOMORROW!  And the donut hole should be set up something like this:

For seniors reporting income of some number (let’s say $75,000 or less/year), their Medicare remains unchanged.  In fact, their Medicare benefits increase the less money they make, such that seniors living exclusively on Social Security have full, 100% coverage.

For seniors reporting medical expenses of OVER $75,000/year, every dollar over that amount is similarly 100% paid for by Medicare.

For seniors with healthy retirement incomes (let’s say above $75,000/yr) Medicare is phased out and you have to pay every dollar of your own health care up to some out-of-pocket maximum.  (maybe, to keep it simple, let’s say over $75,000 – the key is to cover catastrophic illness and hospitalization, not every trip to the primary care physician and to the pharmacy).

This new, educated, well-connected, wealthy class of seniors who are now suddenly responsible for paying for their own health care will  begin to actively work to reduce their medical costs!  They will shop around for care, carefully plan care costs where possible, and they will drive down the cost of the whole system by applying market forces.  

This plan, if you read it carefully, has several features:

  1. It protects the poor and middle class from having to choose between eating and paying the rent and getting the health care they need.  The poor and middle class are taken care of.
  2. It protects everyone from catastrophic economic hardship/loss from unexpected or devastatingly expensive diseases/disease management.  (The true intention of traditional insurance)
  3. It opens up the system to market pressure from a very powerful and well-connected demographic of customers.

Yes, maybe they’ll have to take fewer cruises to the Galapagos Islands, but hey – they were the ones who created this mess and I don’t see why I should be the one to have to pay for it when a good number of them have plenty of resources to pay for it by themselves.  🙂

The Way Forward on Guns

OK. I’m ready to talk about the guns thing now.

First of all, thank you to everyone for laying off for a few days. I know it’s old-school, but we really all should take a breath and mourn the tragic loss of these young lives before we delve into too deeply into this political minefield that is loaded (pun intended) with emotion.

As I frequently do, I feel a little like I’m straddling a chasm here.  I grew up in rural America.  My family is a gun-owning family, and we target shoot for fun during our family activities.  I was brought up to both use and respect firearms from a young age.  I distinctly remember as a child being taught to shoot a .22 rifle by my Dad.  I remember being so frustrated because I couldn’t see down the scope because I didn’t know how to place my eye in relationship to the scope.  I have also lived in the 2nd largest city in the world, and was held up at gunpoint in that city by drugged out idiots who were just looking for money.  I currently live in DFW – one of the most crime-filled cities per capita in the nation.  And despite the healthy appetite for guns here, it hasn’t stopped crime or given anyone more of a feeling of societal security.

With that as a backdrop, I think the gun-owning public needs to just calm down a bit. No one is sending federal agents to go collect all your firearms. Rest easy knowing that the 2nd amendment has been very recently interpreted by SCOTUS to be a protect of the individual’s right to own weapons.

This does not mean we shouldn’t more closely regulate the gun trade. There are many practical things we can do to make getting weapons, ammunition, and associated paraphernalia harder. The automobile analogy floating around Facebook is quite good: we go to great lengths as a society to identify, regulate, tax, license, and track auto sales in this country, it is silly to think that we could not do so with weapons, especially the most dangerous kind that are uniquely designed for killing people.  I applaud’s taking down of their Guns section of their popular classified ads.  I support closing the gun show loophole.  I even support laws, similar to what California has, requiring all private party gun transactions to be run through a registered gun dealer.  I suspect I support going deeper and tighter with these regulations than most of my conservative friends would agree with.  So be it.  I know we’ll never stop guns from getting into the wrong hands (save your breath and keystrokes), but we can put up enough checks, rechecks, roadblocks and barriers that it becomes a burden to anyone who doesn’t have a clean record, a good deal of patience, and money – just as it is to get a car.

