Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal Flush

That pesky Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is at it again.  This time, he has intercepted a personal communication between Prince William and our natural born President.  I make no value judgment on the appropriateness of Mr. Assange’s decision to release this private note, but I post the secret message for my loyal readers without reservations.  Besides, there are no surprises here:

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to personally thank you for the public release of your long form birth certificate yesterday.  As we have previously discussed, the issue was creating a major distraction here in Great Britain, pulling journalists and paparazzi away from a matter of critical importance to the world order - my Royal Wedding.    Now the press can finally focus on meaningful, substantive ceremonial issues, such as the color choice for the Queen’s hat and the design of Kate’s elegant yet naughty undergarments.  I am thankful that these prenuptial curiosities will divert the prying English press from our island nation’s painful austerity policies, and onto our storybook love, exciting and new.  Come aboard, we’re expecting you.
Kate also asked that I convey her gratitude to you.  She had heard quite enough from that blowhard casino mogul, and his inane birther rantings were frankly making her a wee bit edgy before our big day.  She did not need the extra aggravation of worrying about the legitimacy of your presidency on top of stressing whether the flowers will arrive at the church on time, or whether Camilla will get too drunk at the reception.  I’ve told her that even if you were born in Kenya, the centerpieces would be beautiful and the bridesmaids’ shoes would match the dresses to perfection.  But what do I know?  As she often reminds me, I just need to stand there and smile.  She has the tough part.
We received the package from you and Michelle today.  Kate was very moved by your thoughtful wedding gift of Kenyan colonial period place settings.  Where did you find such lovely china?  Per your instructions, we will not display the gift at the palace without being served a legally binding court order, and the CIA courier will be renditioned to Kuwait as a precaution.  I agree with you – whoever said, ‘There is no such thing as bad publicity” never ruled a country.
On a more private note, your choice of former President Bill Clinton as Special Envoy to my bachelor party was unexpected, but very well received by all the blokes in attendance.  That guy can make things happen!  Who knew that a plastic raincoat, an automatic umbrella, some Silly Putty, and a quart of liquid soap could create so much merriment!  Harry in particular picked up some valuable connections that I am certain he will plug into in the near future.  I don’t remember much from the evening, but I do recall Tony Blair making tasteless “Your High-ness” jokes after eating too many hash-laced crumpets.  I have a vague recollection of him challenging Vlad Putin to a Sumo-style wrestling match.  I am sure that he had a difficult time explaining all that dried raspberry Jell-O in his hair to his lovely wife.  Please export Bill across the pond any time.  He is welcome in my man castle.

Vice President Biden, however, was not on the guest list, and his unannounced arrival and participation in the festivities was borderline criminal.  I can tell you several members of the “entertainment” had to be coerced to drop charges, as the allegations might have caused great embarrassment to your administration.  His boorish behavior made Charlie Sheen look like an Oxford lad studying for his finals by comparison.  I have forwarded a bill for the hotel room damages, which are quite extensive.   I am told that the staff has yet to rid an awful barnyard smell out of the draperies.  It is not my place to say so, but you might reconsider Ms. Hillary for a 2012 running mate.  At least she won’t show up for a state dinner covered in body glitter.  Feel free to remind the Delaware Diva that what is acceptable behavior in Scranton, PA is not acceptable in Paris, London, or even Liverpool, for that matter, regardless of what he thinks.

On to more pleasant business: 
Now that you can legally obtain a U.S. Passport, you may change your mind and choose to join us at the Royal  Wedding.  You would be most welcome.  A seat has opened up at to our token Muslim table.  We kicked out the Syrian ambassador, so we now have room for one.  I apologize for the table assignment, but I can assure you that it is close to the bar and well across the room from the DJ booth.  I can also promise you that Quadaffi (or Kaddafi, Gaddafhi, or Qaddaffi – we guessed at the proper spelling for the invitation envelope) will not be there to create any awkward moments for you.  According to his spokesperson, he is hunkered down with another pressing engagement.  I think it is safe to assume that if he gets bombed this weekend, it won’t be from the complimentary champagne during our cocktail hour!  LOL.

