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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Obey the Kitty!The world changes quickly, and as I get older, I start to feel the current move faster than I am. Slowly, inexorably, I’m being left behind. This is something I work hard against; I try to keep current, but I never was “edgy” or “cool” and I sure as hell don’t expect to start now. I suppose this makes me a member of the Curmudgeon Party. I’m pretty happy over here. I can rant and rave, piss and moan, and no one is surprised when I do it. So, don’t be surprised. I’m going to do it again.

Last night—on an October night—I voted in a general election. My wife and I sat in the living room, discussed each of the initiatives and reviewed the candidates, colored the little bubbles on our computer-ready form, and stuck them in envelopes to go out in the morning’s post. Washington State now has a wholly mail-in election system.

And I hated it.

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Obey the Kitty!An old friend once told me, “If you say something with enough conviction and sincerity, people will believe you.” He often put this adage into practical use. He kept a construction oversuit, a clipboard with forms, and an orange hard-hat in his trunk. With one or more of these items and a little chutzpah, he was able to go many places most of us wouldn’t try to enter. He saw the inside of the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, before it was opened to the public. He made his way onto movie location shoots. He could brass his way into a dozen places, just by sounding confident and authoritative.

It was an illustrative lesson on just how bovine we humans can be, placidly walking up the ramp to the abattoir.

I haven’t talked much about the upcoming election, on this blog, and if you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I’ve been on somewhat of a “news diet” for the couple of months. Don’t worry; I am not going to urge you to vote for Obama or Romney or Johnson (though I do urge you to vote).

I’m just going to urge you to think. Listen, and think. Throw away the demeanor. Discard all the fire and emotional claptrap.

Just listen to what they all say, and think about what is being said. It’s not easy—it’s much easier to be swayed by passion than it is to search for the logic—but it’s important, if you want to be an informed, thinking participant in our democracy. (more…)

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There was a time when we admired people who knew stuff, people who invented things. When did that change?

We used to admire people like Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Albert Schweitzer. We admired our educators, our scientists, our doctors. We used to value intelligence, and it was something we thought was important for our leaders to have. After all, who wanted a buffoon running the country?

Then something happened. We started to belittle our teachers, we began blaming our doctors for every bad outcome, and we began to discount everything our scientists told us about our world. Gut feeling trumped empirical data. Sound bites overrode sound reasoning.

Soon, we no longer cared if our leaders and representatives in government were smart enough for the job. Intelligence didn’t matter; what mattered was whether they talked like we did. And now, we don’t even care if a candidate can string a coherent sentence together. High intelligence is now a detractor, a tick in the minus column. It is more important that we enjoy sitting down to have a beer with our candidate than whether s/he has a single clue about the complex and manifold issues that face this country.

The result? We now have mainstream political parties that completely deny entire bodies of established and accepted scientific analysis. We have politicians who believe that the female body has some sort of whoop-whoop alarm system that will keep women from getting pregnant in case of “legitimate rape.” And we now have a candidate for the presidency who has a budget, but his team admits that they haven’t “run the numbers.”

It’s ludicrous. Why would I listen to someone who’s “read a book” on a subject instead of someone who’s studied that subject for decades? Do I ask a scientist for spiritual advice? Hell, no! So why would I give more credence to a preacher than a scientist in areas of scientific study?

Why don’t we want our leaders to be the smartest guys we can find? More to the point, why don’t we demand it?

Aw, hell. Hand me another beer, will ya?

k

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Obey the Kitty!Yesterday, a Facebook friend of mine chided me. Yes, me. Little-old-me.

There’s a picture going around, one of those “separated at birth” memes, of Romney/Ryan justaposed with Herman and Eddie Munster from the old 1960s TV show. To be fair, the resemblance is only evident in the pairing, but the picture does carry a subtle political commentary: Romney as this big, simple guy who just wants to be liked, and Ryan as his much younger, meaner-spirited sidekick. I found it humorous, and shared it.

My friend chided me, saying we needed to bring our discourse up out of the gutter because the “problems [we] are facing are way way too serious for this kind of stuff.” (more…)

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Alas, despite my new diet, some memes are unavoidable. This new one, with POTUS supposedly dissing businesses, has come at me from all angles. News, Facebook, emails, workplace chitchat…this argument has been carried into my personal sphere by almost every vector available.

