Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Cal Ballot Issues

Having been the hospital, I haven't had much time to figure out the lengthy California ballot for this November. My approach is to vote NO unless given a pretty good reason to vote YES. Here are some links to help you decide: recommendations from LA Times, SF Chronicle and Frank Pastore (talkradio host).

As of this writing, Pastore has YES recommendations for 1A, 59, 60 and 60A. The Los Angeles Times is recommending YES on 1A, 59, 62, 64, 66 and 71. The SF Chronicle editors are recommending YES votes for 59, 62, 63, 64, 66 and 71.

Thus, all three (2 liberal big city papers and 1 conservative talk radio host) of these sources are either against or silent about: 61, 65, 67, 68, 69, 70, 72.

So let's take a look at the ones they are saying yes to. Here is some information on 1A.
excerpt:
Proposition 1A is a historic bipartisan agreement among local governments, public safety leaders, the State Legislature, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and is authored by Democratic State Senator Tom Torlakson.

Proposition 1A prevents the State from taking and using funding that local governments need to provide services like fire and paramedic response, law enforcement, health care, parks, and libraries.


Sounds good to me. RR recommends a YES.

What is 59 about?
Excerpt:
You have the right to decide how open your government should be. That's why Proposition 59 was unanimously passed by the Legislature and it is the reason widely diverse organizations support the Sunshine Amendment, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the League of California Cities.


Okay, I'm for more openness in government. RR recommends a YES.

Here is some information on prop 60 which seems to be a companion to 62.
Excerpt:
(about 60) SCA 18 (Resolution Chapter 103, 2004), Primary elections: surplus state property.

(about 62) Changes to Primary System. This measure amends both the State Constitution and state statutes to make changes to primary elections. For most state and federal elected offices, this measure allows voters-including those not affiliated with a political party-to vote for any candidate regardless of the candidate's political party. The measure applies to the election of state constitutional officers, members of the Legislature, and members of Congress. The measure, however, does not apply to the election of the U.S. President or political party committees. If approved, the new system would be used beginning with the March 2006 primary.


I don't get it? Why is prop 60 fusing 2 completely separate issues together? And I think 62 sounds crazy. As much as we may sometimes dislike political parties, they do represent points of view and to erase their roles in the primary process seems excessive.

RR is recommending NO votes on 60 and 62.

UPDATE: Looks like I mis-read 60 and it doesn't fuse two things. I must have been loopy when I was reading it. Nonetheless, 60 sounds like it really doesn't do much while 62 goes back to the previous "open primary" system we had briefly. The "open primary" idea is an interesting way to force more moderate candidates to the fore in all races except for presidential nominee and party committee positions. I can see why some folks support 62 though I remain a NO vote on that one.

60A sounds like the 2nd half of 60 standing alone?
Excerpt:
PROPOSITION 60A gives voters the chance to reduce the cost of the bonds they overwhelmingly approved in March as part of Governor Schwarzenegger's plan to help ease the state's budget crisis.

Unfortunately, those bonds carry a high price in the form of interest payments. There is a solution. Experts estimate California has more than $1,000,000,000 worth of surplus property. By requiring that proceeds from the sale of all such surplus property be used to help pay off the bonds early, PROPOSITION 60A COULD DRAMATICALLY LOWER COSTS TO TAXPAYERS.


Makes sense to me. RR kindly suggests a YES vote on 60A.

UPDATE: 61 sounds nice. I mean who could be against Children's Hospital Projects? But as usual, I'm concerned with how it is funded. For other good causes but with questionable funding methods see concerns about 63, 67 and 72. Reluctantly, I'm a NO vote on 61. Does this make me a cold-hearted conservative-libertarian?

UPDATE: For 62, see above comments on 60.

How about prop 63?
Excerpt:
This proposition establishes a state personal income tax surcharge of 1 percent on taxpayers with annual taxable incomes of more than $1 million. Funds resulting from the surcharge would be used to expand county mental health programs.

