Jun 30 2008

Pilots and Presidents

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

There’s a whole lot of buzz around the MSM and the interwebs about Wes Clark’s statements on Face the Nation yesterday. Here’s a clip from the show.

Clark honored McCain’s service. As a former military man himself, it would be foolish to think he wouldn’t. Hell, I appreciate McCain’s military service and I wasn’t even alive for most of it. The simple truth is that military service, of any kind, does not make you ready to be President any more than anything else. That’s what Clark said, though not in the most concise way.

Clark did nothing to demean the service, he tried to put the service into focus. McCain can’t run for President on his service alone and expect it to go unchecked. Military service doesn’t necessarily make someone a good President, just look at our current President, or even Ulysses S. Grant. Both served in the military, both were bad Presidents, but that’s the bulk of what McCain is running on.

If the Obama campaign wants to concede that military service alone is an unquestionable asset that makes McCain uniquely qualified to be President, then they need to roll up the carpets now and save us all a lot of punditry. I suspect they’re not quite ready to do that, but are reacting to shabby media analysis. A new kind of politics eh?

In the process, they’re screwing over a man who has done more for the Democratic Party since 2004 than a whole lot of other potential surrogates. It’ a sad state of affairs.

If you want to stand up to the media noise machine, Vote Vets has a petition drive.

Jun 29 2008

Thin Skinned Politicians

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

Nobody likes to be criticized. It’s uncomfortable. It can be troubling, discouraging and disappointing. But criticism, constructive and otherwise, is a part of life, particularly for those who serve an elected office.

With a few exceptions, I have tried to base my criticism of politicians or aspiring politicians to issues of policy or strategy. Those topics are fair game in my mind. People seeking an office should be comfortable enough with themselves and their positions to take criticism of these topics constructively. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Looking back to the 2006 CT-Senate race, Joe Lieberman took criticisms of his position on the war personally and eventually lost the Democratic nomination. His reaction to these criticisms as personal attacks led to his nomination loss. Quite simply, he got defensive, bunkered down, and got beat.

When politicians take criticism personally it raises questions. Are they taking it personally because they are so invested in their positions, or their position in office?

See, it takes a special kind of crazy to put yourself out there in front of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who, by and large, don’t trust the thing you’re about to go serve in (the gubament). It takes an ego, and egos are fragile things when the ego is wrapped around the office instead of positions.

When egos are wrapped around the office, criticisms suddenly take a personal turn for the worst. It becomes an attack on one’s livelihood. It endangers the power that one has amassed. It’s a threat that sends a candidate down a long line of irrational conclusions and decisions that, on their own, can take them down.

That’s what happened to Lieberman in 2006. Had Connecticut law not allowed him to add his name to the ballot after the primary, we might be talking about Senator Ned Lamont, but thanks to that weird bit of election law, and a whole lot of Republicans abandoning their party’s candidate, Lieberman managed to win. Next time he may not be so lucky.

The point of all this is, politicians are supposed to be criticized, compared and contrasted, that’s how they get the job. When suddenly, the politician translates these core principles of the election process as personal attacks, you gotta ask yourself why. Are they more married to their positions, or their position in office?

It’s just a question.

Jun 19 2008

Change™

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

There’s been a lot of noise today about Change™. Some are disappointed that Obama has chosen to endorse Barrow in GA-12, some feel he’s shifting to the right, still others are getting the idea that we may not be able to believe in his version of change as much as we originally thought.

The problem is that everyone has a different idea of what Change™ is. To many, Change™ may be anything other than what we have now. To others, Change™ is a more specific brand of transformative policies and positions that, when married together in the right quantities, make the perfect stew of Progressivism or whatever particular ideology that you hold dear. The truth of the matter is that Change™ is such a vague idea that nearly everyone is for it, until their sacred cow is up for the slaughter.

There seems to be an idea out there on the interwebs that Change™ is somehow easy. Certainly, to the people who know what kind of Change™ they want and have their specific hills to die on, it is. The reality is that Change™ is a messy exercise that instantly pleases and pisses off large groups of people with one stroke of the pen, one bill, one gesture. My idea of Change™ is probably not what you had in mind, and your idea of Change™ is likely something that I wouldn’t agree to in a million years.

