Archive - January, 2013

Trades, Trust, and Compromise

So, Obama is touting that Democrats are more willing to compromise than Republicans.

This actually isn’t as laughable as it appears. Why? Because I believe that he actually thinks this.

What is lost in all of this is the art of compromise. What actually composes a compromise?

On Facebook awhile back, one of my friends lamented why can’t people get on the compromise train? After all, we wouldn’t have a Constitution if not for compromise.

Let me start by offering an fantasy football anecdote.

In fantasy football, there are two types of trades: Fair trades and trades where one party gets trade-raped. Rookie fantasy football players are usually very reluctant to get involved in many trades because they don’t want to make a mistake.

In my super-duper dynasty league, the first year saw few trades. The reason being that the trust wasn’t built between owners to come to the table to make a fair and decent trade.

The point of all this is…trades only occur when there is trust. When I trust that someone is not just trying to get from me, but also willing to give me something of value…a trade will happen.

The same goes for compromise. You have to trust the person you are dealing with.

Obviously, there is a severe lack of trust in Washington, DC.

But let us examine the first question I asked…exactly what makes a compromise? Let us take a different approach.

Let’s look at political policy as a product. I will choose gas. Let’s assume that the average price for gas is $3. Let us assume that one party, the consumer would like gas for $1. Now, let’s assume that the other party, the gas station wants to sell the gas for $5. The goal in any “compromise” would be for the consumer to negotiate the cost as close to the low side of $3 as possible. This would be a “common sense” compromise.

The problem with what President Obama said is he is like the gas station. Undoubtedly, the Democrats have the upper hand in power. They control the Senate and the Presidency. So, they hold more leverage. I am sure that the gas station that is the Democrats in DC, are always willing to go down to $4.75. But that ain’t compromise.

Let’s take the fiscal cliff deal. You know where the GOP started out? $2.75. $1.00 would have been $1 for $1 tax increases to spending cuts. What did they offer? 1:4 (1 dollar in spending cuts for every $4 in tax increases). What did they get? Barely any spending cuts. Where was the compromise?

But, gosh darnit…those Democrats walked all over their principles to go down to $4.75 didn’t they? Let’s throw them a party.

This is why Republicans don’t trust President Obama. He is trying to negotiate several deals with them right now. Debt ceiling, gun control, and immigration. What does he do? Says his party is always willing to go down to $4.75 and lambasts Republicans for not agreeing to those terms. That isn’t leadership and that sure as heck isn’t compromise. This President has shown zero ability to negotiate compromise on ANY deal since he has been President. Healthcare? No compromise…shoved it through. Stimulus? He told the GOP that he had won and they deserved no seat at the table. Debt ceiling I? We know from Woodward’s book that Geithner had to talk the President into EVEN NEGOTIATING, he just wanted to go over the cliff and pin it on the GOP. Fiscal cliff? He didn’t even negotiate it. Vice President Joe Biden did. That is right…Joe Biden was the voice of reason (at least avoiding the dang thing).

So, what about this great immigration compromise? I would say it is about a $3.50. I am thankful for Senator Rubio’s presence because he was able to get some major goals put in the immigration reform. In fairness, we don’t know the complete details of the arrangement so I reserve the right to change my opinion. But as of now, it resembles something more like compromise than we have ever seen under President Obama.

Too bad that those Senators aren’t willing to tutor him on what real trust and compromise looks like.

Manti Te’o: Our Low Information Culture

Most of you, by now, have heard of the great hoax of Manti Te’o.

It is one of the most bizarre sports stories I can remember. But is this just a case of art (or in this case, sports personality) imitating life?

I mean should we be shocked.

Generation Irony. That is what this younger generation should be called:

Everyone has tons of Facebook friends, but feel more alone.

We have more relationships, but less of them are real.

We have more information at our disposal than at anytime in human history. But we choose to ignore it.

A term that is commonly used in conservative circles is the low information voter. The pejorative usage of this is “all those dumb people” who voted for Obama just because he was a nice guy.

