The Campaigner in Chief

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Well, as the fiscal cliff looms, it appears that the Campaigner-in-Chief is showing what he means by working out a bi-partisan compromise.

Do we find him sitting in a room with the House Republicans discussing options? No.

We find him meeting with business leaders in press-conference type sessions, making pronouncements about what the Republicans should be doing to compromise:

“Right now, as we speak, Congress can pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income. Everybody’s,” Obama said.

“And that means that 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses wouldn’t see their income taxes go up by a single dime.”

What’s wrong with this, and his statement?

1) He is saying Republicans can compromise by doing exactly what he wants them to do, without him making any concessions. That apparently is his definition of compromise.

2) His statement about what percentage of businesses are affected is one of the “facts” in disagreement between him and the Republicans.  Republicans insist that a lot of small businesses do make more than the $250K and would be affected. For that matter, even if he is correct that most don’t, the $250K change sets a ceiling that discourages those businesses from growing beyond that point and prevents them from generating the new jobs that that growth would create. It could encourage them to stay small, or become smaller, cutting jobs, to stay within the defined threshhold.

3) It would be just as true to for him to have said: “Right now, as we speak, Congress can pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on all of everybody’s income. Everybody’s, And that means that all Americans and all small businesses wouldn’t see their income taxes go up by a single dime.” Congress can pass whatever tax law they choose to. He spoke a truism about what Congress can do, but is implying, and letting the press infer, that because they can do the option he mentioned, that it is the correct option, when it is merely an option, one of many, that needs to be chosen among. Discussing the merits among those options, and working toward one mutually acceptable, is the bipartisan process of compromise he is supposed to be doing. This isn’t.

4) Obama is stuck in campaign mode. Talking points and sound bites are the only way he knows how to work. We need him to show executive skills to actually govern. Instead we are audience to a perpetual campaign.

As a related aside, there is a connection between this and a comment I made to someone at work today.  I said I had learned long ago in my college days, that usually when you are discussing something with someone who disagrees with you, that if you try to answer their question exactly as they asked it, you are almost guaranteed to not be able to prove your point to them. The bias in their question, and the assumptions underlying their original statement, preclude a fair presentation of your own information. The only way to get your point across is to rephrase the question to get to the real core of what you are trying to discuss, and then answer that question.

Obama is an artist of the biased question. By use of his assumptions he makes what should really be the beginning question for discussion the final conclusion of the matter — he cuts out all chance for civil discourse. He ends up appearing more like Moses coming down from the Mount making the pronouncements from on high, than anyone actually involved in a negotiation with Congress. (I do admit to being curious as to who is at the top of his Mount from which his pronouncements come.)

In conclusion, be prepared for another 4 years of campaigning. That’s what Obama is, a career campaigner, not a career politician.

Suffrage is overrated

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I’m reading the book  “Theodore Roosevelt’s History of the United States” by Daniel Ruddy. In the book Ruddy takes direct quotes from the plentiful historical writings of TR to create a general history of the USA.  In the section on James Madison I ran across this interesting quote (italics mine):

“He did not believe that the ignorant and dependent could be trusted to vote, thinking the freeholders the safest guardians of our rights. On the suffrage his views are perfectly defensible. It is simply idle folly to talk of suffrage as being an ‘inborn’ or ‘natural’ right. There are enormous communities totally unfit for its exercise, while true universal suffrage has never been, and never will be, seriously advocated by anyone. There must always be an age limit, and such a limit must necessarily be purely arbitrary. The wildest Democrat of Revolutionary times did not dream of doing away with the restrictions of race and sex which kept most Americans from the ballot box.” — Theodore Roosevelt

I realize in this current age, possessing as I do, demographically, the position of a white male, that group which historically in the USA has had the most certain and easy access to suffrage, it could be rather dangerous of me to suggest the right to vote isn’t really the all-important thing it is made during elections in our modern democracy (excuse me, I mean republic). After all, there are so many people, from so many groups, who have systematically been excluded from the suffrage, suppressed.

