The Win-Win

Posted: November 15, 2014 in Miscellaneous

win_win

So while I was getting ready for work the other morning, and I had CNN on in the background.  This story about a non-profit organization that uses horses to help motivate at-risk children caught my notice.  Here, go ahead and watch.  I’ll wait:

http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/bestoftv/2014/10/07/top-10-hero-patricia-kelly.cnn.html

What a creative way to help children, right?  A really great feel good story.  So after CNN airs the story, they go back to the anchor who also talks about what a great story this is.  But then he says something to the effect of “oh man, it’s just too bad you have to choose just one but you must”.  And I’m sitting there thinking, “um, I don’t think you actually HAVE to choose”, not really knowing what he was talking about.  But he goes on to explain that this particular story was actually all about finding the “2014 Hero of the Year”.  So the people must choose only ONE winner.  Because of course, this is America, there has to be A WINNER!

The question is why?  Why must there be a single winner?  I was lucky enough to be invited to a church service this past Sunday.  The preacher talked about how our society was so prone to declare “winners” and if there are winners, there must by definition be “losers”.  But he stressed that he didn’t think it had to be that way.  He believes that life doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.  That if we would emphasize love and compassion for one another, it would be a “win-win” for everyone.  I firmly believe that the preacher has the right idea.

So looking at what CNN is doing, it is has a lot of good things going for it.  They are highlighting the good of society, instead of the dredges that usually get all the attention.  But the construct of all this is so American.  It’s not just heroes, it the “Top 10″ heroes (because by golly we need a ranking!).  And then it’s not enough to just have a “Top 10″, we MUST choose a WINNER!   I don’t know about you, but when I see the video, I wasn’t sitting there thinking “hmm, that seems ok, but could you give me 9 other choices (no more, no less!) to compare this too so if I can decide if this charity is a “WINNER” or not?  I can already see that charity and those children are just full of win!   I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that the other 9 is just full of win too.  And I will further say that there are a lot more than 10 people/organizations that are also full of win.

I don’t mean to pick on CNN.  Hey, like I said, at least they are using some time to highlight good things.  I’m just using this as an illustration for what I think happens too often, we turn everything into a competition.  But I could easily see how CNN could tweak this, make it an ongoing segment, highlight a different “hero” just once a week, but continuously.  It’s just a thought.  No votes, no winners, because they are all winners.  Really.  A win-win.

When it comes to sports and when it comes to business, competition is great!  But when it comes to life, I don’t think there is any reason that we should strive for winners and losers.  There’s no reason we can’t strive for as good of life as we can get for everyone because really that’s what is best for us all.  It’s the win-win.

 

I think I'm only whispering.

I think I’m only whispering.

So last weekend I did research so that I could fulfill my duty as a citizen and vote this past Tuesday.   Then I watched the results roll in, and never have I felt more like I had completely wasted my time.  Not that this was exactly a new development, but it really hit me pretty heavily that I was spending a lot of time trying to make intelligent choices, when I already knew how EACH and EVERY race was going to go.   The Hill had just declared Alabama the most Republican state in the country, so it doesn’t take a political science degree to know how things were going to turn out (hint: new state slogan, Alabama, now with even more Republicans than ever!).

Here are things that are really weighing on me:

This state is now damn red….but we’ve also gerrymandered everything, you know, just in case:

Statewide elections are such a waste in Alabama, when it comes to elected positions, the Republican is going to win and it’s not going to be close.  It’s going to be something like 60-65% to 35-40% every race, every time.   (That’s if the Democrats bother to even run anyone, Senator Jeff Sessions got a free pass.)  When it comes to amendments, just think ‘what would the tea party do?’ and you can probably predict with a high degree of accuracy whether it will pass or not (the only close statewide level vote was an Amendment dealing with funding the repair of the state’s National Guard Armories, only because these groups couldn’t decide if spending more money (bad) trumps the military (good)).  But even for local representatives, districts are so badly gerrymandered that those aren’t close either.  For U.S. House, I live in a Republican district…so the R won 76-24%.  For Alabama State House, I live in a Democratic district, so the D won 77-23%.  It’s hard to get excited about going to the booth when these are the kind of margins that are resulting.

