JCL Blog

My Favorite Line from Obama's Speech

My favorite line from Obama's acceptance speech is:

I am hopeful tonight because I’ve seen the spirit at work in America. I’ve seen it in the family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbors, and in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see a friend lose a job.

I have had the joy of knowing people that do these things.  They cannot be recognized enough.  At my company we have had people donate vacation hours to a co-worker with cancer, deliver food and clothing to typhoon victims, and collect gifts for less fortunate children during the holidays.  

These people are true American heroes.  I am proud to have had the chance to work with them.  These last four years have been tough for most of us in America and along the way we have had to beat back the looters and other self dealers.  These parasites are not just on Wall Street, but all around us.  Let's not let the shadow of people who would put themselves first take us down.

Here is a link to the full transcript.  No matter your politics, it is worth reading.

Romney Says: No Taxes for Me!

I know it is not fair to hold a presidential candidate to what he says in the debates, but it is nice to dream.  Last night Mitt Romney said:

...there’ll be no taxes for anybody making $200,000 per year and less, on your interest, dividends and capital gains.

Awesome! All I have to do is switch my pay to a dividend and presto - no taxes! Anyone like me with a small business will be able to do the same.

Hey, anyone with a spouse could file seperately and get another $200,000 tax free.  Sweet!  $400,000 in income without any taxes at all.

I  am pretty sure our government needs taxes to run.  We can borrow a trillion here  and a trillion there, but somebody has to be paying some taxes eventually.  Also, if we iinvade Iran, someone is going to have to pay the bill for that.  I know they have oil, but using the spoils of war to pay for the war is an idea that hasn't worked for over a hundred years.  

So even though no taxes would be great for me, I am going to vote for Obama.  He has just as much of a challenge with the truth as Romney does, but I think we are less likely to invade Iran with him in office.  Along the way he may even get past these silly antics about most of the nation getting away without paying taxes.

Later:  I did not see any mention in the WSJ or the NYT about this zero tax on dividends issue, but I did find this article on AcccountingToday.com.  Good thing too because I was starting to think I had imagined it.

My Voting Checklist

With the election under four weeks away I am still undecided.  Readers of this blog know that I voted for Obama last time, and that I think peace is the most important pursuit.  So here are my three top items and how I think the candidates stack up.


I think Obama has the lead here.  It seems that most first term presidents are itching to go to war because it help their re-election chances.  Even though it is deplorable to put our citizens in harms way just to improve the president's chances at the polls -- I do think it happens.  The fact that Obama has gotten us out of Iraq and has not invaded anyone else (like Iran) is a check mark in his favor.  Also, following this line of reasoning, he is going to be less likely to start a war in his second term than any first term president.

Special Interests and Deficit Reduction

This is a tie.  And when I say special interests I mostly think of industries getting bail out money, and not so much who is getting payback for campaign contributions.  I have it as a tie because I think Obama has proven incapable of stopping the flow of money from the US Treasury to Goldman Sachs (I think  oldman Sachs is a good label for all things evil on Wall Street even though I do recognize that there are plenty of bad actors in other firms too).  I don't think Romney has any intention of stopping the flow of our money to these bad guys.  So incapable vs. uninterested equals a tie.  This same thinking also applies to deficit reduction.  Obama can't get it done and Romney does not want to.

Managing the Unions

On this one I am undecided.  Of course the Democrats have been in the pocket of the unions for all of my lifetime.  But Obama has done some good stuff to manage their influence.  I am quite involved in education reform and I think the Race to the Top effort was a well crafted plan to reduce the union's efforts to block progress in education reform.  The Republicans have always been in an all out war with the unions.  Sometimes I think that much antagonism is not going to get us to where we want to go.  It could even strenghten the unions. The public union problem is going to be front and center in the next four years as minicipalities try to figure out how to stay solvent in the face of liabilities that have been passed forward for decades.  

It will be very intersting to see how the remaining debates illumnate the candidate's approaches to these three issues.



