Mitt’s Mitt-mentum

The current buffet of Republican candidates could hardly be less appetizing. According to the Miami Herald, America has two options in the current GOP nominating process: Mitt Romney or Not Mitt Romney. In other words, any candidate that has held front runner status – besides Romney – has been quickly relegated to the back of the pack. Parodoxically,Herman Cain, who won the Republican straw poll in Florida, was ripped in the last debate by all the candidates for his 9-9-9 plan. Even “brother” Perry couldn’t help but offer to “bump plans” with him. Still, he has maintained his position near the top of the field. The Western Republican Leadership Conference straw poll saw him edging out Mitt Romney. It’s not so much that people love Cain as it is that the other candidates just aren’t that appealing.

Try as I might, I can’t see him being the GOP candidate. That he’s garnered so much popularity and success with his dark horse status is indicative of the overall discontent that the Americans have displayed toward a potential Obama replacement.

And then there’s Mitt Romney.

He hasn’t been able to generate the enthusiasm to energize the field, but he’s as close as we can come to a generic, bland, Republican candidate.

If Mitt Romney, already the de facto choice for Republican connoisseurs does secure the nomination, he’ll have the advantage of already being thoroughly vetted. Additionally, he can probably win the a portion of the independents. On the other hand, Obama’s political machinery likely has ads already produced and ready to run in case Romney won the candidacy four years ago.

The big question is not whether Mitt Romney will be palatable to the Republican party. Republicans, it seems, would rather have bland if the alternative is not eating. The big question is whether, despite Romney’s blandness, he will have the Mitt-mentum to carry him into the Oval Office.

Is the Election for Obama to Lose?

Much hay has been made over Obama’s low poll numbers.  The July Gallop poll suggests that a generic Republican can beat Obama.  But is this really the case?  For as much as people are dissatisfied with Obama’s promised “change,” I’m not sure that “one-term presidency” is in the cards.  The problem for the GOP is that there isn’t a candidate that anyone particularly likes.  Yesterday, Perry launched negative ads against Romney.  Last month, Ron Paul launched a negative ad against Perry.  Cain picked some obscure issue about Perry’s ranch from about thirty years ago and made headlines.  Welcome to the GOP circular firing squad.  The quest for a candidate almost seems like a gang initiation.  To join, the potential invitee is thrown a blanket party.  Surviving that, the members rally behind the beat up and bruised candidate.  Love hurts.  And this is looking to be a very painful election process.

Any significant swings GOP debate tonight only mark the fluidity of the race.  At the very least, Perry will be worth watching.  He was heralded as the cat’s meow when he first announced his candidacy, and then he tried to debate.  And then  conservatives took a look at his immigration policy.  Amazingly, virtually all the popularity Perry lost, Herman Cain gained.  Herman Cain, has his own issues.  Jon Stewart makes well sure that everyone knows about those too.  While most people are not enthused with Romney, he only needs to focus on not pulling a Howard Dean.  I also wouldn’t joke about being unemployed either.

Listening to the radio on the way in to work today, one disenfranchised voter from New Hampshire didn’t really feel a whole lot of excitement toward any of the candidates.  With primary voters decidedly undecided, one is left to wonder whether the eventually GOP candidate will be received as enthusiastically as Sarah Palin.

The Death of an Innovator

Steve Jobs, the leader of Apple, Inc.

Yesterday, while driving home from work, my iPhone started buzzing.  I signed up for “breaking news” text alerts from AzCentral (perhaps inadvertently because I haven’t found them particularly newsworthy, yet I haven’t bothered to turn them off).  Imagine the shock when I read that Steve Jobs, had passed away.  His death was not particularly unexpected as he had battled with pancreatic cancer since 2003.  His health seemed to turn for the worse when he resigned as Apple’s CEO in late August.  Even with that, I was among many that thought he would likely return at the helm after a period of months.  Even the anemic photo that appeared sometime in September depicting Jobs as gaunt and frail could be dismissed as an anomaly or something expected in the course of cancer treatment.  Not everyone believed that the picture was a precursor to his final exit.

As recently as October 4 when Apple announced the new iPhone 4S, some pundits and many Mac-heads expected Steve to make a guest appearance to announce the revised iPhone or provide some words of reassurance that Apple’s best years still lay ahead.  Alas, this was not the case.  I would not be surprised if Jobs himself lay on his bed and watched the successful keynote.  Perhaps, that keynote allowed him some modicum of closure.  For him, that was his last chapter in a book he charged Tim Cook, the new CEO, with writing.