And why are we voting for so many damn things anyway?:

Do we really need to vote for county tax assessor?  What about the tax collector?  State auditor?  Agricultural commissioner?  Every freakin’ judge in the state?  I am simply not an informed voter when it comes to these things, and I have to wonder how many others are?  (When it comes to judges, it does also concern me about how much money is pouring into these races, including $50 million into Alabama’s Supreme Court races alone, much from outside the state.  These folks think they are buying something, I can assure you!)

Even if I do impact the result of an election, do I actually impact policy?:

A study was performed measuring the influence of various entities on national policy from 1981-2002.  Their conclusion was that the average U.S. citizen appeared to have a non-statistically significant impact on policy.  Instead, the wealthy and monied business interests is what swayed the direction of the country.  Now I think a lot of suspected that the wealthy had a disproportionate impact on policy.  But I think more and more it seems like that they have ALL the impact on policy, regardless of which way an election may swing.

Obama’s hope and change didn’t happen:

Obama’s rhetoric was so infectious.  It just felt so right, and it was easy to get swept up into the idea that things were really going to be different this time.  But now six years in, I would challenge anyone to really come up with anything that’s truly different about how things operate in Washington.  If anything, it’s even worse.  (Yes, the Republicans with their ‘we fight Obama on everything’ strategy have a role in this, too.  A very large role in fact.  But what about the supposed new transparency that this White House was supposed to have?  It is really any more transparent?  What about being the anti-Bush in regards to foreign policy?  Are our positions really that different?)  When you get a lot of folks to the polls on the whole ‘hope and change’ thing and it then doesn’t happen, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s going to become more difficult going forward to get people to buy ‘no, this time it’s for realz!’.  Obama couldn’t change things, and I really don’t see anyone else that even appears to be a transformative leader on the horizon.

Anyway, it’s just getting harder and harder to justify dragging myself to the polls.

dalai lama

His Holiness is up there somewhere. (Yeah, I was in the cheap seats.)

Just got back from watching His Holiness The Dalai Lama at Regions Field here in Birmingham.  Loved his message, almost as much for its simplicity as anything else.

  • His main point was that at the fundamental level, we are ALL human.  That differences such as race, religion, region, etc. are all secondary to the fact to the sameness that we are all human.  And that should be the focus.
  • He seems to be very humble.  He says that if he came out trying to be all “I’m His Holiness The Dalai Lama” and thus special, he would create his own prison and would not be able to connect with others.
  • He made a special point that there are 1 billion people in the world that are part of no religion, and that you can’t just cast those people aside.  He said everyone deserves love and happiness.  He said that’s why secularism is important, which he defined as respect for not only all religions but also for the lack of religion.
  • He was not very kind to his generation (and anyone over the age of 30) in regards to its overreliance on violence in an effort to solve problems.  He basically said it would be up to the next generation to clean up our mess and create a culture of dialogue (because of course we will always have disagreements).  Only then would we have a peaceful world.

So simple.  But clearly also so hard.  But I think we could go a long way towards a more peaceful, happy, just world by simply respecting and loving one another, realizing that we are all the same at the most fundamental level, and trying to have a little more empathy because of that.

Alabama-Governor-Robert-Bentley

We are about a month away from elections, and our governor in Alabama is up for reelection.  How is he doing?

UNEMPLOYMENT/JOBS:

  • Unemployment is down, just like it is across the rest of the nation.  However, the latest unemployment figure for Alabama is still at 6.9%, while nationally it is 5.9%.  Through July, Alabama’s job growth rate since 2010 has been 3.9%.  Arkansas is the only other state with as low of job growth rate.