Nevertheless, TR’s assertion that the franchise isn’t one of our ‘natural’ rights intrigued me. I went back to the Declaration of Independence, where our forefathers put forth their understanding of our “unalienable” rights:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the right to vote, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I hope you noticed my little editorial comment above. Because the right to vote is not listed in the declaration. Of course, that doesn’t mean it isn’t an unalienable right in this context — the declaration does say “among these are,” indicating only a partial list — though one might suggest they attempted to list what they thought were the most important. On the other hand, the views of Madison, as reflected by TR, would indicate that it wasn’t in their list.

Which led me to the personal question of what would make me willing to give up my right to vote, or what right is more important than my right to vote. I think it all turns on the question of what is a “natural” right and what isn’t.

Segue to quote from Sarah A. Hoyt’s blog here on WordPress.com  According to Hoyt on Nov. 17, 2012 (italics mine):

“Abortion is, of course, one of those complex things.  It is not a natural right.  It can’t be a natural right because a human woman in a state of nature who tries to abort will more often than not end up offing herself along with the child.  You could say infanticide is a natural right, as it has been practiced by most civilizations throughout the ages, less so in Judeo Christian lands, but impossible to stamp out just like murder is impossible to stamp out.  Of course it violates another person’s natural right to life, but in the case of infants that is always iffy as “natural” as they require someone else to defend them.  So, it is a very complex thing, not from a moral but from a NATURAL point of view.”

Hoyt made some excellent points in her blog about how rights like the “right” to an abortion can have unintended effects on other “rights”. Which made me consider that I should be less concerned with how many rights I have, and more concerned with having the most important rights. And quite honestly, is voting one of them?

In our current setup I would say probably yes, but only from a negative standpoint.

I feel the most important rights are the triumvirate of the declaration: Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness. All the other rights link to these in one way or another.

Actually Thomas Jefferson, when writing the Declaration, took that trio out of John Locke, though he changed Locke’s third point, which was Property, not Pursuit of Happiness.  But I see that as a mere expansion of property. The right to security in one’s property is the key to the pursuit of happiness. As Susan Bradley (played by Judy Garland), said in the movie Harvey Girls:

“After all, the Constitution guarantees the pursuit of happiness, but it’s up to me to do the pursuing.”

Even if Susan confuses the Declaration with the Constitution, she has the point right: the guarantee of equal opportunity (not equal results), and the lack of interference from government in its pursuit, is the true measure.

So, I see the right to vote as necessary to protect those other rights, attempting to use it as  my individual veto on the encroachment of government into my liberty and property.

Other than that, democracy really doesn’t mean that much to me. I much prefer a representative republic.  When those two words are used, people usually concentrate on the word representative, when they should concentrate on republic, because that is where the true key lies.  Democracy is the rule of the majority, i.e. the mob. A republic is the rule of law. If the law preserves my triumvirate of rights, then whether I have the vote or not, I am still free.

Food for thought? Comments?

Reflections on Hostess

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Well, we didn’t get there soon enough — not a Twinkie was in sight by the time we reached the Hostess outlet this morning.

The parking lot was full, and the store had plenty of people, but not much merchandise. Seems a lot of people had the same idea, to see what was available before it was all gone.

No sales, and why should they, when everyone seemed willing to buy things at whatever price they had. I walked out with nothing. All the really Hostess products were gone, and the bread was regular price, and not a huge lot of that.  Cookies and stuff was there, but I didn’t usually buy that, so no need to buy it today.

And thus passes an era. But why did it pass? There are long answers and short answers, immediate causes and long term causes. Let me try a short answer on an immediate cause: Greed and self-centeredness.

When I heard the news that they were going out of business yesterday, I told Betsy, if I was a part of the 70% of the employees who agreed to concessions to keep the company open, I’d be really upset at the Bakers’ Union for losing us all our jobs.

Betsy replied that even the Teamsters told them not to strike, and if the Teamsters say no, with their reputation, you should listen.

But the Bakers Union was sure that they deserved their raise and who cares about anyone else.

Employers need to show that they care about equitable treatment of their employees if they expect long-term success.  But employees need to support the long-term health of their employers as well, if they want to keep their jobs.  The Bakers’ Union forgot that.

Our government would do well to learn from this, though I doubt they will learn the right lesson.