I don't make over $1 million a year. The cause is a good one. So I can sit here and say soak the rich for a good cause. But, RR has to recommend a NO vote on this. What if millionaires opt to take up residence in other states to avoid this additional tax? The revenue stream for this good cause will run dry. What happens in bad economic times when those millionaires income falls slightly below $1 million? Again the revenue dries up. Its a good cause but not a good way to fund it.

What is prop 64 all about?
Excerpt:
There's a LOOPHOLE IN CALIFORNIA LAW that allows private lawyers to file frivolous lawsuits against small businesses even though they have no client or evidence that anyone was damaged or misled. Shakedown lawyers "appoint" themselves to act like the Attorney General and file lawsuits on behalf of the people of the State of California, demanding thousands of dollars from small businesses that can't afford to fight in court.

Closing that loophole sounds reasonable to me. RR requests you consider a YES vote on this item.

UPDATE: I don't get 65? Can somebody clarify what is going on here? If I don't get it, it gets a NO vote.

66 looks to modify the current "Three Strikes" law.
Excerpt:
(pro side)Ten years ago, voters were asked to pass tougher sentences for repeat violent criminals. We approved the Three Strikes law because that's what we were told it would do.

We weren't told that Three Strikes would also lock up nonviolent, petty offenders for life.

VOTING YES ON PROPOSITION 66 WILL RESTORE THREE STRIKES TO ITS PROMISE AND THE ORIGINAL INTENT OF VOTERS.

(con side) Don't be fooled. Proposition 66 won't protect children or save tax money. It creates a new legal loophole for convicted criminals that will cost taxpayers millions of dollars and flood our streets with thousands of dangerous felons, including rapists, child molesters, and murderers. That's why Proposition 66 is strongly opposed by every major public safety, taxpayer, and child protection group in California...

Hmmm, this is a tough one. I'm open to being pursuaded on this one. I'm all for strong law enforcement but if we really are locking people up for minor things then the law needs tinkering. Whether this is the right tinkering I don't know. At this moment I'm leaning to a NO vote.

UPDATE: 67 is the phone tax for emergency medical services. Good cause, lousy funding mechanism. NO on this one. Is the cold-mean-conservative libertarian label sticking on me?

UPDATE: 68 and 70 are Indian gaming regulatory initiatives. Too confusing. The Arnold is against both. 'Nuff said, NO on both.

UPDATE: 69 is the DNA database for crime fighting. I'm a law-and-order type BUT this seems to go too far. I can't see how this is going to survive some kind of 4th Amendment challenge. I'm going with a NO vote here. Does this make me a liberal who supports criminals?

UPDATE: 70 - see comments above on 68.

71 is the controversial Stem Cell Research proposition.
Excerpt:
Establishes "California Institute for Regenerative Medicine" to regulate stem cell research and provide funding, through grants and loans, for such research and research facilities. Establishes constitutional right to conduct stem cell research; prohibits Institute's funding of human reproductive cloning research. Establishes oversight committee to govern Institute. Provides General Fund loan up to $3 million for Institute's initial administration/implementation costs. Authorizes issuance of general obligation bonds to finance Institute activities up to $3 billion subject to annual limit of $350 million.


As a pro-life person, I have moral qualms about using embryo stem cells. There is a line in the sand somewhere about what we should and should not do for saving life and I'm not comfortable crossing this line. RR requests a NO vote on 71.

UDPATE: 72 is complicated. Mandates on businesses for health care might drive businesses out of California and make those that stay have a harder time. Good cause but I'm not sure this is the way to do it. NO on 72. The cold-mean-ruthless conservative-libertarian tag once again, eh?

Okay, that is my quick take on the ballot measures. Am open to persuasion.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Life: and still more health blogging

She's an angel.

Fade to black.

She's an angel. A lovely face.

Fade to black.

She's an angel. A lovely face. A re-assuring smile.

Fade to black.

She's an angel. A lovely face. A re-assuring smile. A soothing voice.

Fade to black.

She's an angel. A lovely face. A re-assuring smile. A soothing voice. I can't remember much of what she said.

I said, today is Wednesday, I had surgery. Everything went okay right?

