Mike Kueber's Blog

January 31, 2012

Another biking epiphany

Filed under: Culture,Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 2:08 am
Tags: ,

When I go on a morning bike ride in the summer, I often think about future entries to my blog. When I go on an afternoon bike ride in the winter, I often reflect on the entry to my blog that I wrote that morning.  Today on my afternoon ride, I think I had an epiphany on my previous blog entry regarding discipline.

My first thought during the ride was that I was not displaying any discipline or willpower on my bike ride because, although the weather was cold and drizzly, the ride was thoroughly enjoyable.  You would have had to pay me to keep me from riding. 

But then my mind went back to my previous blog entry, and I remembered that the definition of “discipline” generally began with “training.”  And I remembered the suggestions from the child psychologist for instilling discipline in a child – i.e., rules, consequences, routines, responsibilities, and expectations.   

My epiphany is that discipline and willpower are two fundamentally different things.  Discipline is something that you learn or develop over a period of time until it becomes automatic or second-nature; whereas, willpower is something that you actively struggle with day-to-day. 

Therefore, I conclude that Governor Christie does not have enough discipline to control his eating and that he does not have the willpower to change.  But the absence of discipline to control his eating does not mean that Governor Christie is an undisciplined person.  He may be supremely disciplined with respect to all sorts of qualities important to being a governor or president.

October 12, 2011

A timeless Joe Klein column

Filed under: Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:29 am
Tags: , , , ,

I had surgery on my knee last Tuesday – a partial knee replacement.  It’s hell getting old and having your body break down.

Since the surgery, I’ve been significantly hobbled by unremitting pain in my knee.  Yesterday, I used the knee-pain excuse to answer a commentator who wondered why I had been so irritably partisan in my posts lately.  Thanks to the commentator’s encouragement, I am back on the wagon.

The knee pain has also prevented me from climbing the hill in my apartment complex to get my mail.  More trouble than it is worth, I figured.  Yesterday, one of my sons visited, and I asked him to trudge up the hill and get my mail.

Generally, the only thing worthwhile in my mail is my weekly issue of Time magazine.  That was the case again yesterday, and this morning I started reading the week-old issue.  Some of the stuff is dated, but some is timeless – like a Joe Klein column.

Klein’s column focused on Chris Christie’s wise decision against running for president.  It was not Christie’s time, and it appeared that it was Romney’s.  Which brings us to the timelessness of the Klein column:

  • “With Christie out, Mitt Romney suddenly seems solid….  This is not to say Romney is a lock.  Right now, Rick Perry is being undervalued because of his clunky debating, but a rival campaign’s strategist told me, ‘People who say Perry is toast haven’t seen him work a room.  He is very, very good.’  And Herman Cain is being overvalued: he is, at best, a parking place to Tea Partyers reeling from Michele Bachmann and Perry disappointments.  He is so flagrantly inexperienced that I doubt even Republicans would nominate him.  I would not be surprised, though, if either Newt Gingrich, whose intelligence and experience win him points with Republican audiences, although his Vesuvian temperament almost guarantee another eruption of messianic bile if he begins to surge.

This confirms the generalization that political pundits like Klein, just like the football pundits we listen to all week, don’t have any special skill for prognosticating.  Rather, they have the ability to entertain us with their colorful language.

Dirty Harry said, “A man needs to know his limitations.”  Joe, think about that the next time you feel compelled to prognosticate.

September 30, 2011

Chris Christie’s weight problem

Filed under: Issues,Media,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:51 pm
Tags: ,

As I mentioned in my blog a few days ago, my conservative drinking friend believes that Chris Christie is too fat to win the Republican nomination.  That kind of thinking has been around ever since Kennedy was perceived as winning his debates with Nixon because of his physical attractiveness.  Radio listeners thought Nixon had won the debates, which led to the joke still in play today – John Doe has a great face for radio.  It is also the conventional wisdom that Lincoln would never have been elected in 1860 if his facial ugliness was more prominent in the campaign.

Chris Christie looks fine from the neck up, but he is undeniably obese.  Most news reports put his weight north of 300 pounds on a 5’11” body.  The only one other president who was similarly afflicted was William Howard Taft, who was president from 1909 to 1913.  Like Christie, Taft’s weight vacillated greatly as he struggled with his weight.

