Saturday, November 8, 2008

Walking On Sunshine

Stephanie Miller has new intro music on her program. "Walking on Sunshine" has replaced the previous number, which I do not know the name of, but it sounded like Pep Rally music. Not a criticism: it made total sense for the voice-over: "Operation: Take Back America"

I bring it up because while I have never much cared for "Walking on Sunshine" for some reason, it actually seems to fit right now. I am hardly a dour person by nature, but "Walking on Sunshine" always had a Pollyanna-ish sensibility to it that did not appeal to me.


This is different in that now I get it. It just took 8 years of darkness and oppression to put the song into its proper perspective. Watching things like...
  • Voter suppression and at least one if not two stolen presidential elections that resulted
  • Bigotry and Racism dressed up as Patriotism: Hate made into a positive character trait.
  • Fraud
  • Huge upward wealth redistribution
  • Rampant greed
  • Guilt by association
  • Spying on Americans without cause and without warrants
… and so forth rule my country has been so hard to observe. Lie after unchallenged lie. The myth of the liberal media. WMD. On and on. All of it made worse by knowing that my primary weapon against all these things is being funneled into electronic machines that will do with it whatever their masters say to do has been doubly frustrating. Don't show up at the polls... and if you do, it won't matter anyway because we'll flip your vote to meet our needs. These people have been torturing people in my name! They will walk away from this mess richer for having destroyed an economy and ruined the name and the honor of a nation of good people.

All that pain. All that darkness. All that despair. Replaced by hope. I wonder if Barack knows just what he has done. Sure, he did it by empowering people to feel hope again, by telling them that if they will work hard a common goal can be achieved, but leadership counts for something. Vision. Passion. Commitment. Most of all, Integrity. Saying and doing the same thing at the end of the campaign that you did at the beginning.

What bothers me is that this stuff is cyclic. People will tend to forget again where we were and expect the bright future as the status quo. They will become vulnerable to the pernicious lies such as "Cut Taxes in Order to Grow". The problem with this lie is that it shares the quality that the very "best" lies do: it has an element of truth in it. The lie is that if we cut taxes, and we grew that we should just keep doing that, over and over and over again. It is not infinite. The logical extreme is that if no one paid any taxes at all we would have an infinitely well financed government / social system.

Also, the reverse: if everyone gave everything to the government, then there would be little if any growth. Where there is no incentive to better oneself, there is only stagnation. If no one ate anything, then there would be enough food for everyone.

The extremes prove that the middle is the place to be. There is our real discussion: What services do we, as a nation want? The funny thing is that, if we could take the politics out and just do a straight up vote, we could determine what the majority wants, set a price to that, and be done with it more or less. The minority that has been ruling is not interested in that though.

I do not like to pay taxes more than anyone else, and for the same reason. It just seems like such a big chunk of money. Be that as it may, I have never understood the lengths that people go to in order to avoid paying them either. I like roads and bridges and emergency response teams and a strong defense and national parks. I like having a big institution on my side to protect me from the big institutions that are not on my side.

Related to this, in the lie-as-truth department is the concept that we can just grow our way out of anything. It makes no sense, yet it is accepted as delivered wisdom from on high. As a homebrewer, I can prove this is not true every time I brew a batch of beer. Dump the yeast in the wort, step back, and watch the yeast party … right up till they die, about a week later, poisoned by their own excessive growth. Yeast drink maltose, pee alcohol, and at some point die because there is more alchohol in their maltose than they can live in/with. To grow our way out of our problems in an infinite loop means leaving the little blue marble we are nearly all perched on. The question is only whether or not we'll leave before we choke to death like the yeast do.

Rachel Maddow (Queen of Cable TV, according to Stephen Colbert) points out on occasion that she does not get why the party the hates government always tries to run the government. The results are clear: a self fulfilling prophecy. When elected these folks prove the government doesn't work. Its like handing OJ the glove. Of course it won't fit. Duh. Government doesn't work: see? We just proved it by running it into the ground.

Another lie: Government should be run like a business. Uh...No. Sure, we don't want stupid stuff happening like spending too much on hammers, but having a good purchasing department does not map to business and government running the same way. If anything, business needs to run more like government. Huh?