Of course, this is all speculation.  I have no special knowledge not possessed by the general public.

Steve was a giant that completely revolutionized computers, music, and technology.

I’ve been part of the Mac faithful since the very early 90’s when my dad walked in from school and brought back the Mac Classic (which later evolved into the iMac).  Even when Apple entered the “dark period” of the mid-1990s and the company faltered, our family continued upgrading: the Macintosh Performa, and later the Power Mac 6500.  Oft-criticized by a couple of close friends that had “unparalleled” computer games that were incompatible with my Mac, I couldn’t switch platforms (probably because I had no money, and my dad bought the computers.  I didn’t have a say in it.  I bought or downloaded what few games I could.  Oregon Trail,  Bolo,  Stuntcopter, Command & Conquer, and dozens of now-defunct titles).

I can’t claim that I should somehow feel worse because I’ve been with Apple longer than the majority of consumers, which, by the way, started purchasing Apple products in the last ten years.  It’s just that Steve Jobs had always exuded confidence in his products and the direction of the company.  He developed a cult following that captivated the consumers and both intrigued and frustrated his competitors.  He even strong-armed the entire music industry to fit within the Mac environment.

CEOs lead companies.  Steve Jobs did not fit the ordinary mold of a CEO.  He did not lead the wildly successful computer-turned-technological-giant company so much as he embodied the company whose stock shot up 7000% since championing Apple out of the dark ages.  It seemed that people were loyal to Steve first, Apple second.  For years analysts and shareholders worried about the lack of succession plan if Steve was unable to lead the company he once founded.  It wasn’t until recently that Apple announced its plan about how specifically it would move forward in a post-Steve Jobs world.

Now the time has arrived and with it the challenge to relentlessly innovate walking in part of the shoes of Steve but also progressing in a new, but hopefully equally successful direction.

As I sit with my iPhone at my side and type on my Macbook, I can’t think of a better platform I would rather write this post.  To this, I thank you Mr. Jobs.

Is the Political Pot Calling the Kettle “Black”?

About a month ago, I wrote a response to an editorial piece for my local newspaper.  It wasn’t published there, so I convinced the author of this blog to post it here for all the world to see.  Obviously, I didn’t take much convincing considering I’ve in away for the better part of the month.  Still, with my average of one to two posts a month, it’s probably about time that I put something up again.  I am legitimately trying do publish more often.  I suffered the same sort hiatus from blogging as did my Tucson counterpart (and I use that term loosely, he is far more prolific than I).  I’ve tried to revamp the direction of the blog, and each time I settle into the same routine of churning out a post a month.  At least I’m consistent.  At this point,  I still have visions of sugar plums and a more focused topicality to the content here.  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Thanks Lao Tzu.  I’m moving forward here, if only by a step.

So what I have below my response to a satirical editorial by Will Durst.  Mr. Durst is self-proclaimed as America’s Top Political Satirist.  In late-August, he wrote an article, “Mister Muzzle and Nuzzle.”  You can find it here (scroll down to August, 27, 2011).  It’s a great article – very sarcastic.  On a whim I penned a reply in the same style.  It’s not quite my style, but I enjoyed the opportunity to step out of my literary skin and try a response in the same manner.

Now technically I wrote this reply in August – so this today is only a quasi September post.  Will there be another?  Stay tuned.

In response to “Mister Muzzle and Nuzzle” by Will Durst

Mr. Durst’s laugh-and-bash editorial of Rick Perry’s Texas-style entry into the GOP presidential race largely ignores the reality; even a generic-flavored Republican from the candidate buffet is a more palatable alternative than Obama’s medicine.  I didn’t care for Obama’s healthcare pill, and I didn’t care for the elixir of injecting greenbacks into Wall Street.  Last I checked, America is still hooked up to an I.V. monitored by S&P and Moodys.  And if those monitoring stations indicate anything other than a clean bill of health, the Feds launch an investigation.  At least Biden will celebrate the boost in payroll numbers.

Let’s face it, America is waking from its Obama fairytale with a huge hangover.  This isn’t like quite the Cinderella story topped with sugarplums and happily ever after endings that we envisioned – not when nearly 1 in 10 can’t get a job.  Apparently census workers are seasonal positions.  Check back in ten years Detroit.  Unbeknownst to Obama, most of America can’t take weeklong vacations every month or afford to have working wives make celebrity appearances on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  But hey, every job has its perks.  I get my jollies after I punch out at after work, sit down and watch stocks jump like yo-yos.  What a rush; my net worth jumps around more than Tigger on a pogo-stick.   Talk about entertainment.  Do we still need another four years of Obama in his Washington bubble?