    What does Bentley say?  Alabama is not doing terrible, it’s doing great!  Why we have the lowest employment in the “deep south”!  What’s the “deep south” you may ask?  From as near as I can tell looking at unemployment statistics, the “deep south” equals to Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.  But I guess “Vote Bentley, because hey, at least we are better than Georgia and Mississippi” was rejected as a campaign slogan.

HEALTH CARE:

  • 14% of Alabamians do not have health insurance.  A large chunk could have been taken out of that figure if we would have accepted Medicaid expansion.  Additionally, Alabama misses out on an influx of federal funds (which one study says could have created up to $20 billion of economic activity).  But it’s okay.  I am sure even though we rank lowly in such measures as diabetes, physical inactivity, premature deaths, etc., there’s no real need for expanded health care access in this state.

    What does Bentley say?  Really, all you have to say is “Obamacare”.  And while Bentley is a doctor and I think he knows better, the one job he definitely wants to save is his own.  No way he was going to back this.  (And as such, you could make the case that this is our fault as state citizens.)  Officially he blathers on about not being able to afford it, even though the federal government would pay 100% of the cost of expansion for 3 years and 95% of the cost thereafter.  Also mentions the fact that federal tax money is the same as state tax money, though really that’s irrelevant since it’s not like there’s going to be an Alabama Medicaid opt-out federal tax deduction.  Alabamians are going to pay the same federal taxes whether or not the state accepts the expansion.  Oh, and he says something about siphoning money away from our oh so good education

EDUCATION:

  • The Alabama Accountability Act was supposed to allow poor kids in “failing” schools a path to get away.  In practice, though, it has basically been only used as a means to fund private school students and to create another corporate tax break, reducing the money available to public schools.  (My crazy idea would be to try to fix the failing schools, that way all would have access to quality education.)

    What does Bentley say?  He does take the opportunity to actually brag that he tried to snag teachers a 2% pay raise for 2013 and 2014.  He fails to mention that in 2014 he failed and signed the budget anyway.  But I guess it’s the thought that counts?  Otherwise, besides stating the need to do better (duh), not much.

ABORTION:

  • Alabama just passed a law that actually allows judges to appoint a lawyer for a fetus of all things.  This is for instances where minors cannot secure their parent’s permission for an abortion and thus has to get a judge’s permission.  This appointed lawyer in turn can actually call witnesses to testify against the minor.  In addition, even if the minor wins the judge’s approval, the district attorney can actually appeal the decision to a higher court.  Then the minor gets to go through the process all over again.  (It also happens in Alabama that if the pregnancy goes past 20 weeks, you can’t get an abortion.  So you could see where one might get the idea that this process is actually all about ‘running out the clock’ so to speak.)

    This law will be tested (ACLU has already sued), much like the law that required that doctors working at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at local hospitals (which would have reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state from five to two) was challenged and recently ruled unconstitutional.  I wish though that the debates and legislation surrounding this issue were more honest, as those who want such laws simply do not agree that women have a right to choose to abort a fetus and are just trying to find ways to bypass Roe v. Wade.  Any other claims about safety or health of anyone else is just poppycock.

    What does Bentley say?    In fairness, Bentley says that he will do everything in his power to protect the unborn, so I would imagine that includes trying to subvert Roe v. Wade.

But nevermind any of that.  This is Alabama.  Let’s look at what’s important here.  Surprising I can’t find any claims of being any great super-duper conservative on his website.  But he certainly talks a lot about the jobs he’s going to create (for realz this time!).  He would certainly vote against Obamacare if he could.  The “Creator’ gets a couple of shout-outs.  And he hints that the rights guaranteed by that “Creator” needs protecting.  And he also talks about all the money we are saving and how the federal government could learn a thing or two (balancing the budget!).  So in Alabama, that gets you a win.