Once again, thank you for shifting the 24 hour news cycle back to me and my fiancĂ©e, where it rightly belongs.  We look forward to basking in the overexposure for a change, at least until Mr. Trump decides to tease his next TV program with mysterious conspiracy theories about your education, upbringing, employment history, travel, friends, associates, smoking habits, or dangerous musical preferences.  On a side note, Kate and I were always confident that you were born in Hawaii.  I was less certain that Hawaii was a state.



P.S. – Please forward Tiger Woods’ private cell number.  I could use his advice on my “swing” technique, if you know what I mean.  Many thanks.

P.P.S. - My offer still stands – we’ll take Hawaii in exchange for the Falkland Islands and a territory to be named later.  Think about it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Friendly Game of Hide and Seek

"Transparency" has become the watch word of the year.  Everyone wants it from someone else, yet everyone is simultaneously arguing that shining the bright light of transparency on their activities violates their privacy and security.  The battle lines are drawn. 

The NFL Players Association (excuse me, ‘trade association’) wants transparency from the owners so that the owner's claims of poverty can be verified.  The owners refuse to open their books, and negotiations have morphed into dueling court petitions. 

Julian Assange and his band of hacktivists have made it their cause to create transparency by force, outing governments and individuals via WikiLeaks.  In the Internet Age of democratization, they say, let the people decide what represents national security need and what does not.  Never mind that secrecy has both a dark and bright side.  Hopefully, we won’t learn which is which too late, after a guarded secret is divulged that allows bad actors to harm the innocent. 

 The TSA has a vested interest in transparency in the name of national security, but their version of transparency could be awkward for any gentlemen traveling by air after a quick dip in a cold pool.

Mark Zuckerburg is a multi-billionaire based on his strategy of granting marketing companies transparency to our personal preferences and interests, while simultaneously allowing no transparency to his privacy settings matrix.  Transparency and privacy are luxuries that the poor cannot afford.  If you’ve got a few million (billion) in the bank, these are valuable commodities to be protected.

The GOP and House Speaker John Boehner campaigned aggressively for more transparency into the sausage making process of designing and passing legislation.  "Bring in the C-SPAN cameras!" they thundered from the stump.  Boehner recently refused C-SPAN's request for cameras in the well of the House Chamber, citing the fact that the House already has their own cameras.  Apparently, running these cameras is a job that only a government employee can do.  This is one area where privatization is not on the table. 

The Bush administration made a mockery of transparency for 8 years, hiding shamelessly behind ‘national security’, ‘executive privilege’ and other such canards to protect them from scrutiny.  Remember the secret energy task force led by Cheney?  Cheney famously argued that his office wasn’t subject to the laws of the land, since the Vice-President’s office was neither part of the legislative or executive branches of government.  This was all in the name of avoiding transparency, his alleged patriotic duty.

Ah, but there are two sides to this coin, aren’t there?  When does secrecy become substituted for an executive’s ability to hear unfiltered opinions?  Once meeting attendees with the Vice President know that their brainstorming session will be transcribed and posted on Huffington Post, the free exchange of ideas ends.  Creativity stops.  Innovation ceases.  America loses.  Not good.

Finally, the greatest irony of all: President Obama received an award last week for promoting transparency within government, and in a twist worthy of a headline in The Onion, the award ceremony was private, closed to the media.  Everything in moderation, I guess, when it comes to transparency.

This is the battle of our generation, and the concepts of privacy and transparency are getting muddled in the public tweets that represent 21st century discourse.  Here’s what I believe:  Institutions should have transparency; individuals should have privacy.  Individuals can voluntarily give up their privacy right(s) (i.e. posting their information on a blog site); individual members should demand transparency of the institutions of which they have an ownership stake (i.e. taxpayer’s ownership of government). 