She said, it went well. The slight smirk in her smile led me to believe this wasn't the first time we had this conversation.

Fade to black.

She's an angel. A lovely face. A re-assuring smile. A soothing voice. The gurney was rolling and she said something about you're doing great so we can move you to the next floor now.

Fade to black.

Post-surgery, I guess there is a holding area where the patient is under the very watchful eye of the post-op staff. At some point though, we come out of the haze and can get moved to the regular ward. The rest of Wednesday afternoon and evening would be in 8 South. My memories of that night are very sketchy. The TV was on and I heard familiar voices and I remembered that was the night of the third presidential debate. The debate or news coverage of it was playing on the TV, I can't remember which. I heard the sounds of baseball but I can't remember whether it was the ALCS or the NLCS.

Periodically, a nurse would come by to take my temperature, blood pressure, pulse, measure the urinary output in the Foley bag, check the nasal-gastric tube, check the IV and ask about nausea and pain.

One post-op complication is infection hence the temperature checks. Also, the other bag on the IV pole was antibiotics.

The blood pressure measurements are probably to check for internal bleeding. One's BP falls and pulse rises when there is internal bleeding.

Nausea can be a problem because stuff can sit in the stomach because my intestinal tract was asleep from all the trauma of the obstruction and the handling they received from the surgeon who had to correct the problem. The nasal-gastric tube that was aspirating stomach contents when working properly reduces the nausea problem but they ask to be sure.

And of course, there is pain. I could feel a dull but persistent pain in the area of the incision. The nurse can give 0.5 mg of pain medicine to help. I did opt for the shot on some occasions.

The other post-op complication is the possibility of blood clots. Surgical patients don't move around much so blood clots can form in areas of low circulation. Hence, I had pants hooked up to a pump. About once a minute, the pump activates and squeezes my legs to increase circulation.

There is also a device to exercise the lungs by inhaling to move round balls inside a container. The goal is to eventually be able to get all three balls moving. The first day I could just manage to get the first ball aloft.

On Thursday morning, the very first thing on the agenda was to get out of bed and walk. This effort helps the circulation, speeds the reawakening of the intestines and gets your lungs to work.

I never knew how often one uses abdominal muscles until this experience. Coughing, breathing deeply and rolling out of bed all hurt like crazy because I had a 4-6 inch wound in my abdomen. I did manage with assistance to get out of bed and leaning on the IV pole, I walked maybe 25 feet before turning back and falling asleep on the chair while the staff changed the linens on the bed.

As the day went on, I walked a few more times, each time going a little further.

As the days went on, the walks became easier and even something to look forward to as an excuse to get out of my hospital bed and room.

Being young and healthy meant that I should recover fairly normally. One nice thing the hospital provided was a handout on what to expect in the 7 days in the hospital which is the typical stay for my condition. As a patient, you often feel anxiety at not knowing what is going on and whether or not one is on track with recovery. The handout indicated what to expect each day which was re-assuring because what was happening with me was quite normal.

The Foley tube came out on the weekend. The Nasal-Gastric tube came out on Monday. The IV came out Tuesday morning and I was out of the hospital Tuesday afternoon.

A huge thank you goes out to family and friends who supported me and encouraged me through this experience. And a really huge thank you and SHOUT OUT goes to the doctors and nurses of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who took care of me in the Emergency Room, Operating Room, pre- and post-op and in recovery on 8 South. You all are the BEST!

As a person of faith in Jesus, I found hope and comfort in drawing near to God during this time. I found my heart thankful that God provides people of medical talent and compassion to care for people in hospitals. I found myself amazed at the human body. 99.999% of the time, the intestines work normally and we don’t have to even think about it. Even though I was in the hospital because it malfunctioned, in a week it was working again. And overall, without any conscious effort on my part, my body was repairing itself.

In some of the post-midnight hours as I stared at the ceiling, I would pray to God. Yes, there were some fears, I am only human. But most of the time there was gratitude.

When the fears would come, I found comfort in praying the familiar Lord's Prayer. Give us this day our daily bread as a phrase took on new meaning as I lay there. Keeping the perspective of one day at a time and recognizing God’s provision helped.

