Category Archives: Government

The Taylor Swift Effect and Democracy

It’s over twelve months until the next presidential election, and we’re already growing weary of the process—and we can’t blame all of it on Donald Trump, no matter how much we may wish to. I’m tired of reruns, and don’t see the need for another Adams, Roosevelt, Clinton, or Bush in the White House.

However, does it really matter?

Taylor-Swift-Performing-in-Toronto--05 Courtesy


The president has the bully pulpit, from which to claim accomplishments not due solely to the president and make promises, which the president lacks authority to keep.

Congress—even with all its gridlock—passes far more laws than anyone needs or can follow. These laws are generally written by lobbyists, who pass them to carious politicians’ staffs. Staff members then brief their bosses; this is actually what the staffer believes the bill means, occasionally based on actually reading the bill, but often just a rehash of the lobbyists’ explanation. This saves our elected officials from actually having to read the bill.

The election arrives, and in America, only about 61 percent of those eligible vote exercise the right. The parties’ hardline supporters are about equal; the conservatives almost always vote Republican and the liberals almost always vote Democrat. There are also who vote for the most attractive looking candidate, a name they recognize, or some other silly reason.

So who determines the outcome of an election?*

Let’s ask it another way; who determines that Taylor Swift should be popular? Who determines that NCIS should stay on the air for at least another season? Who determines it’s time to open a convenience store and hire a handful of people? Who determines that we need a new gadget, gizmo, smartphone app?

These key decision makers are the ones who are open to ideas, evaluate their merits, and then act. Proponents provide them with data—everything from National Public Radio to Wired magazine to negative campaign ads. Some data these people reject, some they accept as valid, but it does not impact their decision, while some makes its way into their decision-making process. Taylor Swift and Barack Obama owe their position to this group of people.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

*Check out “Who Votes, Who Doesn’t, and Why: Regular Voters, Intermittent Voters, and Those Who Don’t”

After Independence Day

When the United States sought its independence, it created something new, but hardly perfect. Perfection requires that we continue to strive, not rest on our laurels.

The US Constitution enabled the continued practice of slavery, and in the process virtually guaranteed the Civil War. When the Civil War was followed by Reconstruction, it virtually guaranteed that instead of reconciliation, the nation would suffer from bitter hatred; we saw the Ku Klux Klan and the Jim Crow laws.

Today we have the issues surrounding the battle flag of the Confederate States.

It’s time to steer things in a better direction.


First: The Civil War is over. Many of those who fought were able to make their peace. Why can’t we?

Second: Most of those who fought for the Confederacy were not slaveholders; many were not even property owners. Generally the wealthy plantation owners did not fight as privates or sergeants—that was the role for the common folk who believed they were fighting for their homeland. It doesn’t take a great detective to figure out who convinced them of that. The white commoners, like the black slaves were just one more tool.

Third: Many black and white people today look back at their ancestors and want to take pride in their bravery in Viet Nam, Korea, and even the segregated military of the Second World War. It’s only natural to be proud if you find out you’re descended from a hero like Alvin York or Doris Miller.

Fourth: Great-great-grand pappy Jedidiah who fought as a corporal at Gettysburg is dead and gone. It doesn’t matter which side he fought on, it’s over, and as anyone who has experienced war will tell you, the best part is when it’s over and you go home. He would probably tell you, “Let it go.”

We are a stronger and better nation through Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Colin Powell, and Barack Obama. You may not agree with them individually, but history will not deny that the changes they brought about was important and good—even if some individuals do.

John Tyler, the tenth American president sided with the Confederacy, served in its congress, and was the only president to be proclaimed an enemy of the state.

It’s time to relegate history to history. Put the confederate flag away,


Air Travel – A Business Model to Behold

Airplane! Need I say more?

Need I say more?

You’ve got to hand it to the airline industry. Their business model must be the envy of every other industry.