But the mere existence of guns isn’t the issue.  What can we do about the obsession and adoration of violence in this country? I believe that no one is born a psychopathic killer, and at some point in their lives, the idea of senseless, wonton violence had to be implanted into their minds. For me, this extends to the obsession some have with collecting weapons. I say obsession, because for a small, vocal minority it is more than a hobby, more than an interest, more than a right to self-defense; it is a weird obsession with having the most dangerous, outlandish, diverse collection of armaments known to man. I’m not talking about having somewhat of a museum, I’m talking about having somewhat of an arsenal. We don’t need that. It doesn’t help anything.  And the fact that talk of their arsenal monopolizes conversation with pretty much everyone they meet in whatever context (work, church, little league, etc), leads me to wonder about their mental health…

… and speaking of mental health…

We can all be more cognizant of those who are among our families and friends who suffer from mental illness. Several heartbreaking articles have been written in the past few days of parents who fear this is the future for their mentally ill child, and who have no recourse other than to wait for the child to commit such an heinous act. This world has a terrible history of treating the mentally ill, with unthinkable “treatments” being practiced well into the 20th century. I pray that in the 21st century can lead to as many breakthroughs in mental health as the 20th century had in physical health.

One specific thing I have to mention is regarding the sentiment that the solution to the insecurity of our schools is to arm every teacher and principal and janitor in the school.  Really?  I don’t think this is an effective use of our teacher’s capacity.  Many will not be comfortable with it, many are not capable, and I simply dont’ think it’s a good idea for your teacher to be wearing a holster.  Our teachers are in the schools to educate, engage, and enlighten young minds.  This is not prison and they are not the prison guards (as much as some schools resemble that nowadays). They are not there to babysit and are not there to bodyguard.  If more protection of our schools through the presence of firearms is what we really think is necessary to protect our kids, we need trained policemen/security in the buildings – not a ragtag, adhoc training of some kindergarten teachers to be prepared at any time to switch from reading Goodnight Moon to her class to capping a stranger who walks through her door in a long trenchcoat.

That about sums it up. I’m sure all of you found something to hate in there, and you probably won’t hesitate to tell me about it. 🙂 Whether you agree or disagree, can we at least agree that now is not the time to do nothing? Can we agree that the status quo – of having so many of these tragic mass shooting among our most vulnerable citizens – is untenable and must change? Let’s agree to agree on that, and move on from there.

Ron’s Retirement

Last weekend, we took a whirlwind trip to Houston to attend a retirement party for Audrey’s dad.  Ron retired from ConocoPhillips after 36 years of dedicated service.  We are very happy for him and proud of his accomplishments – foremost of which is staying with one company for so long and thriving through every up and down.  (At one count, he said he had made it through about 20 layoffs)

I’ll admit, I’m a little jealous that he gets to sleep in as long as he wants every morning and work on whatever he wants all day with no deadlines looming and no manager hovering over his shoulder.  Only 29 more years until I cross that threshold!  🙂


The Brauns

When I first moved to Dallas, one of the first people I met was Tamara Braun.  She and I were both invited over to our new bishop’s house for dinner one Sunday after church.  At the time, I was blissfully naive that such a thing was probably a setup by the bishop’s wife.  I just thought it was nice to get to know someone who was also new to the ward.

Fast forward a few months and a guy named Adam  moved in to our ward.  At that time, I was the elder’s quorum president, and I remember being impressed with him and thinking what a great asset he would be to our quorum.  He stood out in stark contrast to the “bug boys” who were there for the summer to pillage and plunder all they could.  Before anyone knew it (and quite surreptitiously – I assure you), Adam and Tamara were dating – then engaged – and before any of us knew it we were helping Adam move into their new apartment in Carrollton.

Several months passed without much thought of the Brauns.  I figured I probably wouldn’t see much of this great couple ever again, as was fairly common when making the transition out of the singles ward and into the world-of-the-marrieds.  However, due to a mutual friend and a group dinners at the Canary Cafe, the friendship was rekindled between myself and the Brauns – partly due to my small obsession with American Idol (see various posts from 2006-2010).  So, partly due to Simon Cowell, I was seeing a lot of the Brauns and we struck up a great friendship once more.

The Brauns were there through thick and thin.  Most particularly, they were there for the day when I plopped down on their couch and described a new girl in the ward who was clearly “out of my league”, but who I was trying hard to muster the courage to take a shot at.  Many pep-talks and dating-advice-sessions later, that girl who was totally out of my league became my wife.  Not that the credit is due to any single individual or entity, but the Braun family surely earned their portion.

The Brauns were one of our only/early “couple” friends.  We got to enjoy their war stories, and they enjoyed ours.  We got to love on their three beautiful daughters as they came along, and they got to love on our son when he was born.  Heck, we even share the same OBGYN, for crying out loud!  (On their recommendation.)

Why the sentimental history lesson?  Well, the Brauns are leaving us and moving to Arizona.

