I sure do miss the smell of horse dung

typical white christian American family

Last year, an acquaintance who has a part-time firefighter job, supplemented by a full-time ambulance driver job with no health benefits had to go to the emergency room with asthma complications. The hospital ended up having to admit him for three days. The total cost of this unplanned vacation was $23,000 and some change.

He had no insurance and he did not have $23,000. He applied for Medicaid, went through some hearings, some denials, appeals and eventually Medicaid paid the bill.

He is a Republican through and through. When asked how he liked his socialist benefits provided by his government, he smiled sheepishly and looked away. He was caught in a lie and he and I both knew it. He is still a Republican. Having his medical bills paid for through no personal merit or responsibility did not change his mind one bit about his political loyalties or the argument for his loyalties.

And that is when it hit me solidly: The GOP is not about fiscal responsibility. They are entirely about social issues.

A little background
My friend was raised in the rural parts of Ohio, right outside my town of Englewood which is ten miles north of Dayton, sixty-five miles north of Cincinnati. So he wasn’t actually raised out on the farm, but enough where there is little if any diversity and no weird artsy-fartsy types with book-leraning and such. The men hunt every fall, fish in the summer, drink beer, watch football and chew tobacco. And the women tend to their men. And everybody goes to church on Sunday and if they don’t, they still believe in Jesus Christ. (Really, these places exist not too far out your front door, wherever in America you are.)

And this is also where they talk openly about “how in the hell we let a g*d**n n****r in the White House” right before they spit chew violently on the ground in disgust.

How we got here
The GOP has gotten its followers to believe and say there is a finite amount of money available and that your ne’er-do-well, slacker neighbors are taking your fair share of your hard-earned money. Only it’s not really true. It’s not what they really mean when they say “money.” Money is just code for “my white Christian culture.”

The Greatest Generation were better storytellers than they were social engineers. When the men went off to war, they brought back stories of valor, courage, bravery, camaraderie and honor. My grandfather never talked much about the War. My dad never talked about the Korean War either. All we had were photos, medals and a few stories of good times with their buddies. They never talked about the horror of seeing their friends die or body parts getting blown off. When they came home, they put the past behind them and created a narrative that was peaceful and prosperous, even though it was not the truth.

Women who went off to work in the factories did much the same thing. It was hard, back-breaking, grueling, greasy, filthy work but when it was over, it was over. They did not tell stories of workplace accidents, the long days and the restless nights. They spun yarns of achievement, honor and patriotism.

And three generations later, that is how we remember the past that never was. Families lived in harmonious, quiet neighborhoods with houses all lined up on clean streets. The dad went off to work, the mom stayed home and kept house. There were regular raises and good benefits at his job. The kids played baseball, went to school and played stickball in the middle of the street. When they grew older, the kids went out on dates, got married and had kids of their own.

Each year, the family would get together and have Thanksgiving dinner, then Christmas and celebrate Easter in the spring. There would be great news of babies and marriages and of course of deaths and funerals. Everyone married a virgin, everyone died at peace. This all played out like some great movie with a well-crafted script. There were things nobody talked about and everybody knew what those things were.

And the children forgot about the struggle the previous generations went through to build this Great Lie. The storytellers of television and the movies gladly filled in the gaps, fueling an even more memorable past that never was.

The Great Lie of our American Dream is even embedded into our future. The following is a video made by Corning. The cues of the Dream are embedded everywhere across generations. Take a look. Can you see them? Do you find yourself wanting to be there? It’s a powerful Dream.

The past is knowable and comfortable. The future is scary. I’m fairly certain in a generation back there were old men who sighed wistfully as a truck blowing smoke passed them by on a farm road. Sure do miss the smell of horse dung, they might be thinking.

Money as a mask
We use price as an excuse for almost every human behavior. If we don’t really want to buy something, we say “that costs too much” or “I don’t have the money right now.” When we really want something, we find a way to get it by charging it, putting it on layaway, leasing it or in the case of a house, commit to mortgage terms that are not in our financial best interest. We rationalize a debt to get the things that we really want.

