Sunday, December 4, 2011

How to run an electoral campaign

If anything is to be learned from watching the Republic candidates compete for the nomination this year, it is how not to run electoral campaigns.  If your own party can't stand half of what is going on in the campaigns, it should tell you something.

I am not going to sit here and lecture about the mistakes, or point out the various ways to alienate your base voters and, etc.  Rather I intend to lead by example.

Last week, I stated some of the things that I would like in an ideal candidate.  Today, I am going to take it to another level -- apply those ideals specifically to a campaign.

Some things that I would like to see from a campaign:

  • Openness - This goes hand in hand with honesty.  A candidate should run their campaign unafraid of any question.  I understand not going into the absurd and some limits regarding decency, but in general I think a candidate should be able to field any question on any subject.  How hard is it to say "I don't know"?  I think that campaigns have become so fearful of negative sound bites and managing how they appear in the press that they loose that open channel of communication with the voters.  This is 2011 - we have the Internet, social networks, and multimedia tools you would not believe.  People expect communication.  They also are beginning to realize that anything can be edited or "PhotoShopped".  If you are limiting communication with the voters out of fear of what the press or the other side would do with a bad sound bite or moment, get over it.  It will happen regardless or someone will simply use digital magic to fake one.
  • Engagement - Not this fake manufactured social network stuff most of the candidates have, lets see some engagement with people.  We aren't far enough into the campaign to see somethings the candidates should do yet, but why do all of the campaign websites seem the same.  They all have some issues sections, videos, contact us, donate to us, the requisite Twitter and FaceBook sections.  Some are better than others, but I feel it can go further still.  Not sure completely how yet, but I am getting some ideas now.  I will share those on here at a later time.
  • Ethics and Religion - Let us not beat around the bush (no pun intended),  Everyone has a belief system and values to some extent.  Why is that not out in front?  If you truly believe something, it wouldn't be hidden.  I understand the tendancy to keep it to the back, or to honor this flawed application of "Seperation of Church and State" that many seem to want to do.
A short list?  Maybe.  There are others, but lets start there as they are big ones.

Now lets take this to the next level.  Someone once said that the only candidate who you can completely agree with is yourself -- and sometimes you may not agree with yourself!  Still, I want to take this lead-by-example aproach to a logical conclusion.

So, it is in this spirit that I invite questions.  Ask away.  Treat me as if I were one of the presidential candidates and ask any question on any subject.  I know that invites trouble, but the only dumb question is the one not asked, correct?  I will feel free to say "I don't know", or other such statements - you feel fee to ask.

And, as always on this blog, I reserve the right to change my mind.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How a candidate should be

I think we all have a sense of what we would really like a candidate should be. This is especially true of a presidential candidate. The problem is that it has been so long since we have seen anything resembling it that we have pushed it to the back of our minds as a legend, a fantasy, and a fairy tale.

I, however still believe that we need to strive for ideals, even if we know that they cannot be achieved. It just does not work when every competitor is given 10s, there has to be something to stretch for, not the Jerry Springer view of the world.

Here are some of my bullet posts for my ideal candidate for president, or really any office.

  • Honest - first and foremost a candidate should be honest in all things, as much as humanly possible. It is sad that we almost assume a politician is dishonest yet seem to believe all the campaign material of "our" candidate.
  • Morals - I am not going to go into what morals the person should have, but they should have a moral core that will not be compromised, should specify what those core values are, and hold themselves to that standard as much as is humanly possible.
  • Firm - not wishy-washy. I do not have a problem with a candidate or elected official changing their mind as they think about a topic, or they learn more. They should be able to articulate what changed their mind and why they changed it, however.
  • Leadership - the individual should demonstrate qualities of a leader. Not necessarily one who debates well, we call those debate champions. Simply one who has vision, sets direction, and can inspire others to follow.
  • Communicator - not necessarily a great speech giver or one who never stutters.  Simply one who can relate to people, and communicate their ideas and vision clearly to the American people.
Those are my top 5 requirements.  What are yours?

Monday, November 28, 2011

More Electable

I am really tired of this claim of a candidate being more electable during the primaries. What do they really mean by that? In my voting life it seems to be shorthand for someone that is going to lean middle of the road, drum up a lot of support in the primaries, and then not quite make it in a general election. Then, those that supported the candidate will claim that it was he best we could have gotten and any other candidate would be worse. That is of course followed by a series of blame games generally directed at the candidate's own party members.

Haven't we seen this all before? It seems the more candidates we have, the sicker I feel in my stomach.

It is said best in the Bible: "I wish that you were hot or cold but because you are luke-warm, I will spew you from my mouth" (my paraphrase). In other words, those that are not on fire or fridgid make God sick.

I think this is how a lot of Americans are feeling about politicians these days. Just take a stand and come out strong. This political positioning etc. Just makes us sick.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Locked out

Since I am here locked out of my car, I might as well post! Yes, I locked myself out. Still can not believe I did that, but it happens to all of us.