Who cares about numbers though– Social Security isn’t a Ponzi-scheme.  I’m glad Big Government will be there to support me.  Thanks Obama.  I like spending money too.  Let’s do that cash for clunkers thing again.  Yeah, I know the program cost taxpayers about $24,000 for the $4,000 I saved on my new Kia Rio.  And yeah, it’s a foreign car.  So what?  The new Chevrolet Equinox our Labor Secretary drives around Washington in was assembled in Canada.  At least it feels good driving a Chevy.  Looks good in photo shoots too.

Remember those trillions we pumped into the economy?  And those bailouts?  Thank God for those new jobs.  Like $500,000 equals one job?  That’s a Black Friday deal if I ever saw one.  But math wasn’t my strong suit, so I guess me and Washington have one thing in common.  But hey, we can build more industrial plants in Singapore; they need work too.  It’s the cost of doing business.  And that Nobel Peace Prize is looking mighty fine.  Whoops.  I forgot about those wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.  Wait.  Not Libya.  “Kinetic Military Action.” How’s that for linguistic jujitsu?

Let’s not be too hard on Obama.  He has a country to run.  Without his clairvoyant government intervention into nearly every. single. aspect. of our lives, private markets would surely collapse.  Re-election takes front and center too.  Move over Bachmann, Perry, Romney, Cain, Paul, America – Obama has a bunch more goodies coming.  I don’t think I sent my thank you card for the last Christmas present.  You know, that whale of a healthcare bill Obama-Santa gave us all on Christmas Eve, 2009.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.  Won’t forget that one anytime soon, no sir-ree.  I’m totally looking forward to my upgraded MVD-style doctor office visits.  Where’s my Medicare card?

What other dollops have me salivating this year?  Oh, oh – immigration reform!  Yeah!  That’ll seal up this Hispanic vote.  Don’t touch Social Security or Medicare.  Takes care of elderly.  Drop “G-d” around enough and pick up some of those crazy Christian southern folk too.  Hmm. Why do so many conservatives want to run against Obama?  Can’t they tell Obama offers something for everyone?  Just leave the milk and cookies on the counter.

Sex Financing, An Illusionary Solution

I have a number of blogs that I read regularly; most deal with personal finance.  I read them not because I am a personal finance guru, but oftentimes they may have practical tips regarding money that I try to incorporate into my own life .  Plus, in my endeavor to pay off all my student loan debt – which I did last month by the way – it was encouraging walking with other people in various stages of life overcome their own battles.  One of the newer blogs, NoDebtMBA drifted across my wandering eyes of the blogosphere.  This blog details one individual’s goal to attend a top MBA school and graduate debt free.  I’m quite impressed with the effort to build a readership and draw traffic to the site.  Plus, detailing the efforts to graduate without debt is quite laudable.  I could relate to many of the posts in my own effort to minimize debt while in law school.  (Disclosure: I also had a $25 weekly grocery budget).  Recently, I read one post, “An Arrangement to Pay the Bills” mentioning that some university-level students are financing crushing debt through risque ventures.

The question NoDebtMBA posited was whether the utility of the prostitution outweighed the psychological, health, moral, and career consequences of the “arrangement.”  The post garnered a fair amount of attention with some commentators ranging from the apathetic, and the-end-justifies-the-means, to my comment providing the counterweight to the other comments.

I’m not blind to the reality of the situation; women (and to a much lesser extent, men) have ventured into the undercurrent of the gray market where sex and money changes had with regularity.  The participants of such dalliances self-police themselves to maintain the existence of the market.  To a certain extent, the entire sub-culture mirrors the complex drug cartels operating in Mexico.  One difference, however, is that unlike the drug cartels, virtually anyone – focusing primarily on women – can participate on a small scale and operate as frequent or infrequently as the case may be.

The issue I have with the entire situation is that it is farcical  to divorce morality from economics.  If economy was valued on the basis of the net benefit to its market participants, it would ignore the deeper societal implications and create absurdity.  Morality, and its inverse, immorality, permeates society in a zero-sum arrangement.  I often hear the refrain, “what is the harm in X.”  Often the argument is flawed because it centers on a specific transaction as a contractual arrangement where the benefit or harm to society is ephemeral.  However, the development of a healthy society is the lifeblood that permits the marketplace to exist.  Society, through the legislature, makes public policy decisions rooted in morality that benefits the community as a whole.  To protect society, we criminalize rather than regulate certain activities: purchasing drugs, child prostitution, and murder (and yes, even murder-for-hire).