The GOP understands this about human nature — and particularly the American culture — very well and has masterfully crafted its message around money. “The state is broke,” they rail when a program is funding issues that are contrary to the Great Lie. “Our country is going bankrupt!” “Limited government” and “Take back our country” are all very attractive catch phrases for a population that has been led to believe that the supply of money is finite and being spent irresponsibly by your drunken neighbor. After all, many of these people don’t have much left from their paychecks at the end of the week, so it all makes common sense.

Everything the GOP wants to do is masked as a money issue because they know that American culture understands money. All this other stuff about happiness and rights and liberty is so hard to quantify. But money is easy. You can count money.

The inconsistency is the key
The key to understanding why money and fiscal responsibility is not the real issue is the inconsistency between what a conservative says and what he does. He will take a Medicaid handout to keep from paying a $23,000 hospital bill. He will take a government-supplied paycheck as a firefighter. He will take a home interest deduction on his taxes, a Pell grant from the Federal government, drive on the freeway system without paying a toll, attend a public school and do all these things as if it were his right to do so all the while saying we need less government. Taxes pay for all these things that give him a standard of living yet he perceives to have gotten these things through his own hard work and initiative.

And my favorite inconsistency of all, “Keep your government hands of my Medicare.”

The GOP knows that if they keep the discussion framed as “fiscal responsibility,” they don’t have to address all those other messy issues that go along with promoting the Great American Dream that never was. All they need do is step back in shock about why someone would not want to be fiscally responsible and they win the argument. Only the argument never really was about money. It never will be.

What’s in it for the GOP?
Power, I imagine. I can’t think of any other reason why someone would care more about the state budget being balanced than the health of their own household. Maybe some of these politicians really believe the rhetoric about fiscal responsibility, but I doubt many retain it. I think most of them are angry that not only have they lost their birthright, but it was stolen from them. They see political office as a way to take it back.

The GOP may have been about fiscal responsibility at some point in their distant past, but I think they have always been more about preserving the American Culture. As they become more and more desperate about preserving the Dream, the more they are letting their mask fall away. But judging from my friend above, they may think they can now afford to do it and start being honest about who they really are. Apparently lying about their true intent bears no consequence as at least half the country is one of them.

Am I off the mark here?

Celebrate your win not your opponent’s loss

winningsoccer

Do you strive to win in an effort to push yourself to do the very best you can, with the expectation that your best will result in a win? Or do you focus your energy solely on defeating your opponent?

The difference is subtle, but changes purpose and meaning entirely.

I think the definition of good sportsmanship comes down to one statement: Celebrate your win, not your opponent’s loss. It works for sports, politics, business and life.

There is an old joke about two campers and a bear coming upon them in their campsite in the woods. One camper immediately starts putting on tennis shoes while the other starts running away, barefoot, yelling at the other camper to run fast or he’ll never outrun the bear. He shouts back, “Never mind the shoes. Run!” whereupon the other camper retorts, “I don’t need to outrun the bear; I just need to outrun you.” Many people choose to focus on outrunning their opponent. It is the easier of the two. You can see the goal as you only need to be slightly better than him.

There is a short-term upside to focusing merely on defeating your opponent. You will probably win a lot of races early on. But, you will never, ever, ever know how fast you can run. Or how far. In short, you will never be the very best you can be.

On the other hand, winners run past the first base as fast as they can. Winners follow the ball until it is either in the goal or out of play. Winners run past the finish line at top speed and winners keep selling even when they’ve made their monthly goal. Winning for these people is organic and happens regardless of what their opponents do. A win is always because the winner is able to outrun the bear, regardless of whether or not he has an opponent.

We’re seeing a lot of “defeat my opponent” strategy in politics today. Not a day goes by when I don’t get an email encouraging me to “defeat the health care bill.” Or some email encouraging me to “stop Obama” or make him a one-term president. Why not emails encouraging me to “embrace tort reform and tax code reform to enable cost-effective insurance plans?” “You lie!” is perhaps easier to shout as a mob. “Say NO!” takes less effort to write on a placard than reasons to support a point of view.