Oddly, at times, I found myself recollecting the Ten Commandments. I don't know why but it came to mind regularly. Can you name all ten? Anyway, I would go one-by-one and think about each one. I have to say I did dwell mostly on the first four which pertain to my attitude towards God. It is all familiar stuff but I found it soothing and re-assuring in my time of anxiety.

Well, that is my story. I am resting at home. I feel like a cat: I sleep, I drink water, I eat little meals here and there, I take little walks for exercise and I sleep.

Being a young person who likes an active life, it is hard. But I tell myself, my body is at work repairing itself. It is at work and active. It is just different and invisible. One friend said your body has just undergone a major trauma and it needs to recover, give yourself that time.

If you have stumbled onto this blog and have either undergone surgery or know someone who has, I hoped that these three entries have helped a little. I know going over it in writing helps me process the experience. Feel free to post questions or observations in the comments section.

Part I, Part II, Part III.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Life: more health blogging

Be warned, gentle readers, more medical experience described, reader discretion is advised.

WebMD.com is a very popular destination for those looking for health information. What I recently had was an intestinal obstruction.

Picking up the story where I left it, the ER didn't look too busy. It certainly was not the beehive of activity you see in the long running NBC show ER. I filled out the forms and described my symptoms and took a seat. It was about 10 minutes later they did a quick blood pressure, temperature and medical history. I returned to my seat after that.

Between the stomach pains and the post-midnight hour, my recollection of the sequence of events and timing is foggy. I think it was around 2 to 2:30 AM that I got called into the ER exam room to be seen by the MD on duty.

They asked for a urine sample and the nurse drew some blood samples. The doctor asked a bunch of questions and then examined my abdomen and said: well, given what we have so far, I'm thinking, appendicitis.

I think at this point, an IV was plugged into my right arm for fluids and to give me medications. I drifted in and out of sleep as I awaited the next phase.

The ER doc showed up and said, well, an elevated white blood cell count usually goes with appendicitis and we didn't see that. We are going to order up an abdominal CT scan. I was carted off to the imagining unit and I was able to slide myself off my ER bed onto the CT bed. That bed slid me into the doughnut for a variety of imaging including one involving contrast material. I leave it to your imagination to figure out how contrast material is introduced into a patient in a gurney who is being checked out for an intestinal blockage. Suffice to say, dignity and comfort take a backseat (and rightly so!) to figuring out what is wrong.

Eventually, I was back in the ER and drifting in and out of consciousness. This time the ER doc was joined by another doc. He said he was a surgeon and he said that the CT scan revealed an intestinal obstruction. He said the blockage could be due to a solid object such as a tumor or scar tissue. He said the intestine could be kinked like a water hose for various reasons. In any case, he suggested surgery for that afternoon. I scrawled my signature on various consent forms.

To prepare for the surgery, I had a nasal-gastric tube inserted. The guy prepping me was very good to explain what he was doing. He said, one can be inserted very rapidly in an emergency situation but since I was awake, he wanted to explain what was going to happen. He injected some surface anesthetics into my throat and into my nose. He then started to thread the tube through my left nostril. Even with the anesthetic, I could feel it work its way through my nasal cavity and then go down the back of my throat. He then explained the last phase is to get it into the stomach and voila, it was in. He then explained I'll vacuum out the remaining contents of your stomach in prep for the surgery and for the post-operative phase.

The next thing he needed to do to prep me was the attachment of a Foley bag. Since I'll was going to be in post-operative care for several days and not very mobile, it is difficult to relieve my bladder on my own. Thus, a bag with a tube is inserted to facilitate this bodily function. I'll leave it to your imagination how that is done!

As I waited for surgery, I had a brief window of time to make some phone calls to family, friends and co-workers to explain my situation.

Since the surgery suite wouldn't be available until 1pm, I had to wait. I was given some pain medication to tide me over and as such, I drifted in and out of awareness. I couldn't help but think of those war movies where someone shouts, "Medic!" And the medic gives the wounded soldier a little injection of morphine and the injured man calms down. I had no energy to be thrashing around but the pain was quite the constant companion and when the injection would go in... I could feel my whole body lighten and my mind go foggy and the pain would be reduced substantially.