But the fact is that low information voters are not owned by one party. Can’t the hundreds of conservative women who love Sarah Palin for no other reason than, “she is a strong woman to look up to,” be cast in this same category?

Herein is where we have failed in the conservative movement when it comes to educating our beliefs. Conservatism is based on logic, economics, and a pure understanding of human nature. But when our low information voters are espousing the virtues of our philosophy while simultaneously spouting off about Obama’s birthplace or religion…it doesn’t help the cause.

But culturally, what drives this? Every statistical category shows that our education system is failing. I don’t put too much weight on test scores that puts American schools up against the rest of the world. Most other countries don’t believe in universal education and they certainly don’t believe in universal testing. But SAT reading scores hit a four decade low. Over time, our overall test scores have dropped (again, we shouldn’t put too much weight on this, but surely some weight is justified). A record number of high school graduates are not ready for college.

This isn’t a post on education. But isn’t it amazing that in a world where most young people are prolific texters, reading scores have dropped. In a world where a simple google search will lead to 98% of all your answers, people just don’t seem care.

I think the problem is a matter of want to. I was recently asked why I would weigh in on subjects where I have little experience. The answer for me was I have more information at my fingertips than all the generations of human existence combined. I have a wealth of everyone’s experiences ripe for the taking. But I choose to tap into that. I choose to read and consume.

Too many young people don’t. They willfully ignore history and experience in order to maintain a suitable level of ignorance.

So what does this have to do with Mr. Te’o? He could have done the same google searches that Dead Spin did. He could have asked the questions. He had all the answers at his disposal. But he maintained a suitable level of ignorance. He is America’s low information boyfriend.

There are two types of voters. One group researches and studies. The other deliberately avoid information so they can maintain a suitable level of ignorance. That way, if things don’t turn out right, they have the ultimate hedge. “I was lied to by a politician.” What we have learned over the last few years is that even in the midst of a high profile campaign, the suitable level of ignorance only increases. It doesn’t decrease.

And this is, by no means, a reflection on liberal or conservative. The suitable level of ignorance was high for conservatives as well. While I voted for Mitt Romney because I believed that he possessed the tools necessary to turn our economy around. I was voting more against Obama than for Romney.

And the suitable level of ignorance on the left was astoundingly high as well. Let’s be honest, short of President Obama performing a satanic ritual on stage and exclaiming that he deserved to be king, he would have gotten 45% of the vote. (Even then, the media would have proclaimed it Joe Biden’s fault) Don’t believe me? Ask a random neighbor how the response to Sandy has been. Most will say good if not great. Most people will probably tell you they think it is mostly done. There are still people without power! Had this been a Republican President, we wouldn’t be hearing about Manti Te’o because the coverage of Baltimore Ravens players and how the east coast has been affected, begging us to root for them in the Super Bowl. (Exactly what happened with the New Orleans Saints over 4 YEARS after Katrina) It hasn’t been four months and the media care less.

We have the world at our fingertips. Get out there and study. Learn. Educate the low information voters from both sides. It is the only way America wins. Which probably means we are screwed.

Doing The Right Thing: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ethics

As many of you know, I am very fond of Chuck Colson’s Doing the Right Thing video series. It is a magnificent series on ethics and business ethics.

At one point in the series, they are talking about the ethics of laws. Most importantly, when is it acceptable to break the law because the law is immoral. One of the speakers brought up Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham jail. He said that Martin Luther King had a brilliant theory as to the ethics of the situation.

We all know, if you are not familiar with his letter it is a great read, that Dr. King was upset at the lack of support of civil rights from white pastors. So, a majority of his letter is an explanation of why the church should care and fight for civil rights in America.

Continue Reading…

Championship Round Picks: How I Fared

footballWell, it was not the greatest weekend for picks. Ahhh, who am I kidding…for the first time, you would have been better going with me than against me.

I am now 4-5-1 against the spread and 6-4 pick ’em.

And in my fantasy football playoff league, this weekend, I jumped from 20th to 5th!

Overall, it was pretty spectacular, so let’s get to it!