Washington Post columnist Eugen Robinson recently wrote about Christie’s weight problem, but he surprisingly chose to focus on issues other than how the electorate reacts to attractiveness.  Instead he argued that Christie needs to lose weight because he won’t be able to perform the obligations of the presidency at his highest level if he is carrying too much weight.

That’s an interesting argument.  Leading America is a critical role, and we should have a right to expect all candidates to be at the top of their game.  But how important is physical health?  Franklin Roosevelt is generally considered to be one of our top-ten presidents even though he was afflicted with severe ailments.

I think being an overweight president is different than being an overweight athlete.  Presidents operate from the neck up, and Christie is fine there.

September 29, 2011

Chris Christie

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 3:59 am
Tags: , , , ,

There has been a lot of buzz about New Jersey governor Chris Christie entering the race for the Republican presidential nomination.  Consistent with that buzz, the latest Intrade.com betting odds reveal that Chris Christie has passed Sarah Palin and all other candidates in the Republican field not named Romney or Perry as the most likely nominee.

The famous NY Times political blog titled FiveThirtyEight recently considered the effect of Christie’s entry into the race.   The author of the blog, Nate Silver, suggested that Christie’s record as a moderate on gun control, global warming, immigration, and same-sex marriage would cause him to take more votes from Romney than from Perry.  That suggestion makes perfect sense.

But Silver does not make sense when he suggests that Christie and Romney may slug it out as the only viable, electable candidates, “with Mr. Perry and the other conservatives reduced to competing for a minority of delegates in especially conservative states like Iowa and parts of the Deep South.”  There are plenty of conservative states outside the Deep South, and there are plenty of conservative Republican-primary voters in every state.

If Rick Perry proves to be nonviable, the conservatives might look for someone else to challenge Romney, but they won’t be looking for another moderate.

P.S., my ultra-conservative friend Kevin says that Christie’s weight is as much a problem as his several RINO positions.  He can’t imagine America choosing as president someone as obese as Christie.

June 26, 2011

Aphorism of the Week #1 – a camel through the eye of a needle

Filed under: Aphorism — Mike Kueber @ 4:26 am
Tags: , , , ,

Last week, as I was returning to San Antonio from North Dakota, I listened to several conservative talk shows, including Glenn Beck’s.  A couple of Beck’s shows were focused on Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey.

During those shows, Beck and his sycophants exhibited a strong case of man-love for Christie and relied on two clips to justify their love.  One of the clips showed Christie telling off a teacher who had the audacity to challenge Christie’s public-education cuts while sending his kids to Catholic schools.  Christie smugly told her it was none of her business where his kids went to school, but then went on to answer the question.

The second clip was an anti-Christie commercial from New Jersey educators complaining that Christie was a millionaire and that several of his aides were millionaires.  Beck and his wing-men made fun of the second clip by suggesting that perhaps the teachers would feel Christie was better qualified if he and his aides had not achieved financial success (a la Harry Truman).

Although the Beck ridicule is unquestionably valid, I wonder if the commercial is nevertheless effective because a lot of people think that most rich people don’t deserve their wealth.  Such thinking is consistent with my first aphorism of the week:

  • “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

This aphorism is recorded in the synoptic gospels – i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Variations of it can also be found in Judaism (the Babylonian Talmud) and Islam (the Quran).

The saying was a response to a young rich man who had asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied that he should keep the commandments, to which the man stated he had done. Jesus responded, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The young man became sad and was unwilling to do this.  Jesus then spoke this response, leaving his disciples astonished.

According to Wikipedia, the “eye of a needle” has been interpreted as a gate in Jerusalem, which opened after the main gate was closed at night. A camel could only pass through this smaller gate if it was stooped and had its baggage removed. This story has been put forth since at least the 15th century, and possibly as far back as the 9th century. However, there is no evidence for the existence of such a gate.

Thus, we are left with two conflicting interpretations of this aphorism – (a) the literal interpretation that the accumulation of wealth conflicts with the biblical value of loving your neighbor like yourself and (b) the modern rationalization that the accumulation of wealth merely creates additional challenges for achieving the kingdom of God.  I’m going with the latter.