Eventually, I was wheeled to pre-op and it was a beehive of activity. It was Grand Central Station for patients being processed for surgery. As I was wheeled in, I saw two other patients wheeled out to their respective surgeries. As I was wheeled out, I looked over at the guy who was next in line and we gave each other the thumbs up.

The surgery suite looks just like in the movies though it wasn't as brightly lit as I thought it would be. Would there be music playing like in the television shows? Indeed, a little rock music was playing quietly. The anesthesiologist noticing I was Chinese said something in Mandarin. I responded in Cantonese saying I spoke very little Cantonese. She said okay, I guess we will stick to English and the staff laughed. She put the mask over my face and in about 3 seconds the world went away...

To be continued...

Part I, Part II, Part III.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Life: health blogging

Sorry for the absence folks: I've been sick. I'll blog some of what I went through for my own benefit and for those of you who stumble onto the page in search of medical information.

WebMD.com is a very popular destination for those looking for health information. What I recently had can be found here.

How did it all start?

Be warned, below are some squeamish descriptions of what I went through.

On Tuesday, October 12, I went to work in the usual way though I did feel a bit more tired than usual. By 3pm, I had a stomach ache and some muscle aches. At this point, I thought, I might have SKV = some kind of virus. I decided to go home and get some rest.

After a fitful few hours of napping, the stomach ache felt worse. I was beginning to wonder why the stomach ache didn't resolve with some rest and pepto. Things took a turn at around 10pm when I wobbled to the bathroom to throw up. This made me feel better but only for an hour or so. The stomach pains began to build up again in wave after wave. By midnight, I was thinking it might be time to go to the ER. I contacted two friends (one local who I know is a night owl and one in another time zone where it was day time there) and both suggested I should seriously consider going to the ER.

In my case 2 factors pushed me toward going: (1) the length and severity of the stomach pain; it was well beyond a usual stomach ache and (2) vomiting didn't help; often times stomach problems are resolved by vomiting or diarrhea.

My night owl friend drove to my apartment around 1 AM and we were at the emergency room shortly after that.

Story to be continued...

Part I, Part II, Part III.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

It's Dodgertown!

Can the Blue Crew come up with another win to send it to a all-or-nothing game 5 in St. Louis?

Theoretically, the Dodgers should be loose as the team nobody expected to be here and the Cardinals to be tense as they are the most dominent team that is supposed to roll over everybody to the inevitable showdown with the Yankees.

LaRussa is going with the 4th man in the rotation, Suppan, who has had a good road record but has been struggling late in the season. Tracy counters with Perez who got blitzed in game 1 not even lasting 3 innings.

I assume Perez should be well rested. It would be ideal if he goes out there and puts up 9 zeros. Hopefully, his location will be good and Mayne and Perez will form that psychic link and make the right calls on when to go with the heater and when to nibble the corners with breaking stuff.

Nonetheless, I imagine, Tracy will have a quick hook if it looks like Perez is struggling. I'm guessing Carrara will get the call if Perez exits early. If it comes down to needing another inning or two to get the ball to Gagne in the 8th, look for Tracy to go to Alvarez and Brazoban. Sanchez and Venafro might get one batter each in situational appearances. Tracy will hold out Dessens for extra-innings if it comes to that. The only two guys off limits would be Lima and Weaver but if it gets into the 13th inning and beyond, who knows. For the Dodgers, they have their backs to the wall, there is no tomorrow, this is do or die, fish or cut bait with nothing to lose -- help me here ... more sports cliches... PLEASE!

Look for vets like Finley to come through. Hopefully, Green will continue the good hitting and with somebody on base! Beltre is showing the nervousness of a youngster. Hitting coach Wallace has to settle Beltre down and get him to wait for the good pitch and Beltre can get a hit at his first at-bat to loosen him up so later on he can hit the long ball to put away the Cards and send it to game 5!