Tonight we got to say goodbye to them, and it really sucked.  I suppose since I spent most of the last decade being the one moving away from others – and looking forward to where I was headed – I haven’t had many experiences of being the one left behind to pick up the pieces, which feels totally different.

While I’ve been trying to tell myself that, in our connected world, we have so many ways to stay close even while far apart, it still hurts a bit to know that a couple of people who were such a big part of our life won’t be a stone’s throw away anymore.  No more quickie trips to InO.  No more American Idol watching parties (as if it’s worth watching anymore).  No more watching our kids play together as we solve each other’s problems and share our personal dilemmas.

We’ve penciled in some time to see them next year, and they reassure us they are returning in 2-3 years, but it still stinks.

However, Arizona people, your state is gaining the world’s coolest family.  Good luck you guys, and we’ll see you soon!


The Big Board

A few nights ago, I laid in bed enumerating to myself all of the little projects that have been festering around our house.  Feeling a bit overwhelmed, the next night we sat down with our big whiteboard and listed everything we could think of on the board and placed the Staples “Easy” button beneath it.  Every day something must get checked off, and every time you check something off you get to hit the easy button.

Everything on the list is a project that has gone neglected for a certain amount of time.  Nothing is a chore, or something that has to be done on a recurring basis (i.e. “clean bathrooms” is not on there).

Yesterday, we had a good start.  We checked 5 items off the list.  Granted, they were some of the easiest ones, but it gave us a good head start and only required TWO trips to Lowes!

For example, a tree that Audrey and I planted in our back yard shortly after we got married looked as though it had died, and yet only a year later, from the roots, have sprung about 4-6 new “trees”.  They grew quickly and are now almost as tall as the old trunk before it died, but it looks like a hideous shrub, not like any kind of tree.  It needs pruning and shaping badly, and the old trunk that still grows up the center needs to be removed.

Another good example is the hand towel hanger in our bathroom.  I think it lasted for 6 months before it got pulled out of the wall, leaving a huge hole in the drywall.  For 6 years I’ve been staring at that hole every morning, and it’s time to FIX IT!

We’ve also been talking about enhancing our back yard for over 5 years, and about remodeling our office for about 2 years.  The office was one of the major things we were going to do this year, and here it is – November – and it’s not even started.

So, it’s time to get off our duffs and get moving on stuff.  We are a very busy family, but we need to get this list completely checked off!  Hopefully, in a few weeks, I can update this blog with all the great, shiny new improvements we’ve made around here.  Time for action, or as Audrey would say – DRIVER MODE!

Thoughts Before Election Day

I think I can speak with the majority in saying that we will all be glad when this is over and we can all go back to being friends again, and that’s probably the last thing I’ll say in this blog that the “majority” of you will agree with.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that a different 47% of you will agree with every other sentence of this blog, depending on who your guy is.  It’s strange to see how divisive politics has become, and how absolutist both sides are in their dread/elation for their candidate losing/winning.  Fear is a powerful tool in political campaigns, and it’s been dispatched in massive quantities in this election on both sides.

Tomorrow will come, however, and barring some silly reenactment of 2000, we will have a new President-Elect by tomorrow night (or early Wednesday morning).  We’ll all wake up, put our pants on one leg at a time, and go to work/school/playgroup/group-therapy (or whatever your schedule happens to feature on Wednesday).  No matter who wins, I’m going to safely predict that the world will not stop turning on its axis, and the United States will not fall into the ocean.  Sure, social media will be awash in both the agony of defeat and the ecstasy of victory, but shortly after that will come a moment when everyone will forget that, for the last 6 weeks to 6 months, we’ve been watching the strangest political contest ever.

The madness started with the Republican primary in which 8-10 people pandered mercilessly to an ultra-conservative, ideologically-driven party base.  I thought this clown-of-the-week contest hit a new low when Michelle Bachmann said, with a straight face, that TWO parallel fences between here and Mexico would be good immigration policy.  Surely, if one fence is good, two fences would be better.  Do I hear three?  Four?  Five?  Each candidate, not willing to be out-flanked by the other swung righter and righter until there was no more right to be had.

Then, when everyone else ran out of money, Mitt Romney was finally declared victor.