Encouraging alternative debt financing “arrangements” does not provide a net benefit to society.  For one, it takes commoditizes one’s body and reduces an act, oft-considered sacred and places a number upon it.  Consider the regular situation in which married John engages the sexual services of Jane, an unmarried woman.  Specifically looking at the financial arrangement, benefit is incurred upon both individuals but harm is incurred too, on John’s wife.

The notion that certain plausible situations would legitimize the scandalous situation is illusory in itself.  As I’ve mentioned before, sex is more than physical.  And it’s not only an economic transaction.

 

Update: I was watching FOX news last night and they ran a story on “Sugar Daddies.”  Topical, but relevant.  Find it here.

Mental Fortitude in the Early Morning

Today the sun rose at 5:52AM this morning and I’m proud to say that I was up – well up before then.  Back in the day, which technically isn’t incredibly far removed – I would be running already – maybe have even completed a good portion of ten miles.  It was an incredible feeling when one could start and finish the workout before the the sun appeared over the mountains.  For me, I had already accomplished something – a workout, part of my training routine during the cross country or track season.

Yet it required a great deal of mental fortitude.

I’m not sure that that waking up early ever comes easily – with or without coffee.  It’s almost as if the heavy presence of tryptophan in the air continually pulls down on my eyelids until I wake up at the same time as of the sun.  Maybe this is as life should be.  In heaven.

But again, I’ve reverted to my early bird discipline – not with running in the morning (I’m only disciplined enough to work out in the evening), but with attempting to seize the day – err morning.  (How many of these blog posts are actually *written* in the morning?  Few).  In following with my last post, the morning time helps to re-evaluate and formulate my objectives in the short term.  I know, impromptu habit/discipline sounds like a New Years Resolution – which, in that case, it’s either overdue or premature.

I wonder how much Congress could accomplish by grabbing a cup of joe and hashing out the details of cutting a trillion dollars from the budget in the disjointed raucous of a heavily trafficked coffee shop in downtown D.C.  (or Phoenix) in the early morning.  My guess is that they may be able to accomplish more here than behind closed doors.  Sarcasm aside, I think the larger sentiment reflected by the myself and portion of the nation is that we are less than optimistic over any budget deals.

With the election battle lines being drawn, the economics the debt ceiling and sequelae  will be pushed back until at least December where a vote isn’t required until just before Christmas.

Until then, we can only hope that our government will possess the mental fortitude needed to place the nation ahead of politics.  And that’s a venti hope.

Coffee Shop Reflections

For the past number of Sundays, I’ve settled into the comfortable routine of visiting a local coffee shop where I’ve managed to gather my thoughts and then press on through the rest of the morning.  The coffee isn’t the draw; neither is the fact that I slip into the background noise among the rest of the patrons.  But I carve out time from my otherwise occupied schedule (even if by idleness) and deliberately reflect on the past days and coming weeks.  Only today, after deciding that I would much rather sleep in rather than wake up at four in the morning to run a race I wasn’t thrilled about participating in, have I arrived early enough to bring my computer and at least comprise a cogent reflection of my Sunday tradition-forming ponderings.

Less than two weeks ago, I was aboard the Norwegian Pearl cruising up the coast of Alaska.  Though I missed the familiar atmosphere of my obscure nook, I didn’t forgo the opportunity to catch up on a well appreciated vacation.

And through a series of innocuous events: a week-long internet deprivation, a late-night visitation with friends, and a certain deep restlessness,  have I seriously begun to again re-evaluate time and its investment in the future.

Lest you, reader, think I’m about to cut bait and embark on some grand adventure dropping all responsibilities and obligations to travel the world, I’ll dispel that notion.  I’m not that restless.  But, I’m not so comfortable that I’ve settled into a routine of consistency.  Or maybe that’s the issue – that I have.  But these Sunday reflections serve as an invaluable opportunity to evaluate my future goals and the means by which they are achieved.  Often, amongst the hustle and bustle of what we call “life” we forget or put off the time to smell the roses; we forgo that alone time and introspection that serves to remind us of who we are as a person.

When life flies at a hundred miles a hour, it’s genuinely refreshing when I see others taking time to reflect too.  I’m reminded that life encompasses more than the next election or what I’ll relish as my next meal.  Maybe, just maybe we can learn more in the silence of aromatic coffee shops than in the barrage of news reports flooding our inboxes.