 

 

 

San Francisco (-4) versus Atlanta

What I got Right:

I pushed on the spread, but I got the pick’em right. While my 45-30 point total was overblown…after a shaky start, San Francisco took it to em.

What I got Wrong:

The final score. But what track meet feel this game had early died out in the last 20 minutes of play.

Baltimore (+8.5) versus New England

What I got Right:

The spread, and that is about all. I did say that Baltimore definitely believed they could win but…

What I got Wrong:

I said, “In the end, their aging defense won’t be able to do enough to win. But they come close.” Try, they dominated the second half. If I would have told you that one defense shuts the other down in the second half…you probably would have said the Patriots. If I would have told you that one team would only score one touchdown, you would have most certainly bet on the Ravens…they were clutch…

My Fantasy Lineup:

The Fantasy League I am in we play guys every week, 8 starters, 1 QB,1K, 1Def, 1TE, 2 WR, 2RB.

You can use any guy, BUT you can only use him once. Most total points wins.

My total points = 421.7 (169.3) points. That is good enough for 5/28, as I had a really good week…it will get more interesting as people have used some superstars…and a LOT of people were betting Patriots/49ers in their picks and some don’t have any options when it comes to Defense/PK/Tight Ends…

QB: Matt Ryan 36.1

RB: Frank Gore (21), Jacquizz Rodgers (3.2) My ONLY bust…

WR: Anquan Boldin (23), Julio Jones (47.2)

TE: Tony Gonzales (21.8)

PK: David Akers (4)

Def: San Francisco 49ers (13)

Alright, so, there it is…two weeks to contemplate the Super Bowl!

Virtual Reality: The Dangers of Escapism in our Culture

What is real?

In light of the Manti Te’o story, regardless of its final outcome, it is important to examine and reflect on what is real.

Are Facebook friendships real?

Are Twitter followers real?

The greatest threat to our rational discourse and to our relationships is the virtual nature of them. Think about how we interact with each other? Forget face to face. The old school phone call is quickly going the way of the telegraph.

Part of it is convenience. It is certainly easier to text, send an email, or like someone’s post.

But is it better?

Malcolm Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman had a very good exchange on Grantland. In it Malcolm shares this exchange:

Yes. I think you are absolutely right. Manti Te’o is not a real person in our minds. He’s a movie character, and that’s why we so happily substituted the rules of sports stories for the rules of real life. Just take the simple fact that Te’o did not attend Kekua’s funeral, because — he says — she didn’t want him to miss a game. To me, that remains the reddest of all the red flags here.

In real life, the dying sometimes say things like that. But in real life, we ignore that kind of advance directive once the dying person is actually dead. The reason we go to the funeral of someone who said “I don’t want you to miss a game for my funeral” is that we are so moved by that kind of selflessness that going to the funeral becomes even more important. It’s only in the fake world of sports that the heroic move is to take that kind of statement at face value.

In the real world, if a man says to his team that his 6-year-old son is desperately ill back at home, the response of the team would be: “Then what the hell are you doing here? Go home!” Only in the alternate reality of football is the response: “Oh. In that case, we’re going to try extra hard and go out and beat Georgia Tech.” In that epic Courier-Sampras match, when Sampras breaks down in tears, Courier says to him: “You all right, Peter? We can do this tomorrow, you know.” Here we have part of the reason why Sampras was a better tennis player than Courier: Sampras is the kind of person who could block out the real world (the impending death of his coach) in the service of winning another tennis match. Courier couldn’t. He saw someone suffering and wanted to set tennis aside. But if Courier wasn’t the better player, for his decency he is certainly the better human being, isn’t he? And isn’t that the lesson of this whole sorry mess? We have a set of expectations about what makes an athlete great or what motivates a team that run contrary to the rules we want the rest of us to live by.

I believe it goes even beyond that of athletics, sports figures, movie stars, and political “heroes.” It seeps into our relationships.

Escapism is very real in our culture. We find it in the church when we choose to stay inside and preach to the choir instead of reaching out to our communities. We find it in our houses when we would rather have a meaningful conversation with our Facebook friends or live vicariously through reality TV than talk to our spouse and enjoy the life God has given us in our home.