The vexing question remains, when does privacy end and the public interest begin?  That line is unclear and amorphous, changing shape as the question becomes more personal.  The answer to that question often rests with your political opinion of the particular issue under discussion, and that leads to inevitable cries of hypocrisy from the opposition.  We generally lean towards privacy when we are asked for transparency; we leans towards transparency when the other side is too private.  No one is more private and secretive than a thief, of course.   

I believe that there is no universal absolute answer to questions of limiting privacy and transparency when searching for safety and accountability.  I think I will go along with Judge Potter Stewart, who famously defined pornography with the statement, “I know it when I see it.”  For me, the same is true of the invisible line between my rights and your responsibilities.  I know it when I see it.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hold My Hand

Like many of you, we have family visiting for the Easter weekend.  The arrival of family means many things – time for cousins to play together, an excuse to clean the house, a tourist visit to DC.  It also means bedroom assignment and occupant consolidation time.  Lucy gives up her princess suite for her aunt and uncle and bunks in on the inflatable mattress in Mom and Dad’s room.  Oh joy. 

Lucy is very excited about the short road trip around the corner to our room, but we are not quite as filled with the same level of excitement.  Trepidation sounds closer to the feeling.  When she is away from her familiar surroundings of Selena Gomez posters and the unlimited children’s library on her bookshelves, she tends to awaken a wee bit earlier than usual.  When she wakes up pre-dawn, she is anxious to share that news, much to our dismay.  I guess it is worth it for family, isn’t it?  Easter comes but once a year.

Lucy moves in all of the comforts of home onto the floor at the foot of our bed.  The most favored stuffed animals of the week are invited to sleep with her.  The special pillows, the special blankies, the special bedtime reading materials, the special anything that she can carry – it all arrives and occupies open floor space.  We initially object about the volume of toys and companions, but we don’t put up much of a fight.  She wants to feel safe and secure, and the lovies she sleeps with accomplish that delicate task every day. 

But all the blankets, pillows and stuffed friends are not enough.  Before bed last night, after Uncle Mike did the guest appearance as nighttime book reader, I went in to kiss her good night.  Lucy kindly asked that I lay on the bed above her, and hold her had while she fell asleep.  Apparently, Mommy (the sucker) did this yesterday.  I wanted to be the strong one, and teach her a valuable lesson in independent living and self-reliance.  I caved.

Yes, she used that voice, the voice that I hope each of you has had the opportunity to hear at least once in your lifetime.  The irresistible voice of childhood innocence, with a hint of uncertainty behind it that only you could relieve with your calm touch or soothing words.  I lay on the bed above her and held her hand, and it was nice.
“Hold my hand.”  I recognized in that moment that a sense of security is critical to child, and that knowing we were in the same house was not enough.  Being in our room at the foot of the bed was not enough.  Hearing our voices in the kitchen while she fell asleep was not enough.  Sometimes, the guardians have to be there, in the flesh.

Isn’t it like this for all of us?  I thought of the brightly colored Easter eggs in the kitchen, beautifully decorated, with their fragile shells.  It is good to remember that at times we are like those eggs.  Everything looks great on the outside, but we require delicate handling.  We are inherently breakable, even when we’re older. 

“Hold my hand.”  She should not have needed that extra reassurance.  Common sense should have told her that she was safe.  But she needed more, and I think we forget that we all need extra reassurance, even when common sense says it should not be required.

Let’s remember that this Easter and beyond.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Age Old Problem

One of my brothers is ten years older than me.  When he achieved 50 (I was going to say “turned” 50, but I associate something “turning” with going rotten, like an peeled banana left on the countertop all day in the sun), I was 10 days shy of 40.  My sister-in-law threw a neighborhood party in his honor.  After his celebratory golden anniversary birthday party, I recognized the main difference between a 40th birthday party and a 50th birthday party – about 3 hours.

You see, my brother’s party was over by 10 PM.  It was a Saturday night, but all the guests had eaten their last pretzel, sipped their last merlot, and punctuated the evening with a stretch and a yawn.  “Thanks, but since we’ll be up every hour on the hour to pee, and we can’t sleep past 5 AM anymore, we’d better get going.  Had a lovely evening.”