But when you live to win by defeating your opponent, there is no plan after that. After you win, what do you do now? You didn’t plan for anything after the win, only the win itself.

What bothers me most about the tea-baggers, right-wing media screamers like Limbaugh, Palin and Hannity and GOP today is not that they may be right in their opposition, but that they are spending more energy in screaming “NO!” for the sole purpose of defeating their opponent rather than in crafting a plan.

Their whole plan is to merely outrun the Democrats. As the bear dines on the Democrats, one by one, the bear will continue to be hungry and looking for food. And the GOP will have no one else to outrun but their own.

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Serving red-staters only

Three things of significance have happened in the past year that has made me pause and think that perhaps we may be on a trajectory that should reverse course.

1. The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have the right to free expression, which enables them to give freely to any candidate they choose.

2. I made a visit to Jim’s Donut Shop in Vandalia, Ohio. There were a bunch of old men sitting around the counter and I jokingly remarked to the counter lady that this must be the place where all the political talks take place. “Just don’t be supportin’ Obama in here,” she candidly remarked.

3. I participated on a New Media Dayton panel about content and the question of identity online was asked. I made a joke about how we will see businesses force customers into Red State and Blue State lines depending on their political views and the ones in the line the brand supported would be served first. I was immediately taken aback by how true that is becoming.

Eventually, someone at a client organization will find this blog and connect it up to my real life person. There will probably be some discussion around a board table in which a comment like, “That boy leans too far left to be able to represent our brand with integrity. All in favor of firing that liberal, socialist commie, say ‘aye'” will be made.

Will business ever get to the point where they start thinking “your money is not green enough for us to take from you?” They did once upon a time in this country when no matter how much money a black person was willing to spend, business did not care to take it or treat him well based solely on the color of their skin. Still happens, but we’re less likely to put up signs.

Business is not nameless and faceless. Business is people. People have emotions, opinions and points of view that are not necessarily in line with their long-term best interests or survival instincts. Most times, they are not.

Will we get to that place where business refuses to serve you based on the color of your politics?

I hope not. But I have not been back to Jim’s Donut Shop since.

And never will.

Photo source: http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/fsa.8a33793/ Does using a photo in the public domain, stored by the US Government in the Library of Congress make me a socialist? I dunno.

Real election reform ideas

This is a very strange election cycle. I think a lot of people are floating ideas ahead of the 2012 presidential election that will be mind-blowing and head-spinning. 2012 may see the electorate perhaps as divided than we were during the American Civil War. I fear some may even take to arms to settle disputes of ideas.

We need to stop this trend of stoking up the people to anger just so 535 men and women can either stay in power or gain power. With the current state of the media competing with Lady GaGa, The Jersey Shore and the Housewives instead of rational thought, I don’t see a change in the trajectory. I really hope I’m wrong.

In the hope that reasonable people are reading and are also as nervous as I am with the mood of this country, I offer two options for some election reform.

For every day or portion of the day an incumbent is campaigning, they may not draw a salary or benefits from their elected positions
These people are interviewing for a job they hope to keep. The taxpayers paying them is like me demanding a day’s wages from a prospective employer for interviewing with them for a job I need to convince them I am qualified for. If they don’t get paid for campaigning, maybe the campaign season will be shorter and the actual work we elected them to do will be done more in earnest.

The only TV ads that are allowed are one where the actual candidate is speaking into the camera in his or her own words.
All other ads can be run, but they MUST carry a huge disclaimer throughout the entire broadcast of the ad that says “This is an opinion only. Facts have not been independently verified.” Even if the ad contains facts, unless the candidate is facing the camera and willing to put his/her words on the recorded record, it should be labeled opinion. Free speech means you can say what you want, but you can’t make up your own facts.

These are just a couple ideas from one of the unwashed, fading middle class voters out here in Pro-America who is getting very tired of the rancor, hate and anger but knows that to ignore it would be more dangerous to liberty than getting more involved.

