Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Journey, still day one. Sitting in a traffic jam, with time to think about stuff

Hopefully, we've all had time to consider the question in depth.  Assuming that to be true, I'm going to move on.

We've got a fork coming up, and we have a choice of two roads.  One leads us towards Privilege, and the other goes towards Right.  Although I know which road I'd take, let's spend a minute discussing the implications of the decision.

Monday, April 18, 2011

On the freeway - still Day One

Okay, as we ease into traffic and join the herd stampeding down the freeway, let's expand the conversation a little.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

And the journey begins

The important part of this whole discussion is the process.  If you believe in the process, then you'll more likely believe in the result.  That's why we're taking the journey in the first place, because, if I just jumped in with the destination, you might, understandably, jump in and say you didn't want to go THERE!

So, as you hop into this vehicle, be it the Mini Cooper or the big bus, I'm going to ask you to consider a question.  I don't need an answer, but...you do.  Don't try to consider where it might lead you, just consider the question all by itself.  I know that's hard to do, because it's instantly tempting to say..."yes, but...."

Don't consider the implications of your decision, just consider the question.  I'll warn you right now that it doesn't lead where you think it does.

So, here's your first question.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's a journey

Tonight I'm going to invite you to go on a journey with me.  I'm not telling you where we're going, at least not yet.  I think it's better that way.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Profound...and distressing

Years ago, Alexander Graham Bell completed the first telephone call.  According to legend, and apparently backed up by first-person accounts, after he spilled some liquid, possibly acid, he yelled into his primitive receiver something like Watson.  Come here.  I need you.

His exact words aren't important, at least not now.  Apparently whatever he spilled got cleaned up and no one was the worse for it.  The important part was that Watson heard him, and telecommunication was born.

In the years that followed, the telephone did many things, but by far the most important was that it gave people more time.  They didn't need to write a letter and then post it.  They didn't need to delay decisions for days waiting for a response.  They didn't need to hop on a horse and go to town to communicate, or ride in a train or carriage or automobile to ask a simple question.

It is sometimes observed that nothing comes without a price, and although phone service cost money, that wasn't the true price.  The true price was a bill that remained unpaid, and the interest kept accruing.  Today, for far too many people, that bill has come due, and the total rivals the Federal debt!

Today, that early telephone, which has morphed into something far different, is collecting the bill...and the interest.  It is sucking every moment of your time, claiming hours you could have spent with friends, family, and society.  It has stolen your time to read and study.  It robs you of personal interaction, and replaces those hours with stupidity on a tiny screen.

Instead of taking your wife to a movie, you watch it by yourself, somehow convinced that trading the Big Screen for that little, itty bitty picture is a great deal.  Heck, you don't even get popcorn...although, just maybe, you have an App for that!

The worst part is the balance due on that bill hasn't gone down, and the interest keeps mounting.

Now, after you've used your phone to forward this to 11 of your friends, sent three tweets about it, and stopped to check your messages and email for the 97th time in the last hour, shut off your phone and discover the world around you.  Take...oh...at least ten minutes.  You'll be surprised what you've been missing during all the time your phone has claimed!

Friday, April 8, 2011

The real problem is...........

Today, and for the whole of this past week, the news channels are filled with everything "Shutdown."  Given the importance of what's going on, that's probably appropriate.  However, what's being missed in all that noise is the real issue.

The discussion, at least as reported by the media until last night (Thursday) was all about the differences in dollars...i.e., what should be cut and how much.  I don't for a moment think that's unimportant.  The deficit is way too big, and on a collision course with disaster.  It is also inevitable that choosing to fund or not fund programs represents choices way beyond the dollars involved.  Funding the government means making political, or maybe more accurately, social, decisions.  If you don't fund Program X, it's likely because you see it as less important than Program Y.  Or maybe you just don't like the idea of Program X in the first place.

All of that is fine, I guess.  However, it has the effect that I described in the book, of making decisions a part of bills that have nothing to do with anything.

Here's an example, that actually blends two chapters of the book together.

The current House Bill to fund the government includes a provision (called a rider, because it's simply along for the ride) that forbids Washington DC from using their own dollars to fund abortions.

There's two problems with this.

Problem #1 is that it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with funding the Federal Government.  It's not part of the Federal Budget.  It doesn't increase or decrease the Federal deficit.  It is nothing more than an attempt to apply somebody's (read Conservatives) personal values upon an area that not a single one of them represent.  It's attached to this bill because everyone knows it couldn't possible pass if it was considered on its own merits!  Apparently it's a deal killer to remove it.  Tough!  The House needs to do its job, and fund the Federal Government.  The House Republicans, collectively, are doing the very thing they complain about: creating a nanny government that tells people what to do with their own money!   

Problem #2 is that Congress, specifically the House, is abusing the citizens of Washington DC by singling them out for Special Treatment.  They could not pass this law to affect any other state, or any other group of people, but because of the special provisions for the District of Columbia, they actually can do this.  Because the citizens of Washington DC have no voice in Congress, they don't even have anybody to plead their case, at least nobody with a vote in the matter.

In short, while I have many many disagreements about what is or is not going to be funded through this bill, assuming it is ever passed, the fact remains that Congress is about to lay off a good portion of the working population of Washington DC, because they want to exert unreasonable control over the lives of those folks.  To me, this is not an example of "less government."  It is an example of complete hypocrisy, and I think John Boehner knows it.  While the President is being accused of not standing up and leading, the Speaker of the House is the true wimp here!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

And yet they wonder why

The BBC news reported today that Transocean, the company charged with running the operation of the Deepwater Horizon, the drilling platform that caught fire, exploded and sank, killing nine workers and creating the worst oil spill in history, awarded bonuses to the "top executives" for their outstanding safety record last year.

Now, if that statement doesn't seem somehow completely wrong, then...well, I have no idea what has happened to our value system.

According to the report

Notwithstanding the tragic loss of life in the Gulf of Mexico, we achieved an exemplary statistical safety record as measured by our total recordable incident rate and total potential severity rate.

As measured by these standards, we recorded the best year in safety performance in our company's history, which is a reflection on our commitment to achieving an incident free environment, all the time, everywhere.

This is more or less like saying, except for the fact that your whole family was wiped out in a terrible house fire, we had a really good year in preventing fatal house fires.  Somehow, that logic just doesn't work.

I have some serious problems with executive salaries, perks, and bonuses in many situations, but this is just beyond the pale.  How can anyone, with an ounce of moral fiber, accept a bonus for such a performance standard?

It is sometimes observed that statistics can be manipulated to show anything.  That's sometimes true, an apparently this is an excellent example of such spinning.  It is impossible to discuss the real numbers and what they might show as a trend.  However, given the disaster, and I don't use that term lightly, of last year, I don't think the "safety record" for last year was anything to reward.

It's a bit like saying "we didn't create as much damage as the situation in Japan."  That might be accurate, but irrelevant.

In this case, common sense...well, in this case, there clearly is no common sense.