Peace Gets My Vote

Every day the front page of the newspaper is dominated by campaign news or Iran/War news or both – and the election is still 8 months away!  I don’t know who I am voting for yet.  You may recall that Obama was the first Democrat I ever voted for.  I can say that a very large part of my decision, possibly the entire decision, will be based on the chances that the candidate will be able to keep us from entering yet another war.  Just about everyone seems to want to start another war in the middle east – so it is going to take some kind of a (enter favorite adjective here – strong, smart, resolute…) president to keep us out of the war.  It seems silly to make an argument against war, but if I have to I would say war is bad because people die and we spend our time and energy focused on the war and not on other problems at home – oh yeah, and it makes most everyone in the world hate us.

There are plenty of ‘people’ (I use the air quotes here because we now consider corporations as people) that feel it is in their best interest to start another war.  Here is my list of those beating the war drum:


  1. Politicians:  Sure seems patriotic to be over the top for the war
  2. Israelis:  It is clearly in their interest for the USA to fight the war for them
  3. Bomb Makers:  Anyone who makes a profit from war would clearly want war
  4. Newspapers:  Nothing like a good war to drive up interest in the news
  5. Anyone who hates the USA:  What better way to drive support for your anti USA organization (al-Qaeda) than to get the USA to drop a bunch of bombs (hopefully on the neighbors, but really, anywhere will do)


In what is a historic irony, our military is not all that wild about starting another war.  Normally, the US military would be leading the charge for war, but maybe lately those guys have seen too many brave young people march to their death for no reason and they now think the promotions and unlimited budgets are being paid for with too precious a currency.

So that is my measure.  The candidate that convinces me that he will do his best to keep us out of war will win my vote.

For those of you that think the threat of Iran getting nukes justifies war, The Economist recently did this piece that does a very good job of outlining the argument against going to war to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.

For those of you that think we should pre-emptively defend Israel, try this one from CNN.

For those of you that want a general background, try this one from The American Interest.

Our New Car

After driving my wife's last car into the ground we broke down and bought a new one this week.  Thinking that everyone in our country ought to make purchase decisions with the balance of trade in mind, we committed early to buying an American car.  

After driving all kinds, we settled on a Jeep Liberty.  It is an awesome car, just big enough but not too big.  Just tough enough but not too tough.  

There were a few revelations during the process:

The process at the car dealership (Bellevue Chrystler Jeep) was awesome.  Our salesperson, Joe Langhans took great care of us -- and once we decided to buy -- we were done in under 2 hours -- awesome.  Of course I was prepared for the worst -- but it did not even come close to happening.  I recommend Joe and his dealership highly.

I made a comment during the purchase process that Americans should buy American made cars and the reaction:  Republicans think like that but not Democrats.  Hmmm.  I had never thought about it that way before.  Today Rham Emanuel and our President are getting blasted for saying not very nice things about the UAW and its products.  Maybe a little leadership will bring the D's back to buying our cars.




Book Review: Game Change by Halperin and Heilemann

For me the Game Changer was Sarah Palin.  How any serious contender for president of our country could pass her off as a qualified candidate was more than I could accept.  And I was firmly in the McCain camp too.  The account in Game Change put her vetting by the McCain staff at five days, which only reinforced my decision.  How any 69 year old candidate for the highest office could spend only five days evaluating someone who could have authority over the nukes -- and still claim to be a serious person is beyond me.  Someday I hope to be a Republican again.  I believe that less government is better, the gun thing is disturbing but manageable, and I will count on the Supreme Court to maintain a woman's access to all birth control options.  If the Republican party can regain some discipline and honestly face our challenges -- they can win back my vote.

Here are my take aways from the book:


  1. Barack Obama was the only serious candidate (or person) in the race.  Edwards, Giuliani, McCain, Clinton, Palin, and all the rest come off as seriously flawed and unfit people.
  2. Discipline, discipline, discipline.  Over and over Obama demonstrated his willingness to face his own issues and work hard to win.
  3. Michelle Obama is a force to be reckoned with and the only spouse in the book that was not a liability.
  4. The media has very little interest in providing the voter with the information necessary to make a considered decision.


If the authors are to be believed, and I have to wonder who can be believed anymore, Barack Obama is a capable and well intentioned person -- and by far the best of the choices we had for our President.  So in that respect maybe our democratic/electoral process actually worked. 

Here are some other book reviews you may find interesting:

The New York Times

The Washington Post

The Economist

The Huffington Post

You can buy the book from Amazon here.