“Don’t Boo, Vote, Voting is the Best Revenge”

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Definition of REVENGE

1
: to avenge (as oneself) usually by retaliating in kind or degree
2
: to inflict injury in return for <revenge an insult>
Pardon me for taking the above comment personally, but what have we, the supporters of Mitt Romney, done, that requires someone to take revenge upon us? For that is the context and intent of President Obama’s comment. I really wish I understood what terrible offense has been committed that requires such a strong sense of retribution against me.
There have been a lot of divisive comments made during the campaign. I’m trying to decide why this one disturbs me most. I think it is because it ISN’T a statement that the one side is making against the other one, isn’t a piece of negative campaigning. That I could easily fathom. But this is a course of action and motivation recommended to supporters — an appeal to what should be one of their basic motivations.
If this is really a motivating factor, then I find myself concerned about a leader brought to power by such appeals to base instincts . If it isn’t a true motivating factor, then the person who gave the challenge is way out of touch, which is also not a good thing for a leader.
The above quote instantly brought another presidential quote, this one from President Lincoln, to my mind, as a counter-point:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Please do not vote for revenge, but vote for love of country. And after the voting is done, let us seek malice toward none, and charity for all.

Dog Weekend Warrior, Part 2

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Well, it seems like the dog is into setting new speed records. 22.2 MPH today.  I think these weekend workouts might just be improving his fitness.  We averaged 7.9 MPH on a 1.444 mile course over 10:58 minutes, not counting pauses to sniff things, or stops to gaze at two cats we wanted to chase, but seemed to have learned by now that he isn’t allowed that far off road during these weekend runs.

Those temptations by cats are perhaps the greatest risks on the route, not including the cats.  Imagine going 20 mph on a bicycle down a street, then suddenly being pulled sideways 45 or 90 degrees — especially dangerous if the pull is also across and not merely to the same side the dog was originally on.

It was actually quite amazing — I spotted both cats before the dog did, like I usually do (somehow he’s not as visually agile as I am, more motivated by the nose, it seems) — and we’d actually gone completely past one of them before he suddenly realized he needed to check out what was back there. I was prepared, so the sudden stop wasn’t really as sudden as it might have been.

Democrats Support The Public Good

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I’ve seen the above bumper sticker many times in the church parking lot, but it didn’t spur the below blog idea until I saw the same bumper sticker on a car this morning while driving between Sherwin Williams stores to find the store that had the type of stain I needed to prepare the front steps before winter.

The idea — see how many of the reporter’s key questions I could apply to the slogan to find out what it is really saying. So here goes:

Who? — Democrats. Does this mean only Democrats? Are Democrats the only ones who support the public good, or are they just one of many groups that support the public good?

What? — The Public Good. What is the public good? Are Democrats the only ones who know what the public good is? Is the public good whatever Democrats say that it is? How do Democrats know what the public good is?

When? — Verb is present tense. So now, ongoing. Does this mean always? Or do they support some of the public good but not all the public good? Or do they support all the public good, just not all the time?

Where? — Doesn’t say. Shall I deduce since the Democratic Party is a U.S. political party that we can say this is for the USA, or do they support the public good all around the world?

Why? — Unanswered. The statement gives no clue to motivation. Are we to assume that this is a totally altruistic motive? Do they support it out of enlightened self interest? Because it gives them political power?

How? — This is the question my mind answered first when I saw the bumper sticker this morning: with other people’s money. They are quite blatant on this point actually. The rich need to “pay their fair share.” No appeal to charity. I’ll admit that answer isn’t in the bumper sticker, but in other things they’ve said in the recent campaign.

The above exercise shows how a simple, innocuous, feel-good phrase can be totally empty of any actual content. It doesn’t really say anything, or if it does, it probably doesn’t say what people’s good feelings want it to say.

Weekend Dog Warrior

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Well, here are the stats on this morning’s dog run. Rocky knows when its Saturday, and once I’ve come down the stairs from the bedroom he is hyper and unstoppable until I’m ready to take him for our weekend run with the bicycle.

Today we hit a new top speed of 21.7 MPH during our sprint down 35th street. We averaged 7.7 mph during the our 16:28 minutes of actual running (the entire outing was much longer when you include all the stops to sniff at things) the  2.102 mile course. It was a brisk 39 degrees. I think this is Rocky’s preferred weather. His fur certainly insulates him better for the cool than helps him deal with the heat.