Whenever I am faced with a diatribe, I first like to look into the source a little more. Then I like to give it a little think.

By looking into the source, the first thing I found was that, true to form, the anti-POTUS rank has snipped and clipped the video like an Elizabethan coin. They’ve taken the 5 seconds they want, the 5-second sound-bite they could really give a good spin, and tossed the rest. POTUS says: If you have a business…you didn’t build that.

Well, first, that’s not the exact quote, and second, if you back the clip up by just 2-3 seconds, you see that he’s talking about something else. Watch the whole clip and see if you don’t agree. What POTUS is saying is that hey, all these roads and bridges, if you own a business, all that infrastructure? You didn’t build that. But, of course, that doesn’t take a right-hand spin as well, so it was dropped.

So, all the arguments you hear are not about something POTUS meant, but about a segment of the idea he was presenting. Typical.

Second, by listening to the arguments that were made and giving it all a think, it was clear that what all the furor boils down to is a difference in how we perceive the individual.

Some people see individuals as an island, a rock standing up against the world. For these folks, a person who starts a business is solely responsible for its success or failure. Devil take the man who says otherwise, and to Hell with him who tries to chisel away at the financial gains because they sure as hell don’t share in the financial ruin. For these folks, it’s about the money, and that’s an end to it. They put up the money, therefore they get all the glory or all the notoriety. The math is simple.

Others (like myself), see individuals as part of a larger whole, a member of a society. For me, a person who starts a business is the impetus, but shares responsibility for success and failure with employees, regulatory bodies, and whatever customer base the business targets. And there is a different calculus that separates financial gain/loss with social gain/loss. A good business builds both financial gain and social benefit, grows with the help of the relationships it makes, and succeeds or fails depending on the value it provides. The math is complex.

I used to work for a man who, at the beginning of the “mission statement” era, said to us, “Our mission, our purpose here, is to be in business next year. Our goal is to keep us all employed.” He understood that, despite being the man who had the idea, the man who put up the money, we were all part of a team, a team that included his employees and his customers. We were a small society, providing mutual benefit. He recognized that though his financial risk was higher, we all shared in it. Employees trusted that their paychecks would clear, that the benefits would come through when needed, and that the pension funds wouldn’t be raided. He, in turn, trusted in us to do a good job, to work hard, and to give him value for our exchange. We all worked for the combined benefit. For his entrepreneurship, and for his higher risk, he got more of the gains, and none of us begrudged him that gain.

His goal wasn’t to make a pile of money and bail out with a golden parachute. His goal wasn’t to build his portfolio, or do whatever it took to ensure the dividends his investors demanded, even if it meant stripping companies or firing his domestic workforce. His goal was, simply, to provide income for himself and his family, to provide employment for others, and to provide a marketable service for his customers.

He was not working for himself. He was the owner, but he was not working for himself. We were all working together.

He was my Mr. Fezziwig, and I haven’t seen his like since.

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Obey the Kitty!I have put myself on a “news diet.”

A “news diet” is where you severely limit your intake of news reports, news shows, news feeds, and general punditry.

As the election cycle shifts into top gear, we get bombarded by more and more input. Unfortunately, this input provides less and less content as the positions of the various sides divide and solidify, and rhetoric coefficients grind upward toward what will undoubtedly be an hysterical fever-pitch by November.

Case in point: For years, I was a faithful Sunday news show watcher, but that habit collapsed with the sudden death of our beloved Tim Russert. My interest was revived for a while, when Christiane Amanpour took over the helm at “This Week,” but when her stint ended, so did my renewed interest.

I still check in on the shows, now and again, and last Sunday I rose a bit early and sat down with my coffee to give “This Week” a look-see. What I saw, infuriated me. When boiled down to its essential components, the first 25 minutes looked like this:

George asks Question A.
Faction-X-Representative gives answer to Question B.
George asks Question A again.
Faction-X-Representative gives answer to Question B again.
George shrugs, and moves on to Question C.
Faction-X-Representative gives answer to Question B, yet again.