Our culture participates in mass hero worship at every turn. And we are constantly disappointed.

One of my neighbors always says “be the change you want to see.” Too often, our culture is fixated in finding heroes who are the change they want to see and then are amazed when placing supreme confidence in fallible human beings ends in disappointment.

That is why the steroids era in baseball hurts so much. That is why people were so willing to give President Obama four more years, because, they didn’t want to admit their hero was a disappointment. That is why Manti Te-o’s actions are bizarre but they aren’t unique.

For us Christians, we understand that the only “hero” in our life should be God. Placing any human being up on a pedestal is risky business and inevitably ends badly. We, as a society, often talk about good role models. What does that even mean? The only role model worth having is one who shows you the way to grow and this needs to happen in the home.  Sports figures. Not role models. Politicians? Admitting a politician is a role model (any politician) should get you locked up in the crazy bin. Even prominent church folk have disappointed us.

As a society we are so wrapped in fantasy that we have broken from reality too often. And we do so on every level.

So, instead of searching for a role model for your children. Be their role model.

Instead of the facade of Internet porn or romantic novels, embrace your spouse.

Understand that we all have fake things in our life that we so desperately try to believe are real. Herein lies the lesson that Manti Te’o is learning in public:

We need to stop escaping reality and start embracing it.

My Championship Round NFL Picks

football Alright, here is hoping that my picks go better this week than they did last week.

Aright, if one thing should be abundantly clear, my picks are the reason that I shouldn’t gamble. The other takeaway is, if you pick against me? You will be in the money.

I am entering this weekend 3-5 against the spread and 5-3 straight pickem.

In fantasy world, I am 20th out of 28 and the first week completely hosed me. I am hoping this week goes entirely better there as now the choices for who to play start shrinking.

I can only hope. So, without further ado…here are my picks:

San Francisco (-4) versus Atlanta

I don’t like Atlanta that much. But in an otherwise even matchup…coaching will matter.

Mike Smith versus Jim Harbaugh?

Not. Even. Close. San Francisco will take the spoils on a fast track in perfect conditions. 45-30.

Baltimore (+8.5) versus New England

Do I think that Baltimore will win? No. But 8.5 is a ridiculously high number. The number should be at about 6.5 or 7 before I would take New England.

The truth is that Baltimore believes they can beat the mighty Patriots. They did so in a fantastic week 3 matchup this year and last year’s AFC Championship game was incredible.

In the end, their aging defense won’t be able to do enough to win. But they come close. 30-23 New England

My Fantasy Lineup:

QB: Matt Ryan

RB: Frank Gore, Jacquizz Rodgers

WR: Anquan Boldin, Julio Jones

TE: Tony Gonzales

PK: David Akers

Def: San Francisco 49ers

Alright, so, what do you think. Who do you have? Sound off!

Rational Discourse and the Future of Conservatism

Over at the Daily Caller, Matt Lewis posted about Jonah Goldberg’s new column.

Jonah’s column is an extremely well written critique by one of the movement’s better modern intellects:

For starters, the movement has an unhealthy share of hucksters eager to make money from stirring rage, paranoia, and an ill-defined sense of betrayal with little concern for the real political success that can come only with persuading the unconverted.

A conservative journalist or activist can now make a decent living while never once bothering to persuade a liberal. Telling people only what they want to hear has become a vocation. Worse, it’s possible to be a rank-and-file conservative without once being exposed to a good liberal argument. Many liberals lived in such an ideological cocoon for decades, which is one reason conservatives won so many arguments early on. Having the right emulate that echo chamber helps no one.

I despise people who don’t think through their ideology. Unfortunately, we have a whole movement that has memorized talking points without thinking about the deeper nuances.

It is why I have ripped Sarah Palin for her love of identity politics.

It is why I have argued for rational discourse HERE & HERE

Fought for civility amongst tragedy.

Sought serious reflection.