Oh, it probably helps that I am not sure there’s a real alternative running against him.  The Democratic candidate, Parker Griffith, is one of those guys who was once a Democrat, then a Republican, and then a Democrat again.  Now maybe he’s legitimately changed his mind that many times, but it makes me think he is probably a political opportunist.  But even worse, Griffith used a recent influx of campaign money to create ads claiming that Bentley lied to win his election.  The problem is that the Griffith’s own ad lies when it says Bentley promised a vote on a state lottery for education.  Bentley never said any such thing, and made it clear he opposes such a lottery (he did say that if the legislature approved a public vote, he wouldn’t block it…not nearly the same as promising a public vote himself).

All the things Griffith could use to distinguish himself from Bentley, and he decides to make something up?  Blah, politics.  Another vote I probably sit out.

Back To The Future

Posted: September 6, 2014 in Current Events
Tags: , , , ,
Ok, let me set this thing for.....blah, does it even matter?

Ok, let me set this thing for…..blah, does it even matter?

But not in a good way.  More in a Biff Tannen rules the universe sort of way.  It seems like everything is just reverting to the past.

For example

ferguson 1 ferguson 3 ferguson 4

Race riots.  Looks like things are blowing up in Los Angeles again.  Or maybe this is Chicago?  It’s the 60′s..or the 90′s…all over again.  Wait, say that again?  No way!  That’s in Ferguson, Missouri????  A town of 20,000 or so?  So why the heck is their police more armed than G.I. Joe (being armed through the teeth is half the battle!)?   Whatever the case, perhaps Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court was a bit premature to declare things all good on the matters of race.  And maybe we need to reconsider whether the police exists to protect and serve the public or do they exist as an occupying army?

Well, with all the violence stateside, it’s a good thing the wars overseas are winding down.   Wait, why are we seeing Shock and Awe again in Iraq on the old television?   Oh, that’s now?  We are bombing in Iraq again?  And what the heck is an ISIL?  A group that’s worse than Al Qaeda????   That’s just freakin’ great.   Wonderful.   So we need to “dismantle” them and follow them through the “gates of hell”?  Ah….I know this drill.  (The old “boogeyman” sell…just replace Saddam Hussein with ISIL.)  Great.  Wonderful.  So when do we send the troops back into Iraq?  (I mean who knew that destabilizing a country would cause destabilization, which could potentially give rise to an extremist group, right?)

Well, maybe everything will be ok, as long as the next President has a well-reasoned foreign policy.  You know, somebody who didn’t support the Iraq War.  Or support going around arming rebel groups in Syria.  Or making reckless comparisons of Putin to Hitler or says Putin doesn’t have a soul.  Or support corrupt leaders like Hosni Mubarak.  Stupid Bush.   Wait, not Bush?  Ah, ok, stupid McCain, good thing we didn’t elect him.  Wait, not McCain either?  Who?  Hillary Clinton?  The person who everyone says is the frontrunner to be elected President in 2016?  Oh great.  Wonderful.   More war hawks.

Progress, why must you be so darn slow?

supreme court

As The Supreme Court has been handing down decisions over the last couple of weeks, it is interesting to try to follow their logic:

  • Constitutionality can be determined with a tape measure, but proper distance varies -  The court said that Massachusetts law that created a 35 foot protest buffer zone around the entrance of abortion clinics was unconstitutional.  This despite the fact that the Supreme Court enjoys its own protest buffer zone (which happens to be greater than 35 feet…by a good bit).  And while the decision was technically 9-0, some of the justices suggested that a lesser distance would be ok.  Not sure how distances worked its way into the Constitution.  Ten feet is free speech, but thirty-five feet is not?  But then one hundred and fifty feet is free speech again around the Supreme Court?  (How great the distance 35 feet is would be a matter of perspective.)
Supreme Court Justice, "But we are very important people."

Supreme Court Justice, “But we are very important people.”