So, with this in mind, how does a person, a candidate, or a party, manage Change™ in a way that neither alienates them from their core values and supporters, but doesn’t scare away all the other people that are vital for achieving even on tenth of the Change™ that they propose? They take it down a notch.

You see, the big problem with Change™ is that no one is really happy with how things are going, but they are also strangely, frighteningly, comfortable with the status quo. There’s a level of comfort that comes from the knowns and the known unknowns, to borrow a phrase from Rummy. It is the genuine unknowns that scare the hell out of people, (unknown knowns are fictional figments or Rummy’s circulation socks) and the only way to quell that fear is to work to somehow make those unknowns impact people less. That also means less Change™.

In Presidential politics Change™ is even sketchier. Not only to you have to ease the fears of your constituents, but also those who you will rely on to push your agenda through the legislative process. Like it or not, legislators are in the business of getting re-elected, not legislating. As a result, legislators are far more reluctant to Change™ because Change™ is messy, and they don’t want to be blamed for a potential adverse outcome. This reluctance puts the onus for Change™ on the people who should ultimately be in charge of it, the constituents.

Ahh, but constituents aren’t good at Change™ either. They want to balance their household budgets while owning the biggest big screen HDTV with 4 picture in pictures and total immersion surround sound. They want rock solid abs after a mere 20 minute workout and to eat that carton of Twinkies in one sitting. It’s a startling contradiction. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want some kind of Change™ in their life. I hardly know anyone who is willing to do everything, or even anything it takes to make that Change™ happen, myself included. Are we lazy? Are we stupid? Nope, we’re scared…all of us.

We’re scared that all we’ve worked for might magically disappear. We’re scared that all we’ve bitched about may be resolved with no appreciable positive impact, leaving us searching for something new to bitch about. We are, at once, infatuated and terrified of Change™, because that very Change™ may, or may not be, the thing that puts us over the top. Either way, we’re content the way we are because in the absence of Change™ we have a scapegoat to blame for all that ails us.

Sound negative? Then get your fat ass on an ab machine for 20 minutes and tell me how it works out.

The truth of the matter is that Lasting Change™ doesn’t happen overnight, it happens in stages. The trick to Lasting Change™ is that in order for it to work there has to be enough institutional memory to avoid the bad ideas and implement the good ones, lest we see saw back and forth ultimately achieving no Change™, which is exactly what’s happened in America for the last 40 years. We have to put our blood, sweat and tears into every contest that can affect the kind of Lasting Change™ we want, all the while knowing that making that Lasting Change™ happen will take the sheer effort and will of a large group of people for a sustained period of time. We have to be dogged, diligent, and determined, all while lovingly shepherding those who are more reluctant, and carefully culling those who just plain won’t. It’s a tall order, and two years ain’t enough time to make it happen.

The key is continued drive and saintly patience. At some point we have to recognize that politics isn’t Burger King, we can’t always, immediately, have it our way.

Sure John Tanner’s continued suckling of the corporate teat pisses me off to no end. Sure I have dreams at night of moving to Northwest Tennessee and beating his ass in a primary contest. Sure that stunning defeat comes with an admission on his part that he has been horribly wrong for way too long, ultimately resulting in his transformation from corporate doucebag to man of the people. But I’m also realistic.

I know that Northwest Tennessee will not go for a crazy, wild eyed radical, but a person that understands the trials and tribulations of the average guy, and will work to shepherd them through their fear of Change™ instead of using that fear as a means to crush all opposition. In doing that, some of my more fervent supporters will perceive a shift to the right, and that may well be. No one understands Algebra in 1st grade, and it follows that the “average guy” will not understand or be comfortable with Change™ until they have learned to add and subtract and multiply and divide.

And that’s our challenge. If we want to implement Change™, we have to be willing to educate the people with the long term in mind, to quell the fear, gain confidence, and make it happen. It’s a long road, and it’s irritating for the faithful, but unlike religion, it’s not just a leap of faith, it’s a recognition of a national condition that has brought a blight on the American people.