Then, the real race began.  And the real money started pouring in.  Before this is said and done, $1,000,000,000 will have been spent on this presidential campaign.  That’s 1 billion dollars that people and corporations pulled out from their own money, trying to buy power and influence in Washington.  (Citizens United was the worst thing that could have possibly happened to campaign finance, and I can’t believe we sit by so passively and let it stand.)  We should be absolutely disgusted by this.  This is money that could pay for things people really need.  This is money that could go to really good use.  Instead it is spent on the world’s weirdest beauty pageant.

After Mitt becomes the presumptive nominee, all the etch-a-sketch talk began.  When would Mitt reintroduce himself to the public?  (As if the “public” wasn’t watching the whole time during the ugly primary) And could he actually shake the etch-a-sketch hard enough to erase hours of debate footage of him signing up to a Tea-Party tailored platform?  Well, it happened in the debates, where Mitt suddenly went from being a “severe conservative” to every undecided’s favorite moderate.  Suddenly there was a new injection of nuance into the picture that had been missing for the last year or more.

This is to say nothing about President Obama, who has marauded around the country for the last year offering no real agenda for a next term, and campaigning on a “the devil you know beats the devil you don’t” platform.  I partly understand that this may be – because he has no legislature to work with.  Clearly the current debt crisis we are in was pushed until after the election in order to “read” the people and hope that someone (Republican or Democrat) got a clear mandate from the voter box on what the public wanted.

Which leads me to wonder: is our government becoming too democratic?  Is the power too close to the people?  Part of the genius of the American system was that a representative democracy (or republic, if you prefer) would transfer the burden of government and leadership into a specialist occupation for statesmen to represent the best interests of their constituents – as opposed to a pure democracy in which majority rules on every issue.

Perhaps the information age has minted leaders who are too tuned in to their constituents, too cognizant of the micro-politics of their decisions, and too wrapped up in the day-to-day workings of the government.  There was a great piece earlier this year (sorry, I can’t find the reference right now) on the affect that CSPAN has had on the Congress since it’s introduction.  The number of floor speeches to an empty chamber has skyrocketed since it’s introduction.  Congressmen appear more often for the camera than they do to actually vote.

Is this wise, though?  President Obama brought a new commitment to transparency to government, pledging to create website after website that would make data easily accessible, including expenditures from the Stimulus package (  But has it been effective?  The net effect has been more data to spin, more opinions to be had, and less clarity on what is actually going on.

Congress is now worried about winning news cycles and driving fundraising and winning more elections.  There simply are not enough hours in the day to spend time governing after you’ve spent most of it fundraising and appearing for cameras.

Perhaps we are migrating too far away from the representative democracy, or republic, that our founders intended – where Americans could blissfully go about their lives, and check in at the polls periodically – every few years – to provide course corrections as to who should represent them in that democracy.  The statesmen elected would go about doing what was right for the country and in our best interest, with the checks and balances on power from the other branches of government, and the ultimate check of the ballot box.

I think we’ve become too smart for our own good, and the information age is ruining the effectiveness of government.  We see this most evident in Congress, with its historically low approval ratings and a sensitivity to the proclivities of their constituencies that seems unprecedented.

Just a thought there.  Lots more to think about in that vein, but running out of juices here and want to get to the good stuff…

So where do I stand on this year’s election?  (If you’ve made it this far, you probably deserve to know)

I don’t think President Obama is the devil incarnate, and I think he’s been a decent President.  Not the best, but – by far – not the worst.  I think, in the longrun, he will be viewed as a less-controversial President (in terms of policy) than even George W Bush.  I don’t think his Presidency has been a complete disaster.  Sure, he made some mistakes, the foremost of which was to pick healthcare, a “legacy” issue (an issue so politically divisive that it could potentially sink his reelection), as the focus of his first term, but there have been some good things, too.

On foreign policy, I think the President has doen a decent job at the 40,000 ft view (and so does Mitt, since in the debate he seemed to agree in substance with about 90% of what the President said).  Sure, there are going to be disagreements at the 10,000 and 500 foot level – and it’s a little comical to watch the debate at that level in terms of who loves Israel the most (gag me with a steam shovel) – but all-in-all I can’t say that there isn’t much daylight between the candidates on foreign policy, which the 3rd debate made painfully obvious.  Obama ended a costly and protracted war in Iraq and is winding down a second in Afghanistan, all while doubling down on disrupting terror networks and terror cells, increasing the controversial drone attacks, and – of course – he got Bin Laden.