Go Dodgers!

UPDATE: Dodgers are done for the season. Perez was off giving up 5 walks and 2 runs in 2 1/3rd innings and was at 60 pitches. Suppan was solid for 7 innings. What can you say, the better team won. Nonetheless, the Dodgers gave this fan and this town a lot of enjoyment. Thank you Dodgers and see you next spring at the ballpark!

Friday, October 08, 2004

Live blogging 2nd debate

Question #1: Is Kerry a flip flopper?

Kerry in defense of himself doesn't cite Iraq because he knows he has flip flopped. Bush did well on this one and hit on Iraq and Kerry's flip flops.

Question #2: Iraq war problems?

A draw on this. Bush did better defending the war but Kerry is able to point out what has gone wrong.

Question #3: Is Kerry's plan different?

Kerry recites the litany of more nations and more training. Bush counters, we are doing that and can you really trust Kerry who has denigrated the war effort. Again, Kerry emphasizes UBL only and Bush counters it is a wider war. Bush's energy seems greater tonight that last week.

Question #4: Bush, how will you restore our alliances?

Doing what is right can be unpopular. Kerry insists we could have brought the UN Security Council on board. Kerry counters that they didn't have enough troops and had poor planning for post-war Iraq.

Question #5: Kerry, what would you do about Iran?

Kerry goes off topic and talks about Russia loose nukes. He brings up bunker buster bombs. He also brings up North Korea. He tacks on I would deal with any threat. Bush responds and says he is doing multi-lateral talks. Wooo... he brings up the unpopular "axis of evil" phrase.

Question #6: Will there be a draft?

Bush says we won't bring it back. We adjust troop levels in South Korea and Europe. Technology allows us to do more with less people. Kerry doesn't support draft either. He cites generals who support him. He cites the army is over-extended. Will add 40,000 more troops. Back to alliance building. Very testy exchange on both sides.

Question #7: Why have there been no new attacks on US soil? What would you do?

Kerry says alliances help intelligence. He attacks the weakness of Homeland Security department. Bush counters we spend $30B. Best defense is a strong offense. Patriot act is important. Bush goes back and defends the war on Iraq. Lots of counter-punching. Very lively.

Question #8: Bush, why are you blocking drug re-importation of drugs from Canada?

Bush responds by saying we got to be careful that the drugs aren't really from 3rd world and not good. If we can do it right we will have it. Medicare drug program on the way. Kerry counter attacks that Bush admin hasn't done it right. Who got it right? Kerry brings up the Federal debt. Huh? Anyway, I'm sure there needs to be some fact checking on the history of the drug re-importation issue.

Question #9: Kerry, you picked a lawyer who sues doctors to be VP. What's the deal about health care cost and lawsuits?

Kerry says they will fix malpractice laws. 1% of costs is lawsuits. Bush says defensive medicine costs aren't factored into that number. Bush says Kerry wants a Federal take over of health care and I'm against it. Some numbers flew around. Fact check, please!

Question #10: You have spent too much money. Why?

Bush says we came in on a recession and there is a war. Kerry hits back saying nobody should cut taxes during a war. Bush counters that the tax cut shorted the recession. Kerry tosses out a bunch of numbers. Fact checking needed here.

Question #11: Will you make a tax pledge for those below $200,000?

Kerry says, yes. Bush counters Kerry will spend or break his spending promises. Both sides are citing numbers and who knows what the heck is the real number when you are talking billions and billions of bucks. Remember 2000 when Gore and Bush were tossing around billions and billions of dollars of the surplus to be used for Social Security reform and Medicare reform?

Question #12: Bush, what is your environmental record?

Bush cites some of the areas they have worked on. Kerry says those things aren't very much. Kerry cites Kyoto. Bush says it wasn't a good treaty. Don't see Greens ever supporting Bush.

Question #13: About jobs?

Kerry argues about outsouring and manufacturing tax credits and health care and education. Bush counters with tort reform, small business buying pools for health issurance, legal reforms and regulation reform. Bush says small biz often pay taxes via personal tax code. Kerry claims that Bush is wrong on which small biz taxes. Fact checker please?