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Dear Minority Leader John Boehner; this I fear more

A few days ago, I saw a video of you saying that Americans most fear the US Federal Government is spending beyond it’s means and that we are leaving a mountain of debt to our kids and grandkids. (I can’t find it right now, but when I do, I’ll post it.)

I think you are wrong.

Here is a short list of things that I fear more than the Federal Government spending getting out of control.

– I fear that my health insurance company, Blue Cross/Blue Shield will send me a letter in March, 2010 stating they no longer want me as a customer because I am getting too old to be in the “sweet spot” of profitability for them. My insurance renews on April 1st of each year which gives me thirty days or less to find an insurance company to take me.

– I fear that I will have a heart attack during the next four years, causing me to spiral into bankruptcy during a time when my daughter most needs me to be able to help her with college tuition.

– I fear that the City of Englewood will assess me an outrageous fee to arbitrarily replace the curbs and water supply infrastructure in front of my house, oblivious to the recession going on around us.

– I fear that I will be diagnosed with a medical condition that my insurance company will not pay to treat.

– I fear that I will get a letter from some tax department in Ohio (county, city, state) claiming I owe a bucket of money to them and they will hang on like a rabid dog because they are running a deficit themselves.

– I fear that some of my right-wing, gun-happy, God-fearing neighbors will become irrationally scared of losing their country to “those who are not like us” that they will do something stupid that will endanger me, my family and my home.

– I fear US Representatives who can afford to live in West Chester, OH and stay tan all year losing touch with their constituency* and start erroneously claiming to know what Americans are most fearful of. I also fear these same Congressmen categorically dismiss and oppose ideas simply because they came from the “other party” with no thought or analysis.

– I fear the loss of rational thought and civil discourse.

– I fear the decline of the quality and breadth of education available to our younger generations that will further doom them to become less competitive in an increasingly global marketplace.

– I fear the increasing selfishness and short-sightedness of parents who teach their kids that the President of the United States of America is not worthy of their attention or respect.

– I fear a society that believes it to be permissible behavior that a Congressman disrespect a sitting US President in public. On TV.

There are many more things, but this list is probably long enough.

Mr. Boehner, I fear a lot of things more than I fear the US Federal Government putting us in debt. If you had to live in the day-to-day world that your actions in Congress create, you may possibly also share these fears.

Please, Mr. Boehner, please think before you talk in hyperbolic terms. Please think about what consequences your words have. Please think that possibly things like fear, hatred, distrust and violence may be a worse legacy to leave to our kids and grandkids than debt.

——

*I know, Mike Turner is my rep, but he never gets the microphone and doesn’t ever read my blog nor return phone calls.

Sarah Palin, please grow up, shut up, go away or learn some English

Sarah Palin (on loan from CNN.com)
Sarah Palin (on loan from CNN.com)

In a CNN.com blog post yesterday, Ms. Palin is quoted as saying:

I would think we all tear up during the national anthem at the beginning of a baseball game, don’t we? That’s an alikeness between Alaskans and New Yorkers.

Sigh. I think she meant to say something like “common bond” or “the bonds that united as as a nation” or even “similarity.” I am beginning to suspect she makes up words as she goes. She reminds me of Damon Wayans’ malaprop character on In Living Color. Malaprop is a big word, so I linked it up, in case Ms. Palin is reading… oh, never mind.

It really is time for the smart guys to be in charge. The beer-drinking buddies, the “Joe the Plumbers” are not the future of this country, they are its past. It is not cool to be dumb. It never was.

In recent decades, we’ve seen the damage one dumb man can do. We’ve also seen the damage a highly provincial man can do. Neither was good for this country as one led to high inflation and a hostage crises and the other led to wars, loss of a moral compass and submission to mob fear.

I’m not sure how many bloggers remained “anonymous” about their feelings on Sarah Palin. That women created a blog wake so deep and fast that if you didn’t attach your name to it, your blog was a waste of time to write or read. There was nothing about anonymity or boredom in that ride.

We’ve had a taste of what a smart Sarah Palin would be like. We call her Tina Fey. And the real thing pales in comparison to the imitation.