  1. No one likes to travel by airline. It is an trial to be endured. You may want to get to Vail or Orlando but the getting there via airline is not any part of the fun. Whenever there is an alternative, most people choose to avoid commercial flight. Unfortunately busses take forever, trains are unreliable and expensive and there’s a limit to how far the average person will drive.
  2. You can’t get there from here—not directly anyway. You have to stop at one or more additional airports, each of which gets landing fees, gate fees, profit and taxes from fuel sales, etc.
  3. Customer service is so abysmal that one might well consider it customer abuse. No leg room—let’s pack seats closer together. Boarding, which according to queuing theory could be handled significantly better, continues to be handled in a manner markedly worse than animals entering a slaughter house. During the flight, cabin attendants hawk the benefits of signing up for the airline’s very own Visa or MasterCard to a captive audience. “Get more points so we can abuse you more often!”
  4. Customers have been trained to accept additional charges for anything and everything. Check a bag? Twenty dollars. Check a second bag? Thirty-five dollars. Want to sit with your spouse and kids? Better dig out the gold credit card.
  5. Of course, the airports and the shops in the airports have jumped on THIS bandwagon. Parking fees are such that buying a beat up car and abandoning it at the airport is cheaper than paying for parking. Then, of course, there is the magnitude increase of prices for sodas, and food prices that Manhattan restaurants can only dream about. (In the Charlotte airport—a major connection hub—there is even an attendant in the men’s restroom with not one, but TWO Plexiglas tip receptacles [complete with padlocks]. I confess, he was entertaining enough, but aren’t airport restrooms supposed to be seedy places where members of congress seek out casual sex?)
  6. Fuel prices have been dropping, but ticket prices haven’t budged, even though they went up when fuel cost more. Why? The planes are full, so there’s no incentive to lower prices. (More customers? We don’t need no more stinking customers!)

Airlines have complained of being unprofitable for many years, but there’s unprofitable as in “Ohmigod we can’t pay our bills,” and then there’s unprofitable as in, “The accountants have figured out how to juggle the numbers even better. (Those of you who live near airline corporate headquarters—have you ever seen a rusted-out five year old compact car routinely parked in the CEO’s reserved parking spot? Didn’t think so.)

“Please remain seated until the aircraft has come to a complete stop—at which time we’ll sit here for a few more minutes before opening the aircraft door—Why? BECAUSE WE CAN! We know you have a choice in airlines, but we’re buying each other as fast as possible to eliminate choice as the last tiny vestige of human dignity. You can attempt to retrieve your baggage, or what’s left of it after we’ve kicked, dropped, crushed and perused the contents of it on the lower level. (We get some really neat stuff this way—as well as finding out some of your more embarrassing secrets). Some of you may be lucky, while the rest of you will have to make the 120 mile drive back to the airport tomorrow because after standing in line for three hours it made your luggage check in late. In any case, just like your luggage, your dignity has been shredded beyond recognition.

Maybe their motto should be, “We love to abuse, and it shows.”


Why My Mechanic Is More Trusted Than My Doctor

I swear that this is not associated with yesterday’s Jobsxtaposition topic.

I love science. I love thinking, questioning and learning. I love Edison’s I didn’t fail, I found a thousand ways NOT to make a lightbulb. Think. Hypothesize. Experiment. Compare results to expectations. Think some more. Question why things turned out the way they did.

I love logic. I love the steps to prove that something is true; I’m challenged by, but accept that you cannot prove something is false.

However, the practice of science today is be very different than my expectations of science. Today, at least according to the media and the politicians, we rely on consensus rather than experimentation, opr God forbid, fact.

How did this happen? Maybe it started with global warming. If we cannot prove that man did not cause it (because you cannot prove a negative) therefore, it is a manmade problem. Why? Because we have a consensus!

There was once another proud science – medicine. While I was doing some research I came across an interesting issue; doctors are expected to treat patients according to universal standards. If the majority of doctors prescribes medicine A or surgery B, and your doctor prescribes therapy C he or she can find themselves in big trouble if they don’t follow the consensus. They could be censured or lose their license. A handful of states have written laws to protect doctors who dare to think, but in most states the medical profession has the clout to keep the state legislature in line.

So, after four years of college; medical school; internship/residency; and several years of fellowship, doctors are expected not to question or think. They are expected to follow the consensus; order the consensus driven tests, prescribe the consensus driven treatment and not vary from the consensus.


My doctor is a wonderful guy. He orders various tests and based on the outcome of the tests he prescribes certain treatments and medication. There are guidelines he is expected to follow. If he varies from the universally accepted (i.e. consensus) he faces consequences.

My auto mechanic is a wonderful guy. He connects my car to the diagnostic computer and based on what the computer says, he makes certain repairs. There is a book that tells him what to do and what to charge. He’s a smart guy, but doesn’t have the education of my doctor.

The difference is, that if my mechanic wants to try something out of the ordinary, he can, and does, and it often fixes the problem, thank you.