Question #14: Patriot act is taking away my rights, why do it?

Bush defends the act saying it is the same rules being applied to organized crime. Kerry counters there have been abuses.

Question #15: Stem cell question, adult versus embryonic?

Kerry empathized with questioner. He then goes on to defend embryonic cell use in hope for cures. Bush says balancing science and ethics is important. Saving life by destroying life is something one doesn't do lightly.

Question #16: Supreme court nominee?

Bush wants strict interpreter of law. Kerry cites Bush likes Scalia and Thomas and he would like Potter Stewart.

Question #17: Abortion views and Federal funding of it?

Kerry says he is Catholic and has that view. He says though we can't legislate an article of faith. Kerry sounds like he favors Federal funding for abortions. Bush cites partial birth abortion ban and parental notification. He says no Federal money will go to abortion.

Question #18: Bush have you made mistakes and what you did?

Afghan, no. Iraq, no. On the big decisions I believe I was right. History will judge. On some details, I've made mistakes. On some appointments I've made mistakes. Kerry says Iraq was a mistake.

Closings:

Kerry: Solid close. It all sounds good. Leads with national security and then goes to domestic.

Bush: He leads with domestic concerns and economy is recovering. He then goes onto the national security issues.

Instant analysis: Very contentious. Not as brutal as the Veep debate but still lots of punching and counter-punching. My impression is that Bush's energy level was much higher. Both sides have strong opinions and will attack the other side.

I thought last week it was a draw on the substance though on style, I'd have to agree last week Kerry had an edge. Kerry became more than the cardboard cutout that was the dominent impression of him.

This week, on style, Bush bounced back and did much better than last week and reassured his base and may sway the undecided because he is a person of conviction. That whole section on doing the unpopular was an effective moment.

On a few occasions numbers were flying around and I'm sure the fact checkers will go over it.

Bush has weaknesses on substance (problems in Iraq and sluggish economy) that he has to defend. Kerry has attacked those like a prosecutor and was pretty effective. Will undecided voters conclude it is a time for a change? That is the key issue.

The other half of the time for a change issue is whether Kerry is a plausible alternative. Enough did in 1976 to send the unknown Carter to the WH but it was close. In 1980, Reagan had the same task and became plausible and the people voted for the change.

The choice couldn't be more clear. These two differ in the way they look at things and the way they present themselves.

This format seemed more interesting than the first debate. It seemed as if allowing the candidates to talk to the questioner made the issues more real and less like a recitation of talking point. Though, in the end, they are still reciting talking points but they have to work it into a conversational tone which I think actually makes for more interesting television.

In some ways, this seems to work better for Bush who is the more people oriented of the two candidates. He seems more energized when he is talking to a real person as opposed to a camera or a moderator. The prior format of talking to the camera and moderator works better for Kerry who is used to Senate "debate" speeches. If you have been to the Capitol and sat in on a session you will know Senate "debate" speeches are often made to a room with only a handful of people and the CSPAN2 cameras.

My take: a draw. Both sides will find things to like in what they saw. The undecided have lots of impressions to absorb. They can't claim ignorance of the substance and style of the two candidates after tonight's event. They have to decide what is important to them and then which candidate fits their view of what is important to them.

UPDATE: CNN factcheck, MSNBC/WP fact check, Foxnews.com citing AP fact check, factcheck.org's fact check.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

Have you heard of it?

It has been on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Imagine that, a Christian religious book on top of the list.

Anyway, I finally got a copy and have started to read it. The final push for me to do this was that my church is having small reading groups meeting during various times throughout the week to discuss it together. I joined up with one and look forward to the time to share our observations about the book.

I think I'll do some book blogging as well.

There is a web page for the book, here.

And if you want to check out what people are saying, go to the Amazon page where reader reviews of the book can be found.

=========

Okay, so I'll go ahead and blog my impressions as I read. If you have read the book, I'd be curious to hear from you what you think. If you have been thinking about reading it, I'd be curious to know if my observations swayed you one way or the other.