Congress getting ripped off by relatives

AP Photo: House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel is currently facing four investigations by the House ethics panel for possible misuse of his office.
AP Photo: House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel is currently facing four investigations by the House ethics panel for possible misuse of his office.
According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel paid $57,500 from a campaign account to a Web-design company owned by his son over two years, paying more for Internet services than any other House member during the same period, according to federal records.

My first thought was that perhaps the web site was worth that much and more. I get a bit miffed when people tell me Internet services should be really cheap (including the WSJ!), so I assumed perhaps Rangel’s son put a lot of extra features on the site and the Congressman actually got a lot of value for a little bit of money. After all, $57,500 doesn’t buy a whole lot more than the basics in the private sector.

But then I got a Tweet from the Alltop.com folks, saying the RSS feeds for both the Senate and the House were on line. So, I went there. Nope, no Charlie Rangel site.

Small oversight. Surely, there is an RSS feed.

But, there isn’t. Neenz is just not that sloppy! You can check it out for yourself.

So, it looks like more Congressional nepotism and the taxpayer paying for something that doesn’t quite compete with the private sector. And I like Charlie Rangel.

So, Congressman Rangel, for $57,250, I will rebuild your site and include an RSS feed so you can be on Alltop where you can kick ass with the best of them.

Clinton many things, but not a proud dog owner

Not a proud dog owner and no record of advocacy for canine rights, but still a pretty good speaker. Listen for the reference to “Iran” at 8:29-8:52 clever.

A note to the Democrats: We don’t want to be “taken care of.” We just don’t want to work our entire lives to create a home and a small amount of wealth and always be one heart attack away from bankruptcy. We just don’t want our income to be eroded by bad dollar policy. We don’t want our homes to be worthless because we can’t sell them. We just want a fair playing field and opportunity to achieve reward for smart and hard work.

Don’t strive to “take care of us.” Strive to create a country that values human life and effort beyond the value to which dogs can contribute economically. Dogs are so much more than their economic viability. Value that as well.

NEWS RELEASE: Rufus volunteers to be the first puppy reporting from Iraq

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Rufus
c/o
Gerard McLean
DogWalkBlog
rufus@dogwalkblog.com

Rufus volunteers to be the first puppy reporting from Iraq

ENGLEWOOD, Oh. – In a brave move today, Rufus announced his intention to be the first puppy dog reporting from Iraq. Inspired by a call from Tribune Publishing owner Sam Zell, who said in a video posted on YouTube, “..hopefully our revenues are so significant that we [Tribune newspapers] can do (stories) on puppies in Iraq.”

Rufus, 8, the author of the popular blog www.dogwalkblog.com wants to be that puppy dog reporter in Iraq for Sam Zell.

“Puppies DO matter,” barked Rufus emphatically at a recent press conference. “Even if you oppose the war in Iraq, you can still support puppy dogs in Iraq.”

The traditional journalism community immediately dismissed Rufus’s intention of visiting Iraq as silly, citing that stories of puppy dogs in Iraq were not newsworthy. Most Americans disagree.

“We’ve had enough gloom and doom reporting with the war and I think it is about time that we had an upbeat puppy dog story,” said Gerard McLean, Rufus’ handler and blog editor. “Dogs are very observant, have sharper hearing and sense of smell than most journalists and rarely miss signs of danger,” adds McLean.

“Puppies in Iraq are long overdue to bring in a sense of balance and perspective.”

Rufus is apolitical and sees a visit to Iraq as an opportunity to remind Americans and his friends elsewhere in the world, that there are things more valuable in this world than politics, the economy, war and terrorism. A good scratch on the ear, a brisk walk on a Sunday morning and an unabashed sniff of a neighbor’s buttocks are all things that dogs – and humans – can rally around.

“Our world may be changing rapidly,” barks Rufus, “But the loyalty and friendship of a dog is everlasting. That is something that is newsworthy.”

Rufus intends to publish the quest to Iraq daily on his blog, www.dogwalkblog.com and on www.puppyjournalism.com. The video of Sam Zell, which sparked this quest, is also posted on Rufus’s blog.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDy7vn7-LX4