I have decided to just post about what is on my mind from now on. Simply post my experiences And what I am thinking. I realized that no one is perfect and my posts do not need to be either. Even when I put a lot of time into them, they do not turn kit much better than otherwise. Now is the time for all good men to rise to the aid of their country - not sit on the sidelines pondering how exactly to word something and not offend people. Life is too short for that.

It seems that people put pressure on others when they think people might be offended. This seems to me to be more ridiculous every day. The only purpose this serves is to lock up the dialog; to lock out ideas. Ingenious, really. Make certain topic areas so taboo to talk about that you can push your viewpoint in it's absence. Even more than that, you end up with others preventing the dialog without them even realizing what they are doing - just put it in the name of sensitivity or preventing hate.

Here is a better idea: let people talk. The first amendment to the US Constitution was designed to do just that - encourage dialog and prevent viewpoints from being locked out. It is no accident that the freedoms of speech, press, and religion are put together in the same amendment. This is not three seperate "rights", but one basic one - the right to express ones views and beliefs in spoken and print forms.

I am going to continue in that great tradition - just in an electronic form. Otherwise, if we to let the pressure prevail, this county is going to need a good locksmith.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Budget Zero

In recent years it is has become increasingly evident to me that those in control of the government checkbooks have one thing in common – they do not have the ability to collectively budget.  This is leading to both the current “crisis” with the federal debt ceiling, as well as state budgets such as the standoff we have here in California.

What is also becoming increasingly obvious is that the great amassing of debt is doing nothing but increasing our reliance on our creditors.  As many of our creditors may not have our nation’s best interests at heart (China comes to mind), this external influence into our internal affairs is becoming very worrisome.

Should we continue on this course I am afraid that the economic system or our very government may become so influenced by external interests that it is no longer under our control, if it does not fail completely.  At that point, any government programs that exist would become moot – we would not have them.

So, if we can foresee us on a road that leads to the destruction of all programs, and we have government that does not have the ability to chisel away at the expenditures, then the time has come to do something different.

I propose that, instead of trying to figure out what to cut in order to bring our budget inline, and trying to force deeply entrenched agencies to shrink themselves, that we start by assuming that all government programs and expenditures are cut.

You read that correctly.  Cut everything.  100%.

At this point you may be calling me a lunatic (and other names not fit to print), but follow me through this line of thought to the end.  During the presidential campaign in 2008, President Obama repeatedly stated that he would use a scalpel to work on the budget instead of a hacksaw.  Well, when the patient is dying because of rampant infection in the leg, the time for a scalpel is over – it is time to amputate to save the life of the patient.

Let us see how this could play out.  Assume at this point that we have now notified all government programs, agencies, beneficiaries, etc. that their programs are cut for the next fiscal year.

Now, obviously, we could not have a country without any government whatsoever.  That would be chaos and anarchy. What we do have now is a clean slate and, beginning with that clean slae we can begin to add expenditures back onto the budget.

The first thing that would get added would be our interest on our existing debt.  You have to pay the payments on the credit card or completely loose trust and ability to maneuver in the world.  In addition, because we know that we can not continue this pattern of paying one credit card off with another as we have done for years, we will also add a sizable chuck of payment on the principle balance as well.  This will allow us to reduce our interest payments in future budgets.

Secondly we add on 100% necessities.  For the federal government this means, primarily, the defense budget.  If you can not defend your country from foreign attackers then you will not be country for very long.  That is one reason we are getting our finances in order – to prevent outside influences in the first place.

Now we can start to entertain proposals on every other program that exists.  Each one would have to come up with a new proposal on how to deliver a necessary service or program – one that is not based on the existing agency infrastructure.  If you have essentially cut off all funding to an agency, see how fast they will come up with proposals to meet needs on a smaller, streamlined budget.

These proposals would have to have one thing very clear – the what, why, and how.  What they are doing, why they are doing it, and how they are accomplishing it.  A good legal justification would need to be attatched as well.  Each proposal should also be narrowly defined.  Why?  Because it makes it easy to line up identical or nearly identical programs.  A big house cleaning like this would give the opportunity to cut out a lot of waste, beyond simply reducing the number and scope of programs.

After you have reached a point that is at 90% of projected revenue, you stop adding things on.  Why 90%?  Have you ever seen a government expense estimate not go over budget?  This would be the icing on the cake if we ended up not spending the extra 10% over the course of the year, but history teaches us that is not likely to happen.

Am I saying cutting out Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security for seniors, etc?  No.  Programs such as these would likely be some of the earlier ones added back on, hopefully in a stream-lined form of them with less red tape and easier access to the benefits.  In an ideal situation, these programs would not be necessary, but at the current time they are a basic part of our economic system.  (I have some words of wisdom for those that would want these programs cut in this process, but I will leave that for another time.)