The problem is that the echo chamber is so warm. It feeds our narcissistic tendencies. We all want to be loved and right. So, to have a parade of people tell you that you are both just feeds the psyche.

And of course, there are also hundreds of thousands of sheep who will tune in at a certain time to listen to the echo chamber masters.

This, of course, isn’t meant to lump every host into this. There are hosts that, indeed, are intellectually astute. Who wrestle through their ideology and welcome the opposing viewpoints of others.

I try (emphasis on try) to spur rational discourse at every turn. As a medium, the internet is just not a place of rational discourse. For humans, over 80% of our communication is non-verbal. How is it then that new media can properly create and foster informative and thoughtful dialogue?

Unpopular Opinion Alert!

I always believe that we have a duty to self regulate our side of the movement. So, I say this in all love.

Tea Party meetings/rallies aren’t an adequate place to foster this dialogue either. In fairness, some groups are MUCH better at this than others. My question. Why aren’t they all? Too often, going back to Jonah’s point, these meetings devolve into non-stop GOP bashing and whining sessions.

I was at one such meeting which was of a more religious bent. They had discussed an anti-drinking proposal earlier (FTR I don’t drink and have no problems with this), but the meeting had devolved into a giant hem and haw chirping. When I was to give my presentation on grassroots organizing, I told them, “For a group that doesn’t like alcohol, there sure is a lot of whine in here. We have to get things done. We have to talk to our neighbors and persuade them. Whining won’t cut it.”

Forget trying to have a decent argument or disagreement with a liberal. IF you are so adamant that Obama is a muslim. Born in Kenya. Sandyhook didn’t happen. Or any of these other stupid theories and conspiracies. Don’t be shocked when your Facebook friends don’t take you seriously when you try to convince them that there are, in deed, members of the left that want to abolish weapons. They will just put you in the crazy bin.

Conservatism has roots in intellectualism. Education is vital. I get that. But a part of our education has to be…how will this sound to your neighbors?

Granted. Sometimes what we are selling is tough to sell. But what we need is better salesmen not new values. The problem comes when we have dingbats who are mere parrots and not thinkers. We need more Medveds and fewer Hannitys. We need more Ryans and fewer Bachmanns.

Unpopular Opinion Alert #2

We need more conservatives and fewer libertarians.

There is a definitive difference between limited government and no government. Here is a hint. Americans don’t like no government. That is a losing argument. I don’t care if you believe that somehow, with no rules, magically peace and happiness are going to exist like some sort of Ayn Rand wet dream. Thousands of years of human history have taught us that human beings will become tyrannical over other human beings (government or not). Beside the political theory…you just aren’t going to sell it. IF you do feel that government is not the answer, as I do, the way to persuade the addict is to not starve them of their substance. We need a methadone clinic approach. Slowly preaching self dependence and self appreciation. Policy by policy showing suitable options to a government first approach, understanding that we will often have to meet in the middle to see true policy realized.

The question then becomes. How? How do we spark the rational discourse necessary to champion our values? The answer is simple. Talk to your neighbors. Learn from your neighbors. And not just about politics. Everything. Same with your Facebook neighborhood. Can you name ten Facebook friends who will challenge you to think differently on certain things? Or do you just block whomever you don’t agree with?

I have a group of friends whom I thank, privately, for bursting the echo chamber. And they call me out when I disobey my rational discourse principles. (Social media brings out the worst in us sometimes) They are more valuable than the thousands of encouragers. Why? Because they cause me to think through my own beliefs. And we know that if we can persuade the other…then we can persuade our neighbor.

One last aside. When I ran for congress, I was having a heated discussion with two individuals. One was more conservative and the other more liberal. At the end, the conservative had to go somewhere else and the more liberal guy looked at me and said, “I don’t agree with a lot that you said. But I will vote for you because I know you are thinking through it and willing to listen.” That is what middle America cares about. And that is why we keep losing…because we haven’t shown we are willing to think through it and willing to listen.

UPDATE:

The Other McCain takes umbrage with Jonah

 

John Hawkins brings another vantage point and names names!

 

The twitter links

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