It’s the realization that we can only rise up, by lifting other people up from the darkness of misinformation and fear. It’s the determination to keep working for the BIG YESSES despite the little no’s that we could focus on to undermine our efforts. It’s the drive to make a nation in the image of it’s Constitution and Declaration of Independence, maintaining a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Most importantly, it’s the dogged idealism of people like you and me that push the envelope of possibility to realize the promise of a nation.

This version of Change™ may not be all we thought it was cracked up to be, but it’s a step. Should we push the envelope? You better believe it. But we have to realize, at the same time, that not everyone is ready for the change that we are, and we still have to work like hell to educate the “everyman” to the benefits instead of beating them over the head with rhetoric and insults. We are talking about a transformation, and it will take some time to realize it. We can do it, as long as we don’t start eating our young to spite our future.

In an unrelated note, to step into the Feel Good Friday set, here’s a song by David Bowie.

Jun 18 2008

Profiteering from our Oil Dependence

Posted by Steve Ross in shenanigans

If you travel a lot, like me, you’ve been hit as hard, if not harder by the massive increase in fuel prices. Nearly everything I do, from flying to shipping thousands of pounds of equipment from one end of the country to the other, to driving all over the Mid-South, has been negatively affected by this increase. Thanks to the following report from Countdown this evening, now I know why Oil has been rising through the roof, and it all goes back to Enron.

Watch the clip…

Essentially, we’re getting gamed the same way California did by Enron. The difference is that the effects of this deregulation condition are now spread not only throughout the US, but the world, all in the name of profit for a few people. Here’s an article from the 11/10/2001 edition of theNY Times about deregulation in energy markets and the administrations inability to keep up with the challenges it presents. My favorite quote:

Earlier this year, the federal energy commission asked for comments on whether it should tighten scrutiny of dealings between natural gas pipelines and energy-trading shops owned by the same company.

Enron wondered what all the bother was. ”Would stricter rules prevent real affiliate abuse that current rules do not,” it wrote in a regulatory filing, ”or would they instead merely restrict the activities of some of the more successful participants in the marketplace?”

Stricter rules? How would that help?/snicker

So now that we know who is screwing us and how they’re doing it, will anything happen? I doubt it. This is not a topic that the news media knows how to report to the regular folk. It doesn’t involve anyone’s wife, or some kind of personality dispute, or any kind of candidate back and forth. It’s not something pulled from the pages of a supermarket tabloid, or from the mouth of a felon, on the lamb that has rented space in DC.

Even the path to enacting this horrible mess is more than a little sketchy.

The original bill from the 106th Congress HR5660 failed, but was included in a conference report to HR 4577. This bill passed by a large margin with every Democratic member of Congress from the Tennessee delegation; Tanner, Clement, Gordon and Ford voting for it’s passage. In their defense, HR 4577 was an appropriations bill for the Dept. of Labor and HHS, and was supported by nearly all of the Democratic delegation (vote). Only 9 Democrats voted against the measure with 42 not voting. The bill was signed by President Clinton on Dec. 21, 2000.

The hard truth of the matter is that even though we know how we’re getting screwed, it doesn’t mean we can easily stop getting screwed, or that the reversal of this portion of the law will end up with the instant lowering of prices, as mentioned in the Countdown piece. Further, should Congress take this up, it would most certainly get vetoed by the President, who seems hell bent on drilling from here to Narnia and back for all the oil that may or may not be there, selling us a bag of beans for all our possessions and maybe even our soul in the process.

The solution, for this and most of the other problems that face America financial services is re-regulation of areas that we gave up to the Republicans in the 80’s and 90’s for the hope that we Democrats would not get eviscerated in the next election by looking more Republican. It is a hard left turn away from the litany of capitulations that set this condition up, a left turn that is long past due.

Jun 18 2008

Pup Blogging

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

I have, for quite some time, felt that I have the cutest pup in all the land. So, I submit to you…Bruiser…

As you can see, he’s about to turn into the incredible bruiser…soon after he destroyed the camera.