On the economy, I don’t think President Obama has done a great job.  He’s done a passable job.  What I want to believe is that our economy is rebuilding slower and more carefully because that will lead to a healthier economy.  We do not want to replace a housing bubble with another bubble!  We need an economy based on sound business: production of goods, protection of intellectual property, and an ethical and transparent financial sector.  I think we are working on getting all the bad guys out of each one of those – especially #3 – but the recovery has not been fast enough for the political timeline, and Obama has not done enough to respond to business’ concerns about the regulation and taxes – leading to this “regulatory uncertainty” that may be artificially slowing growth.

I also don’t think Mitt is a robot from the planet of Corporate Automatons   I think he’s a pragmatist running in an ideological party, which is the root of why he’s looked like a fish out of water for the last 5 years of his campaign.  He wants to look like he cares deeply about things like contraception, but I don’t think he really does and I don’t think they will be centerpieces of a Romney presidency.  I think he would be a decent, problem-solving President.

A new guy in the White House could have some advantages, though.  I believe that a Romney presidency could reset relations between the Executive Branch and Congress, and that the legislative skids could possibly get enough grease for compromise to reign in the Senate once more, if Romney can strongly keep the Tea Partisans onboard and convince them that “compromise” is really not a dirty word.  (It’s what the Senate should be all about!)  I think the “regulatory uncertainty” that has been hovering over the market will ease a bit, and we may see more injection of capital into the market with a Romney presidency.

However, I’m not comfortable with the tax policies of the Republicans and a potential President Romney, and really, really, really oppose a continuation of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.  We couldn’t afford them in the first place, and now they hang like a weight around our deficit.  Even though we all seem to agree the tax code is broken, somehow I really don’t trust the Republicans to rewrite it in a way that is better or more fair than it is today.  I also don’t trust the Republicans to do the right thing for our social safety net and education.  (Privatization of everything is not the answer, people, and has a dizzying array of unintended consequences for the most vulnerable of our citizens!)  So I approach a Republican presidency with some trepidation, here.

Unfortunately, what will probably push me over the edge for one of the candidates this year is the same thing that pushed many African-Americans toward Obama: emotion.  We all vote from our gut anyway, and having a Mormon – one of my own faith – running for the highest office in the country, is an honor and source of pride for me.  If he, by some miracle, beats the odds and wins tomorrow – I will have something of my own “Oprah” moment where I will feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of my immigrant ancestors who came to this country to pursue a belief system they embraced with their whole hearts, only to be  expulsed and legally exterminated for believing something a little different – a little more nuanced and a lot more specific – than what others were used to.

And what’s more American than that?

Am I a liberal?

The other day, my wife asked me whether I was going to join the “Mormon Liberals” group she stumbles across on Facebook.  I looked at her and said, “I’m not a liberal.”  Then she looked at me and said, “Yes, you are.”

And I was at a loss for words.

They say your wife knows you better than you know yourself, but I didn’t think this was the case.

Let me be clear.  In college, I used to be a Hannity-listening, O’Reilly Factor-watching conservative.  I particularly liked Hannity’s sharpness on the air.  My family are all conservatives.  But for most of the last decade, I’ve becomes more and more of a moderate or independent.  I can’t stand the openly partisan news channels (fox and msnbc) anymore, and in political discourse, I find myself as the guy poking holes in people’s platitudes, rather than spouting them myself.

But then, this morning, someone posted the following comment on Facebook, in response to Mitt Romney’s latest gaffes.  They put forward this list of “true conservative” values, and as I read it I couldn’t help but ask myself: “Wow.  I identify with very little of this… maybe I really am a liberal?”

Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, is the epitome of American conservatism according to some. Specifically, conservatives seek or support: Limited government and balanced budgets, Capitalism and free markets, Classroom prayer, Respect for human life and prohibition of abortion, Abstinence education, Traditional marriage, not same-sex marriage, The concept of retribution for crimes, including the death penalty for heinous murders proven beyond reasonable doubt, Family values, including traditional relationships and division of labor within the household, Respect for differences between men and women, boys and girls, Laws against pornography, The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,Economic allocative efficiency (as opposed to popular equity),Parental control of education (parental rights),Private medical care and retirement plans,Canceling failed social support programs,No world government,Enforcement of current laws regarding immigrationRespect for our military … past and present,Rejection of junk science such as evolution and global warming,Minimal taxation,Federalism (Separation of powers among the National, State and Local governments),Favoring states’ rights over federal power, while accepting the Constitutional role of the federal government,A strong national defense,An Originalist interpretation of the Constitution,A dedication to the truth, and an ability to seek it

