Tag Archives: Politics

Educational Cause and Effect

I realize that people in general, and Americans in particular, have never been genteel when it comes to discourse. Throughout history we attributed it to our pride in rugged individualism and the Protestant work ethic. Anyone can be president; I can achieve anything I set my mind out to do; we celebrate Edison, Bell, Fulton, because those individuals invented things to change the world.

We claimed territory, as our right under “Manifest Destiny,” without regard to who or what stood in our way. Passenger pigeons? Bison? Native Americans? Forests? These speed bumps were quickly removed.

We settled our differences by swordfights or pistol duels. Our politicians—those we elected to represent us—settled arguments by shouting, spreading lies, and even bludgeoning one another with walking sticks in the very halls of Congress.

Not much has changed. Today, if you disrespect me, there’s today’s version of a duel—I drive 60 miles per hour through the neighborhood blasting away and hope that you are one of the people I hit. It doesn’t matter that: a) the bullet most likely will hit someone other than the intended target, and b) there’s a high likelihood that one (or more) of the gazillion security cameras will catch me and be used to send me away for twenty-five-to-life.

Today, there’s a lot of shouting, with nobody listening. It’s far more important that I get my position clearly stated—”I’m right and you’re not only wrong, but also an idiot—not to mention that your mother was ugly and you have terrible taste in clothes!”

Although I just clearly stated my position (the paragraph above, you buffoon!) you can’t tell me what it is. I can’t either, but that doesn’t matter, does it? The fact remains that I’m right and you’re wrong.

[Okay, let’s all take a deep breath, grab a cold one—if you like, and smoke ’em if you got ’em—assuming you can afford to pay eight dollars a pack.]

A theory—presented for you to think about and challenge in a professional, factual manner. Perhaps, when we began to focus on standardized testing, the school systems were forced to teach the correct answers, not how to arrive at a correct answer. What to think, not how to think. Ideas are no longer the raw material used for thinking; they are pre-packaged and ready to serve. No human interaction required.

There are parallels—in a world in which our youth do not know how to interact with others except via social media, we no longer teach etiquette or how to write a letter. They are not taught to introduce their friends to their parents or when a thank you note is appropriate. Civility is at the bottom of the required skills list.

Teachers didn’t make the rules and probably dislike them more than anyone although they have to abide by them.

But we all can teach. What if each of us added the following to our more contentious discussions:

  1. “Why?”
  2. “Tell me more.”
  3. “How would you solve it?”

Then listen—actively, intensively listen.

This just might prove interesting.

The Cost of Politics

The 2012 presidential and congressional elections are reported to have cost a total of 7 billion dollars.

While there are only about 12,000 registered lobbyists, about 100,000 people are believed to engage in lobbying activities. Annual expenditures are about $9 billion every year. That’s a lot of cocktail parties.

Now think of this; with all the money politicians, lobbyists, and special interest groups spend, how much is your vote worth? Think about that next time you walk into the voting booth.

As Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

There are alternatives, of course; it’s possible to select leaders and maintain order without all the cost and effort we expend in a democracy. There’s North Korea with Kim Jung Un or Vladimir Putin running Russia, Georgia, Chechnya, Crimea, (Syria?) and whoever’s next.

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 FABZZ.com

Taylor-Swift-Performing-in-Toronto–05
Courtesy FABZZ.com

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”

They’re Baaack!*

hor.

A few thoughts now that Congress is back in session:

  1. The skills and capabilities needed to be an effective elected official have nothing in common with the skills needed to get elected.

    During the campaign, voters are attracted to a combination rock star and rich uncle,

    But a good public servant is closer to a Benedictine Monk (complete with vow of poverty) who is also a Certified Public Accountant.

  1. Our servicemen and women gain our respect because they are willing to die for our nation;

    Our politicians, on the other hand, earn our disdain because they are prepared to sell out the rest of the nation to benefit their own congressional district.

    *and you put them there.

Sex and Marriage in the Future

It was a very nice meal at one of those restaurants that people save for special occasions. It had included Cloned Breast of Duck with a delightful artificial orange flavoring, genetically engineered hydroponic rice and even a very nice bottle of Ohio’s finest hybrid sugar beet wine. Afterwards the couple walked along one of the main thoroughfares, down the escalator and into the public transportation dematerialization chamber.

They rematerialized several hundred kilometers away and walked from the station to her home. He followed her inside and sat down as she removed her coat.

“What a nice night,” she offered. “I know lots of girls have sex with their dates just because it’s expected, but you really went out of your way to make me feel special, so I’m actually looking forward to it.

“Uhh, I’d rather not,” he replied.

“Are you breaking up with me?” she asked.

“No,” he replied. “But, we’ve known each other ever since we were kids, we’ve been spending a lot of time together and I think you’re special – really, really special.”

“You think I’m special so you don’t want to have sex with me?”

“Not exactly.” She looked at him puzzled as he continued.

“You know I’m working on my dissertation in anthropological history, and as I was doing research I came across some very old data files. I mean these date from before the twenty-first century. They were so old that they had originally been printed on paper in a form called a magazine.” He paused.

“You could at least come over and sit by me,” he offered. She hesitated and sat next to him making sure to leave space between the two of them.

“Anyway,” he continued, “They used to have a custom in which one man and one woman would make an agreement to spend their life together and share everything. They promised to stick together through the good and the bad. The only people they had sex with were each other.” She looked at him with interested amazement.

“Did that arrangement work?”

“Not always. Some couples parted when life got challenging. Some got bored with each other. Some had sex with other people – they called that ‘cheating’ and since it negated the exclusiveness it seriously endangered the marriage.”

“Why did they stop this marriage thing?”

“As near as I can tell, the celebrities were the trend setters and didn’t value marriage, so people lost interest. The definition of marriage changed and eventually marriage could include two or more people of whatever combination of sexes. Once it lost the sense of commitment, it eventually just faded away.”

“So how did this marriage thing originally work?” she asked.

“Well, a couple would date for a while – like we’ve been doing – and decide if they loved and liked each other enough to commit to each other exclusively. This led to something called an engagement, a period when they let others know that they were planning to be married. Finally, they would have a big ceremony with family and friends at which they would be declared married, followed by a huge party. Then they’d start their life as a couple.”

“That sounds wild and radical,” she began, then paused. “And very romantic.” She tried to move closer to him on the couch, but to her surprise he suddenly stood up, turned to face her and knelt on one knee.

“The engagement usually started with the man proposing and offering his intended partner a gift.” She watched as he opened a small box that contained a diamond ring. He asked her a question, but she didn’t really hear his words. All she knew was she answered with a yes.

Part Time Americans

flag

I got sucked in by one of those online “news stories” that actually was at least 6 months old. The article purported that wealthy Americans were giving up their citizenship to avoid paying taxes particularly on money earned, kept or hidden overseas.

I’ve read that with our progressive tax system about half don’t pay any income tax and/or may receive a credit from the government. Likewise, reports indicate that the top one percent pay 30% of the taxes to the federal government. (I’m not saying these are correct, as Mark Twain reportedly said, “There’s lies, damned lies and statistics.”)

At first I thought it might be worth our while to try to induce these folks to stay around in order to catch the tax revenue, but then I dug a little deeper.

It appears that most of them don’t actually live here. I’m guessing many have dual citizenship, so they’re more like part time Americans.

Since money is more important than their citizenship, I figure they’re at best fair-weather Americans; at worst, American in name only.

I prefer us normal, not wealthy, plain old every day Americans, anyway.

To the rich who are turning in their passports, “Don’t let the bank vault door hit you in ass on your way out!”