  • Corporations are people my friend – Mitt Romney was pretty much right as far as the law sees.  Corporations can exercise its freedom of religion, though it is hard to see how legal entities could have any views on religion or anything else for that matter.  (It is also hard to see how Hobby Lobby was particularly burdened by its health care plan providing coverage for contraceptives when prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, their health care coverage DID cover contraceptives and the owners of Hobby Lobby didn’t even notice.)
  • The court can change its mind within 24 hours – One of the things that the Hobby Lobby ruling noted was that those with a religious objection could fill out a form asking for an exemption.  As such, the government could easily accommodate the religious views of organizations.  But then the next day, it ruled that Wheaton College could even opt out of filling out the form asking for an exemption because apparently even filling out a form is an overwhelming burden against its religious beliefs.   Guess the court forgot what it had said the day before.
  • The Senate can totally fake it – President Barack Obama tried to make appointments to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was off.  However the Senate (with the exact purpose of preventing such a thing) held what was called pro forma sessions, which basically means somebody comes in a slams the gavel down twice and it counts as “being in session”, not in recess.  The Supreme Court said that was good enough for them.  (In fairness, it was Democrats that created this tactic, so they shouldn’t have been surprised to see it used against them.  In fairness to we the people though, such shenanigans shouldn’t be allowed by either party in my view.)
Must...take...loss...with...dignity.  Must...try...to....smile.

Must…take…loss…with…dignity. Must…try…to….smile.

Let me be the…er…probably last to express shock, shock I tell you, that GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary.  Apparently when in our local election a candidate referenced Eric Cantor as being not conservative enough, that actually did and does resonate with some voters.  Still, Cantor had a 95 (out of 100) lifetime conservative rating from The American Conservative Union.  So what the heck happened?  How does a guy like Eric Cantor lose to a Joe Blow nobody?  Surely it’s not because he’s only 95% conservative instead of 99.44% pure conservative.  Right?

First, let’s check Joe Blow’s credentials.  I assume he has a name other than Joe Blow.  Let’s see, looks like it’s David Brat.  He is a “true” conservative (not like that Cantor phony!).  Surprise, surprise, he’s going to end Obamacare.  He’s a ‘create jobs by getting rid of immigration’ type of guy, so there he earns double points.  Balance budget amendment…check.   Christian values under attack?  Oh yeah, and in a big way.   They are under attack in such a way that they threaten life itself!  Oh, and by the way, God is pro-gun.  Betcha didn’t know that!   So anyway, certainly a very conservaty conservative.

The punditry pretty much decided that Cantor lost because he had made some comments that could represent tepid support for very limited immigration reform.  In fact, they declared immigration reform is now dead.   Hmm….call me crazy, but for something to die, it must have been alive in the first place.  Immigration reform was never going anywhere.  It already didn’t have enough support.  It wasn’t one vote to the good and then they lost that vote or anything.  Nothing changed.  In fact, Eric Cantor was pretty much screaming to the roof tops that oh no, he did not support immigration reform.  So the idea that Eric Cantor was going to be some sort of knight in shiny armor riding in to save immigration reform is just false.

Really, I think the reason Cantor lost is more nuanced than just a single issue.  I think you can go into several factors.  One, it’s what can happen when not many voters show up at a primary…it just doesn’t take that many votes to swing an outcome.  (Brat only got 36,000 votes or so.)  It can be what happens when you gerrymander, the views in a single district can become pretty extreme.  I think perhaps Cantor was more vulnerable to the ‘establishment’ tag being an actual House leader and not just a rank and file member.  And there is certainly a segment of the electorate who do not believe that they send people to Washington to be pragmatic but rather to fight an “enemy” that is the other party on all fronts.  That means you fight the debt ceiling raises.  You go ahead and shut down government over budget issues.  Not just some of time, every time.  Anything else is losing.

More than anything, Cantor’s loss is not a sign of change.  It’s just another symptom of the way things have become.  The ‘do-nothing’ Congress controlled by Republicans will just continue to do nothing, at least while there’s still a Democrat in the White House.