(First, I have to just interject that Ronald Reagan and many of his contemporaries, including Chief Justice Warren Berger, were NOT originalists, which kind of casts into doubt the intellectual honesty of this entire list… but even so, I’ll bite…)

Here’s my take on these.  I still hold that I’m a moderate and an independent.  But maybe I am a liberal?  I dunno, you decide.  You can argue with me on stuff you think I’m wrong, agree with me when you think I’m right, or just ignore it completely.  Whatever.  I’ve tried to be succinct, but I realize it’s kinda long…


Limited government and balanced budgets

Check.  I like this.  Government by the people and for the people.  But I also think it’s impractical to think that our government will never run a deficit.  Especially in light of the recent financial crisis, where government becomes the last man standing – the only entity who can spend.  I think balanced budgets should be MORE the norm than they are, and I think we should build a rainy day fund rather than giving tax revenues back as tax cuts.  I think the Bush tax cuts were (and continue to be) a travesty.

Capitalism and free markets

Check.  I like them.  I think they need to be regulated, generally, because there are a lot of dishonest people out there, and we need recourse to protect ourselves against them.

Classroom prayer

I have nothing against prayer.  In fact, I strongly endorse prayer.  But I endorse it as a private action which is best employed with people who share your belief in deity.  I feel that, in a pluralistic society, there is little virtue in mass school prayer, unless it involves representation from all religions present – and then it just becomes cumbersome and tedious.  Let each pray how they will.  As long as there are tests in school, there will be prayer in school.

Respect for human life and prohibition of abortion

Absolutely!   I also believe in a doctor’s ability to care for her patient.  Sadly, I think doctors are viewed as customer service agents rather than respected medical professionals, who focus more on giving patients what they want instead of what they really need.  Due to this reality, I support government banned abortions.  In a better world, I’d be much more of a libertarian on this front.

Abstinence education

I’m cool with abstinence, but I don’t support sex education that denies the existence of sex, or that people will have sex sometime in their life.  I see nothing wrong with full, honest sex education that discusses contraception, sexually transmitted disease, respect for our own and each other’s bodies, and gender perspectives on sexuality.  I think that if we de-mystify sex, we better equip teenagers and young adults to be abstinent if they so choose, because there is less impetus to experience something they don’t yet understand.

Traditional marriage, not same-sex marriage

I’m a huge fan of marriage.  I love mine.  I think if heterosexuals spent just as much time and energy taking their own marriage seriously and defending it from their own tendency to sabotage it, and a little less time defending it from homosexuals, we’d see a lower divorce rate overall.

The concept of retribution for crimes, including the death penalty for heinous murders proven beyond reasonable doubt

This one, I cannot get behind.  I can’t see why the party who is so attached to the sanctity of life for the unborn so readily accepts the responsibility to judge who should live or die after they commit a crime.  Take a look at the innocence project, and other statistics and perspectives on our incarceration system (falsely called a correctional system).  I do not and will not co-opt God’s right to choose when and how a soul will leave this world.

Family values, including traditional relationships and division of labor within the household

So, I’m not sure exactly what the punctuation means here.  Does “traditional” modify both “relationships” and “division of labor”?  If what this is trying to say is that men should take a brief case to work and women should cook and clean, then I heartily disagree and think it’s foolish to put in a political party identity something that automatically disqualifies more than half of today’s working parents.  I have much more to say on this, but I think I said it best in my this recent post.

Respect for differences between men and women, boys and girls

I have no idea what this means.  “Boys have penises and girls have vaginas.”  That’s from “Kindergarten Cop”, which, I think, qualified as all the sex ed I got until 7th grade.

Laws against pornography

So, in other words, first amendment rights only apply to the things you want to hear/say?  Gotcha. Obviously, this is a non-starter.  Hey, it’s a pretty disgusting thing, so I say tax the daylights out of it.

The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms

I’m cool with guns.  I like to shoot them, and I think people should be able to own them.  I really doubt I would be able to shoot someone, though.  What I don’t get, though, is that it takes a more extensive process of background/credit checking to buy a cell phone contract than it does to buy a gun.