Switch to Faction-Y-Representative.
Repeat.

This is repeated on every Sunday news show, and it is without a doubt the most ludicrous excuse for news I have seen. These shows do not provide any news and they are not even providing useful content. They have become nothing more than a soap-box from which each faction can deliver their spin and rhetoric for 15-20 minutes, free of charge. It is then followed up with another 25 minutes of “analysis,” in which the pundits merely restate the rhetoric of their favored faction (Mary Matalin looked positively foolish, trying to dodge and twist questions to fit her prepared talking-points answers.)

But this is only the most egregious example. Already, this dilution and corruption of the news extends to every media outlet. Every story of a political nature is nothing more than a tit-for-tat exchange of platform language. Soon, any story that can be tied to policy will have its portion of spin, and eventually, even current events reportage will reach us colored by various political spectra.

So, my “news diet” is as follows:

  • Sunday news shows and pundits: cold turkey stop (Sorry, Rachel; love ya, but it’s for my own good).
  • National news outlets: only the first 10 minutes of the main broadcast, and only a couple nights a week.
  • Local news outlets: check headlines and weather online, no opinion or op-ed pieces.

It’s the only way I’m going to stay sane until November.

k

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Laphroaig Cask StrengthI hate being right, sometimes.

Last month, the Washington voters’ decision to put down the state-run liquor stores went into effect. Yesterday, we went to Costco—not the smartest move on the Friday before the Fourth of July, I’ll grant you—and I took the opportunity to cruise their “liquor aisle.” What I saw was sad, depressing, and infuriating. It was also totally predictable. I know this, because I predicted it.

First (and foremost, I’ll say), as a fan of single malt whisky, it was a desert. A massive aisle of liquor and only one single malt. A good one, as it turns out (Macallan), but it had been re-branded with the Costco Kirkland label and was $75/bottle. This told me that the days of going into my local liquor store, chatting with the staff, getting advice on varieties, and selecting from at least a dozen Islay single malts alone, were truly dead and buried. I was standing the Henry Ford version of Single Malt Hell: You can have any brand of whisky you want, as long as it’s ours. Our state-run liquor stores had variety in spades: 50 tequilas, 25 rums, and dozens of single malts from highland and low. Costco, Safeway, and their ilk carry perhaps 50 different types of liquor, period. Selection, and therefore choice, are gone.

As a fan of small businesses and keeping my local dollars in local hands, it was just another example of an abject failure by the voting public. Due to a particularly convoluted rhetoric, when we got rid of the small, neighborhood (state-run) liquor stores, we said that only big stores could sell liquor. As a result, there isn’t a small business in the state that can sell liquor. Only Costco, Safeway, and other giants with the requisite square footage are allowed to purvey liquor. (Ironically, those mega-stores dedicate less square footage to liquor than we originally had in the state-run stores.) So now, not only do my liquor dollars fail to fill state coffers, they often don’t even stay in the state, and they certainly don’t go to bolster small local business. And in smaller towns, you now may have to travel miles to find a store large enough. The law has some provisions for “specialty” stores, but I haven’t seen or heard of any yet.

Of course, the final part in this debacle is the state’s loss of revenue. We won’t know for a while if the taxes Costco and Safeway must now collect on liquor will offset the government’s loss, but I predict we’ll come up losing there, too, and remember that so far I’m 2 for 2. And though that bottle of vodka looks good at $29, it doesn’t look as good when you get to the checkout and find it also has $12 worth of taxes on it.

What was so bad about the government running our liquor stores?

  • We didn’t have choice? Balderdash; we certainly did, much more so than we do now.
  • We didn’t have competition? True, but competition also means prices will be as high as the market allows, which won’t necessarily be lower than it was. And, when you add up your total bill, your savings probably amount to a buck or two. I’d pay the extra to see my Laphroaig single malt back on the shelf!
  • The government shouldn’t be in the business of making money? Why the hell not? The public demands a lot from the government and as far as I’m concerned they can sell WA.GOV mousepads if it’ll help build a revenue stream to support essential services.

Overall, it’s a cock-up. We voted for it, and we got it, but it’s a cock-up.

k

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