A note on my book reviews:  You may think I have never met a book I did not like.  In fact I read a fair number of books that I would just as well forget and I do not write reviews of them.  I call these book reviews, but I really think of them as notes of impressions I had while reading that I don't want to forget.  I put in the links to the other reviews so you can get real critical thinking about the work from some true professionals.


Two Big Speakers this Week

Two of the most iconic figures of our time took the stage this week. To someone who has been a student of public speaking since I took my first public speaking class in the 9th grade I am bound to find the performances interesting regardless of the content or context.  Add to this my interest in both technology and our nation and Wednesday was quite a day.

Steve Jobs Introduces the iPad

Technophiles and ordinary citizens alike are all hoping this is not the last new product presentation we get from Steve Jobs. His gifts are many and to see them on display is a thrill. He himself has raised the bar so high with the Mac, the iPod, and the iPhone that it seemed almost impossible for him to deliver yet another home run. Of course only time will tell on the success of the iPad but and I found the presentation to be short of my own expectations.

He did not help his credibility when he massaged the numbers to position Apple as the largest mobile devices company in the world. Comparing all of Apple's forward looking revenues to just the current mobile devices revenues of Sony, Samsung, and Nokia does not hold up to event the dimmest scrutiny. This illuminated the fact that he was really speaking to the already converted and I find that the underlying fabric of the whole presentation and product.

There were many references to how the iPad will interact with existing Apple products. This emphasizes the closed nature of the Apple environment, and with their own chip, the porting of existing iWork apps, the exclusion of flash, and the extension of iTunes into iBooks -- this is putting another layer of bricks on the wall around the Apple community. The fans are going to love it, but the product is not cool enough to be the catalyst to new conversions from other platforms.

Ahead of the announcement some had speculated that the device and deals with content partners would save the TV industry. It appears that was never part of the vision for the product. Featuring the NY Times was nice but incremental -- no revolution there. As a gaming platform bigger is better, but gamers are not going to make this their main device -- so I don't really see that as a big change either.

In the end I did not think Steve really was wowed by the product either. If they have sold 250 million iPods -- they clearly will sell tens of millions of these things. But the primary motivation will be for one Apple fan to tell another Apple fan that they have it.

I will get into my thoughts about the Apple upgrade cycle some other day, but that is another reason to not buy the iPad now. Apple will continue to innovate on the platform and 12 months from now the new version will be cooler, cheaper, and maybe not even backwards compatible with this one.

Regarding killing the Kindle -- since Steve proclaimed that ALL iPhone apps work out of the box on the iPad -- that means that anyone buying the iPad can read their Kindle books on the Kindle App for the iPhone. This is great news for Amazon. Amazon has never been a hardware company and I bet they make much higher margins on the books than the Kindle device. So iPad could mean more Kindle book sales for Amazon. Also, Jeff Bezos will be off the hook with the publishers now that Apple is in the biz. So I don't think the Amazon people are going to be unhappy about this.

President Obama Calls it Like it is

It has been quite a year for the President. The vitriol between the parties has left everyone diminished and the independents in between seem to jump back and forth every day. It will be years before we understand how the decisions made by our well intentioned President re-shape our universe. Getting out of the financial crisis by turning from bank regulator to bank owner, and getting out of the war by putting more of our people in harms way, are hard things to explain even when over half the members of the choir are your own.

The good parts came when the President focussed our attention on the reason we need to make changes: The "How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold? ...I do not accept second-place for the United States of America." sequence hit the target right in the middle. All of the references to the things we are going to do -- particularly those laced with details like forgiving student loans in 20 or 10 years or $20 billion in savings in government spending next year -- do not resonate at all because we are skeptical about our government's ability to do anything. With the possible exception of sending tax dollars to special interest groups on Wall Street and the Pharmaceutical companies -- there is very little evidence that our government can do anything.

One year into his term, the repeated claim that the problems were not created on his watch, were tiresome and hurt his credibility.

Our President did rise to the occasion however and he showed his resolve calling out the "Deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works." His proposal to put all earmarks on the web is bold and would be a big step in the right direction. His willingness to get some of the mud on himself by calling out the broken nature of our political process is great leadership. President Obama believes that the government can do good work. He has called out the bad stuff, committed himself to do something about it, and I believe his intentions are honorable.

We should not give up hope and all of us should do what we can to contribute to his success.