I take it as axiomatic this above all else when it comes to people: They will do what they are paid to do, and by extension, whatever appears to be the path of least resistance to the most money. Heinlein's sub-story in “Time Enough for Love” about the “The Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail” for example. One might argue that this is the root of capitalism. The problem is that people … especially businesses, are more often than not really lousy at figuring out things like short term pain for long term gain. When you are measured by the quarter, and punished severely when you make less money in a given three month period than in the previous one, your only motivation is the money. People don't matter. The right thing doesn't matter. "It's just business" becomes an excuse for almost any behavior. See all the recent layoffs for example. 240,000 this last quarter.

We need people to have jobs so they can make and then spend money, but the economy is bad so the companies aren't making as much money, so they are laying people off to try and make ends meet.. so people have less money, and......

The death spiral is pretty easy to see. A smart company will use this time to build at the expense of those around them that are locked in quarter-think. Most (but not all) companies that think that way are privately owned, so they can get off the treadmill of quarter-think. If nothing else, the US Government tends to think annually. Four times longer than quarter think though. Nothing like the 50 year business plan of some Japanese companies though.

The Sickness of Too Much Competition

I watched the 22 months of this election as I have no other, primarily on MSNBC. As the election progressed, I got utterly sick and tired of Pat Buchanan. He went on and on and on during things like post debate analysis about how Obama needed to get tougher, and go more negative if he wanted to win. He just did not get the idea that Obama would not attack harder, and use every trick in the book in order to win, even though Obama had clearly stated he did not want to run that type of campaign, and knew that we-the-people were tired of politics as usual. It started to sound like pleading: “Please oh Please go negative: Drop down to our level!”

Buchanan seemed to be saying that the means do not matter: That winning was all that counted, and that Obama could not govern if he did not win first. Win win win win win win win win. The party of the right, with all it supposed morality, imbued by being aligned with people like Jerry Falwell and the religious right, was all about winning, but not about how they won. Buchanan was and is a microcosm of his party. In fact, he is considered a leader in conservative thought! It hardly seems like thought is involved. Seems much more visceral than that.

Competition is good up to a point. It can be a motivator. Some people like it a lot: See all the sports addicts in the world for details. Others compete internally: Can I do better today than I did yesterday? I am of this latter type, FWIW. My sport is snow skiing because I can focus on just trying to make a better run than the last one was. I don't even really care about speed: I like being on the mountain. I am not in a hurry to get down. Better only means "Smoother and more Graceful": A big enough challenge for me at my age and not having been blessed with hand/eye coordination.

For Buchanan, the fact that Obama only criticized specific policies of specific people, and never went to the easy, low hanging fruit like the preacher problems Palin or McCain had must be giving him headaches: He does not appear capable of understanding a moral decision to take the high ground. Rachel Maddow told him over and over that the "Eat your young" approach is not the way that Obama rolls, but "Uncle Pat" just kept saying more or less "then he does not really want to win..."

No: He wanted to win. He just wanted to win the right way.

I keep hearing that the Party of Pat is in disarray. Lost at sea. Trying to figure out how to win again. To get back in power. It is not about doing the right thing. It is about winning at all costs, and they don't get how they were beaten by someone that did not play that way. Right now they are trying to figure out how to tear down, destroy, whatever it takes, Obama. It is not about the people or the country or what is right. It is about winning.

We have emerged from the darkness, but the darkness is still there, trying to figure out how to get back in. Stealing trillions for eight years was not enough (Boy: When they say "Winner takes all, they means it!). Got to have more!

Walk on Sunshine for now, but never forget the last eight years. Despite the electoral college landslide, 46% of the country voted for the losing ticket this last time around. 46% wanted four more years of hate based politics and all that entails.

As Kent Jones says: "Vilgelance"!


Akshun J said...

Seriously, I think we are related. We both run linux (Mint, to be exact), have blogs, have the same laptop, and now I find that you listen to Stephanie Miller, voted for Barak, and read Heinlein. Eerie.

For the record, the original Stephanie Miller song was by Twisted Sister.

I was at a pretty big event on election day in Atlanta. Even though I usually blog only tech, I still managed to jot a few thoughts down. Take a stroll.

Steve Carl said...

I take it as axiomatic that we are related.

I peeked at your post, and I have to say that I am jealous you got to hear a live Barack speech. He was here in Houston... when I was in California. Then he was in Denver right before I was there, and in Fort Collins right *after* I was there. Doh!

Stephanie just was added to the morning line up on XM channel 167 a couple or three months ago, but I love her show and am glad to have it now! I did not know what I was missing. She did do a stint a while back on Olbermanns show, and really liked her show, but nothing ever came of that. Maybe because Rachel Maddow showed up and became the queen of cable. I love her show too, so now I get both!