Economic allocative efficiency (as opposed to popular equity)

So, this is the belief that the market should be left on its own to create or destroy products and services.  So, I generally agree with this, except I acknowledge government’s role in taxing (or choosing not to tax) some up-and-coming industries to give them a leg up, especially those who are pursuing scientific advancement that would benefit the whole nation.  Much of the scientific achievement of the 20th century was accelerated because of government either fueling the fire or getting out of the way.  The trick is having the wisdom to know which track should be followed.

Parental control of education (parental rights)

I think parents should take an active role in their child’s education.  I don’t think parents should to take their children out of school because they hear or teach something they don’t agree with.  Part of being educated in a pluralistic society is that we get to hear viewpoints that we disagree with, and the way we make that society civil is by educating our young people on how to deal with those we do not agree or get along with.  This nation has a rich history of public education.  In fact, I believe public education has been the biggest achievement of our nation.  It is the great springboard from which every child, even the most impoverished, can springboard themselves into a life of achievement.

Private medical care and retirement plans

Yep.  I’m definitely for these as well.  I’m also for a social safety net that catches those members of our society who are poor, disabled, and who may – in some cases – literally die if we didn’t have some kind of system of social medicine and pension.  I don’t think our social security system should be viewed as a cadillac retirement plan, but I think it can and should be taken advantage of as a least common denominator – a safety cushion that supports all the investing and other retirement activities going on in a normal middle or upper income individual’s life.

Canceling failed social support programs

I’m all for getting rid of programs that spend too much on a few.  I’m all for making welfare a way to help people become independent and self-reliant.  But I’m not OK with the wealthiest nation on earth standing by while hundreds of thousands of its citizens go hungry and shelterless.

No world government

Yes, but it’s nice to have a forum where America can bully other nations I mean, where we can work out diplomatic relations with other countries and broker solutions to the world’s problems.

Enforcement of current laws regarding immigration

I’m OK with that, but can we also have an immigration policy that makes sense, taking into account the economic realities of our country?  We need guest farm workers.  That’s good for farm business.  We need highly-educated engineers and technologists from all over the world.  Why do we hassle them so much about getting in?  Let’s make an immigration policy that makes sense and acknowledges that we are all immigrants to this nation.

Respect for our military … past and present


Rejection of junk science such as evolution and global warming

Since science is the pursuit of truth (which you say down below you highly value), why get so judgey on an institution that’s just trying to do its best with the data it is observing.  Rather than squashing it and viewing it as a threat to your religious beliefs or economic interests, why don’t you appreciate the dedicated human beings who are trying to explain the phenomenon they are studying?  There is room for faith and science together, and if the USA was tiny island country in the middle of the ocean who was losing its very land to rising sea levels, you bet we’d be a little more concerned about it and not call those who were trying to explain it “junk scientists”.

Minimal taxation

Hey, I’m all for less taxation, but I’m also for responsible government.  If we make a commitment, then we need to tax at the level that will fulfill that commitment.  Nothing nauseates me more than Republicans who stump on preserving social security and Medicare benefits for seniors (to capture their vote) but then who destroy the very funding sources for those programs.

Oh, and I hate Grover Norquist.  I think our founders turn over in their graves every time another legislator puts their votes in his hands.

Federalism (Separation of powers among the National, State and Local governments)

Since that is, like, a bedrock principle of the founding of our nation, I have to say I’m 100% on board with that.

Favoring states’ rights over federal power, while accepting the Constitutional role of the federal government

This goes back to the previous one.  I’m not sure either one should be “favored”.  I think if you read the Constitution (and associated amendments), this ball keeps getting hit back and forth.  And I think that’s how it should be.  In good Federalism, there should be constant give-and-take between state government and federal government.

A strong national defense

Check.  But c’mon.  Let’s be reasonable about it, too.  We have more nuclear weapons than the rest of the world, combined.  I’d rather have modern defenses.  Stuxnet represents the new kind of warfare, and we need to be on the front line of that war, not seeing who can make a faster airplane.

An Originalist interpretation of the Constitution

I throw up a little in my throat, because I find originalism intellectually dishonest.  Originalism wants you to suppose that you can know what the Framers had in mind when writing the constitution.  But you can’t.  All you can do is look at the 18th century through your 21st century lens.  I don’t care if you wear a powdered wig or not.

A dedication to the truth, and an ability to seek it

Well, this is just too nebulous to waste time talking about, unless I just don’t get it.