February 25, 2011

Money in politics – Rahm Emanuel

This week, Time magazine did a profile on Rahm Emanuel, the erstwhile White House chief of staff who was running for the mayor of Chicago.  Emanuel has a reputation as an abrasive, hard-charging politician (called Rahmbo), and the article described those characteristics, although Rahm is working hard to keep his volcanic personality under control during the campaign.  The article was a revelation, however, concerning Rahm’s facility with campaign money.  With his current campaign for mayor, he has raised more money – almost $12 million in three months, with 40 paid staffers – than his five opponents combined.  But the most interesting fact is that he (like Obama) has been a money man from the very beginning:

  • Born into an affluent, connected family, he graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and in 1989 he became the “chief fundraiser for Richard Daily’s first winning mayoral bid.”
  • In 1991, he was one of Bill Clinton’s first hires and “proved a prodigious fundraiser.”
  • After six years as a Clinton advisor, there were “two-plus lucrative years in investment banking, in which he impressed many with his contacts, judgment, and capacity for work,” earning more than $18 million.
  • After winning election to Rod Blagojevich’s vacated seat, “Emanuel took on what he calls ‘a job no one wanted,’ he says, as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where he was praised for selecting mostly moderate candidates and shepherding the party’s 31-seat gain in 2006.”

Since the publication of the Time magazine profile, Rahm Emanuel won the Chicago election with almost 55% of the vote, thus avoiding a runoff. 

I am, however, encouraged with his platform.  Like Chris Christie in New Jersey, Emanuel has concluded that he needs to take on public-union pensions and teacher accountability.  Sounds like someone who is thinking long-term success instead of short-term popularity.

October 30, 2010

Barack Obama’s replacement – Chris Christie or Lindsey Graham?

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:20 pm
Tags: , , ,

Unless Barack Obama’s performance improves dramatically next year, Americans will be looking for a new president in 2012.  Assuming that the Democrats will not jettison Obama, America’s alternative will come from the Republican Party.  Who do they have in the offing? 

The Republican Party has a tradition of requiring that candidates pay their dues.  An upstart like Obama would never win the Republican nomination.  Based on that tradition, the logical standard-bearer would be Mitt Romney, who finished second to John McCain during the last primaries and has been running ever since, or Sarah Palin, who was the party’s vice-presidential candidate during the last election and recently announced on Entertainment Tonight that she would run “if there is no one else to do it.”  Other leading contenders are governors Tim Pawlenty (Minnesota) and Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), whom McCain seriously considered for his running mate before throwing a Hail Mary with Palin, and former governor Mike Huckabee (Arkansas).  Personally, I hope the Republican Party looks past the also-rans from the previous campaign and takes a gander at New Jersey governor Chris Christie or Senator Lindsey Graham of S.C.

Although Christie is a hefty man, his C.V. is undeniably thin (as thin as Palin’s).  He has been governor only since 2009, and before that he was the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.  But he connects well with people, and his conduct as governor has been remarkable under challenging circumstances. 

Education has been his biggest issue.  He supports school vouchers and charter schools and has taken on teacher unions over accountability.  (“Teacher accountability” has become a euphemism for testing students and firing ineffective teachers, just like “comprehensive immigration reform” means a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.)

Another big issue of late for Christie is the NJ/NY tunnel.  This tunnel to Manhattan was the biggest public-works project in America, and recently Christie just shut it down because of projected cost-overruns.  The NYTimes has strongly suggested that Christie should find the necessary $3-7 billion by raising its relatively low gas tax, and it ridicules him for slavishly keeping his promise of no new taxes.  (Christie hasn’t forgotten what happened to Bush-41’s pledge.)   

Lindsey Graham is a slight man, but his C.V. is indisputably hefty.  He has been a senator since 2002, and has played a leading role in reaching across the aisle on issues like immigration, judicial selection, and climate change.  Prior to his time in the Senate, Graham was a congressman for eight years and came to fame for the leading role he played in the impeachment of Bill Clinton.  And he has six years of active-duty service as an Air Force lawyer. 

I like Graham’s modest temperament, but I wonder if he has the charisma and fire that Christie seems to have.  I’m still a Romney man, but Christie and Graham are worth keeping an eye on.