At this point you are probably also asking what about the [fill in the blank with your favorite program]… I would say “you have to see”.  I would like to have all of the fun and nice programs, grants, etc, but if the government can’t pay its bills, the program has little to no value anyway.  For example, I am a huge advocate for the arts, but if the government goes bankrupt, what good did it do us to fund the full National Endowment for the Arts with tax money?  Where did it leave us?  I would say cut many of these or greatly reduce them for now.  Then, we may have opportunity in the future to really do something.

This is the greatest country in the world, and with the American spirit, we can accomplish much.  It is time for us to clean our financial house to free the people – and the government – from the burden that it places on us.  Being weighed down with too much debt can harm anyone.  If you have experienced that yourself in recent years during this great recession you can appreciate what I am talking about.  When it comes to finances, debt hurts us all.

In short, it is time for a clean slate.  Now is the time to stop this top down budgeting and to flip it around and focus on that which really helps Americans – freedom and liberty.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Safety and Freedom

When a child takes their first steps, they may fall a few times in the process.  This is natural.  The child discovers that there are many rewards to being mobile.  As the child grows older there are many times when they will want to cling to their parents instead of trying new things.  It may be going to school, or staying the night at grandma’s house for the first time.  Slowly but surely, the child grows up and relies less and less on their parents, longing for more freedom.

This freedom is not without its risks.  Some parents choose to force their children into the world without truly equipping them to handle it.  Others want to smother their children in order to protect them from the cruelness in the world.

The fact is that throughout life we are constantly stepping out of our comfort zone and taking risks.  Usually, we find that it was worth the risk – even if we fail.  That is because trying something can have its own rewards, and experiences.

What is great and so critically important to this is making the choice of how much risk to take.  If we did not have the ability to make the choice, we would be insulated from the risk but would miss out on the opportunity to experience something good, maybe even something great.

By now those of you reading this have thought of times in your own lives where you stepped out, took a chance, and had success or, at least, a positive failure – one where you wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

If the majority of people understand this concept, and I believe that we all do, then why do people continue to want to impose restrictions on others to ensure their safety?  Take any headline of the day – take your pick.  Lets see, in the past few years we have had questions about the banking industry, health insurance, oh – here is one – product recalls.

A relative of mine was on the prescription medicine Vioxx for severe back pain related to a previous on the job injury.  This medicine had been the only thing that allowed him to manage the pain to the point where he could work and live up to his full potential.  Then the product was pulled because of and increased risk of heart problems and the pressure from the FDA (I know it was “voluntary”).  Now, from everything I can tell if it had stayed on the market, he would have been at a slightly higher risk for some heart attacks and would have needed to have more regular screenings.  Instead, he is back to not being able to manage his pain and has since switched careers.  It is a quality of life issue compared to the risk – one that people make when they decide whether or not to undergo a surgery.  This is a small example, but people were cheering for it when it was pulled and furious with the drug companies for them to dare allow such a product on the market – not to mention the vulture lawyers swooping in for the kill (note: not all lawyers are vultures, but there are a lot of them).  Why not allow people the choice?

It is such a simple case, and may not be a perfect example, but the question can be posed of just about any headline involved these days.  Why do people not have the choice?  Whether it is from intrusive legislation or government trying to step up increased social pressure of some action or speech being “taboo”, it all amounts to a shrinking of our freedom.

Trading freedom for safety is not an option – it is not a fair trade.  It is a slowly leaking bucket… it may be not much to worry about at first, but when the bucket is empty we will be crying out for even a little taste of freedom.  In a county that is the “Land of the Free and the home of the Brave” I think that we can find our bravery to stand up and keep our freedom – and preserve that greatest right of all… the right to fail – to make mistakes—and to learn from them that we might be a better person tomorrow.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Dungeons, Dragons, and Morons

Apparently, the US Supreme court has ruled that Dungeons & Dragons too closely resembles the organization of a gang, and therefore meets the definition of promoting gang activity. (One article here, but there are many others)
I would like to help with this endeavor and suggest some other games that should also be banned from prisons.
  • Monopoly – First of all, the game is about dominating all of the other opponents. Secondly, it teaches the capitalist system.
  • Life – This game not only shows that you have a choice between college and trade school, but it encourages reproduction. It also might encourage the overloading of vehicles when the player has too many kids – this might imply drive-by shootings. The pegs falling out might give the inmate the idea to throw people from a moving vehicle.
  • Mousetrap – self explanatory.
  • Clue – Especially this one. There is a murder every game!
  • Air Hockey – This game resembles a shoot-out as one hits a projectile toward their opponent. Definite gang activity here. (Might also apply to paper football...)
  • Operation – encourages removal of organs and could encourage black market organs transplants as a gang business.
To take it a step further, maybe they should ban playing cards. After all, aren’t spades and clubs weapons?
What other games should be banned from inmates?