Chapter One is titled, "It All Starts with God."

Warren is straightforward: It's not about you.

I've been taught over the years in my church attendance that self-centeredness is one of the biggest problems facing us. The whole idea that life is me, me, me. We are often driven by self-promotion and self-preservation. Thus, this start is a good reminder of something I know well and struggle with.

Warren related a story about an atheist writer, Andrei Bitov who said:
I was overcome with a dispair so great that life seemed to stop at once, preempting the future entirely, let alone any meaning. Suddenly, all by itself, a phrase appeared: Without God life makes no sense.
To find our purpose in life, we have to go to the Creator.

For those blog readers who don't believe in god, I'd be curious to know, where do you draw your sense of meaning to life?

As for me, I do believe and so that is the starting point.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Veeps Slug It Out

I saw the VP debate at the bar in Hollywood. My guess is that the audience was mostly pro-Bush-Cheney but they weren't a very vocal crowd. They listened pretty carefully and didn't hoot and hollar at some of the verbal fireworks.

One viewer said before the start, it is going to be a lot more brutal than last week's Presidential debate.

He was right.

Edwards charged that the Bush Administration isn't telling the truth. This is, of course, the polite way of saying they are a bunch of liars.

Cheney charged that Kerry's pronouncements in last week's debate is not consistent with his record. This is, of course, the polite way of saying Kerry will say anything to get elected and is an untrustworthy liar.

On style:

Edwards is a smooth talker. I'm sure on radio he comes across better. However, on screen, I found his finger jabbing and bobbing around a bit distracting. At times, Edwards bobbed off the screen. The bar had CSPAN on the big screen. CSPAN opted for the split screen format for the whole evening.

Cheney is like a bulldozer. He just sits there and speaks evenly. Even when he is on the attack, and he was on numerous occasions, he speaks the same way. On one occasion, he did seem riled when Edwards continued on about the 90% of the casualties in Iraq being American. Cheney countered that the other side was discounting the sacrifice of the Iraqis.

I saw this post-debate item on the ABC News site. The remark that caught my eye: Looking at it another way, compared with their pre-debate preference, 98 percent of Bush supporters stayed with Bush and 98 percent of Kerry supporters stayed with Kerry.

In the final analysis, barring a total collapse in a debate, the supporters will stick to their candidate. They may be happy or unhappy about how they performed but their views are fixed. The question is: just how big is the undecided vote?

If the undecided voters want somebody who comes across well, then they will like Edward's performance. If they want to feel assured they will be drawn to Cheney.

On substance:

Both sides went on the attack.

Edwards mission was to continue to boost the notion that Kerry is strong enough for the job and to detail the criticisms of the Iraq war.

The criticism of the war again was mounted fairly effectively as it was last week by Kerry.

However, when he stressed that he and Kerry have been "consistent" throughout, there was a chuckle in the audience at the bar. I suspect this will be a continuing problem for Kerry-Edwards because their position of attacking the Iraq war so strongly and then claiming they would do it better just doesn't wash. I was watching the PBS show on RFK last night and RFK eventually came out against the Vietnam war completely.

Cheney's mission was to defend the administration's decision to go to Iraq and to cite Kerry's record as inconsistent. Here is where there was a moment of clarity. Edwards stressed that 9/11 was due to UBL and Afghanistan and that is what we should have concentrated on. Cheney countered that the war on the terrorists is wider than that. Cheney pressed the inconsistency in the Kerry-Edwards more effectively than Bush did last week.

IMHO: I think Cheney "won" but it wasn't a wipe-out. Edwards is a lawyer and knows how to argue and it showed. Both sides had tough cases to argue: Cheney had to defend Iraq where things haven't gone smoothly; Edwards had to thread a needle of criticizing going into Iraq yet claim they will do it better. Given these starting points, I think Cheney got an edge because the question became framed: since we both accept that we have to stay in Iraq, who do you believe will get it done? Will the side that denigrates the war and the coalition? Or the side that made the decision to go forward against the odds?

In many ways, an outright bring the troops home and it was a mistake position would be easier to make rhetorically.