To My Loyal Constituents – From Your Congressman

flagFrom the Desk of:

Edwin “Duke” Long

United States Representative

114th Congress of the United States of America


I am back in Washington, DC, our nation’s capital and already working for all of you back home. As I promised—and as a loyal, ultra-conservative tea-bagger—I stood up to that Ohioan, Congressman John Boehner, and proudly voted against him for Speaker of the House of Representatives. As I promised, I put principles ahead of progress, and commitment over compromise.


In the meantime, my staff is busy setting up my new office. It’s a 5 room suite, although they keep saying something about “4 stalls and a closet.” No worries- we’ll get it figured out.


I had hoped to continue to serve on the Ways and Means Committee, the Armed Services Committee, and the Finance Committee, but my talents are needed elsewhere. I’ve been selected by Speaker Boehner to bring some sanity to the eleven liberal Democrats on the Climate Committee, where I will be a special congressional representative to the Surgeon General in order to address the serious problem of bovine flatulence.


So, remember, stand firm! Stick to your guns whether they make sense or not, and never, ever compromise, even if you actually agree with the other person.



Regarding the Police

I read an interesting editorial in today’s Virginian-Pilot by Coby W. Dillard addressing the interaction between the police and the citizens. It got me thinking.

My father was a police officer, although he threatened to disown me if I followed his career path. As he approached retirement, he commented that too many of the younger officers thought they were Starsky and Hutch. After retiring he told me that he was proud that in over twenty years on the force he never fired his gun except on the training range. Not even once.

He had his biases, as we all do:

  • People in the richest neighborhoods look at the police as beneath them—almost as servants, and inconvenient ones at that.
  • There are other neighborhoods in which the occupants believe the way to settle any dispute involves using firearms.
  • No matter what you catch someone doing, it’s not their fault, they’re innocent and it’s all a misunderstanding.

I remember when cops walked a beat, and really knew the people. I remember my father stopping home for dinner when his patrol area included our neighborhood. We lived on a dead-end street and all the neighborhood kids would pile into the police car for a ride to the end of the street and back. He didn’t run the siren and lights all the way, just for a few seconds, to the delight of every kid in the car.

What changed?

These are my opinions, biases, and suggestions. I’ve never been a police officer, but as a veteran I’ve borne arms in dangerous areas among people who weren’t to be trusted and were intent on hurting or killing me. I’ve seen death up close and personal a hundred times over. I’m old enough to perhaps even have a little wisdom.

  1. Everyone—both police and non-police—has forgotten that police officers are citizens. It is not police OR citizens. We are all in this together. It’s us; there is no “them.”
  2. Our country has an excellent military. On the other hand, people who are not in the military but who tromp around in military-like regalia don’t impress me. This ranges from the open-carry self-appointed militia bubbas to small town police with government surplus MRAPs (mine resistant ambush protected vehicles) and grenade launchers. By the way, MRAPs get about six to eight miles to the gallon, paid for by us taxpayers. They weigh about eighteen tons, which tends to collapse small bridges, crack roads and even collapse the sewers and pipes buried beneath the roads—requiring repairs also paid for by taxpayers.
  3. We’ve forgotten how to communicate. Chanting slogans makes great video for the twenty-four-hour-news monster but does nothing to support a dialogue. By the same token, no one “exits their ve-HIC-le.” We get out of the car. We need to talk with one another, not at one another.

Life is hard enough as it is. Let’s not make it harder.

Exercise Your Right to a Free Press!

If there are issues in the news that elicit an emotional response from you, here is a handy template to assist you in writing a letter to your local newspaper.

To the editor:

I heard about the article that you printed concerning [FILL IN THE BLANK]. I don’t personally subscribe to or read the newspaper, but when I hear about things like [FILL IN THE BLANK], I feel it is my duty to make my voice heard.

I’ve never met [FILL IN THE BLANK], nor have I ever been to the city of [FILL IN THE BLANK], but it makes my blood boil when [FILL IN THE BLANK] treat [FILL IN THE BLANK] with such disrespect.

I am not interested in intellectual evaluations. Instead, you must accept that my feelings and the feelings of my fellow [FILL IN THE BLANK] is what is important. Thank goodness the media no longer clutters up these important issues with facts and figures. Facts are unimportant. What is important is how these things make us feel.

I demand action! I demand justice! I demand retribution!

Please contact me personally to inform me as to how this issue is resolved, because as I mentioned earlier, I do not subscribe to the newspaper.



If you don’t have a particular issue in mind, here are some suggestions: securing the border, immigration reform, taxes, tax evading big business, the one percent, the ninety-nine percent, Democrats, Republicans, gun rights, gun control, global warming, the Area 51 Conspiracy, or the use of semicolons.