The post-party debrief consisted of recounting all of the physical calamities being endured by the various party guests.  Guest #1 has a biopsy scheduled for next month.  Guest #2 blew out his knee playing touch football in the backyard.  Guest #3 wasn’t drinking, since it messes with his heart meds.  For me, this was a glimpse into the future – my future.  The future would be defined by the health (or lack of health) of those around me, as well as my own.  This was a simple reporting of the ailments and illnesses in the room.  The constant complaining about the personal aches and pains associated with aging would be delayed until the 70th birthday party, I presumed.

That night, the 10 years between 40 and 50 seemed simultaneously far away and yet destined to be upon me in the blink of an eye.  At the time, I could not imagine leaving a party by 10 PM, and yet I did not feel that I was that different from the other party guests, albeit with darker, more luxurious hair in its original color.  They seemed like peers.  Their kids were older, but we shared common interests, and enough common experiences to make casual conversations comfortable.  That said, I was unmistakably younger, and that glorious factoid was unspoken yet understood by all.  I was at the stage in my life when “prostate” still meant “against a strong central government”, and not that I had a ‘growing’ problem. 
That is changing.

The party that I attended 9+ years ago will be held in my honor in 11 more months, and I feel exactly the same way I did in 2002, except for a few minor differences:

My hands hurt, pretty much all the time to one degree or another.  Clenching my fists is uncomfortable.  I find it hard to hold the guitar pick between my thumb and forefinger.  I make conscious dietary choices instead of eating anything within arm’s length.  I can’t read the newspaper without my glasses.  My right big toe no longer fully flexes, and my feet have never completely recovered from the marathon run of 2001.  My teeth are extremely sensitive to hot and cold, and my shoulders are permanently damaged from playing hockey.  I no longer have any idea what goes through the head of a teenager.  If I skip my morning shower, even I am offended by the odor. 
I might be like that peeled banana on the counter top, rotting in the hot sun. 
I’m not sure if 50 is creeping up on me, or I am racing towards it, but I am NOT complaining at this point.  That will come in 20 more years.  At least I have being ornery without guilt to look forward to…that, and some great parking spots.

Party on.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

“God Help Us…Everyone!”

With all due acknowledgment of my ‘liberal’ use of the original words of C. Dickens.  The proposals to eliminate the US child labor laws cited below are sadly not fiction, however:

Letter to the Editor of the Maine Sentinel

Dear Sirs:
First, my workforce asks for Christmas off – the entire day, mind you – and now I hear that there are opponents to the elimination of child labor law protections.  I can sit alone and silent no longer as the rights of job creators are infringed upon once again.

I write today to support Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed roll back of child labor laws in the state of Maine.  The proposal under consideration would allow employers to pay workers under 20 well below the minimum wage for their first 180 days on the job. The bills would also change labor laws to allow minors to work later at night, more hours per week, and eliminates "the maximum number of hours a minor 16 years of age or older can work on a school day and allows anyone under the age of 16 to labor for up to four hours on a school day during hours when classes are not in session."

I am quite pleased that these efforts are gaining traction, thanks to my like-thinking Republican cohorts.  There is a pending bill in Missouri to gut child labor protections, and a sitting U.S. Senator, Utah's Mike Lee (R), has argued that federal child-labor laws violate the Constitution and shouldn't even exist.  This kind of logic is long overdue, and I stand with these modern thinkers.  Before he passed, Marley told me to vote Republican, and he was always a man of good business.

No more lazy underage rabble listening to that incessant noise they call music.  My dear children under the age of 16, that is why they call it work – it is hard, unpleasant, and painful when done properly, regularly, and with minimal or no compensation.  Some may say that this adjustment to the laws will undermine wages for all workers, particularly older workers who will be unable to compete with those younger workers who could be paid less.  Some may say this is another attempt to create a permanent underclass in America and speed out descent into a Third World nation status.   To them I say, “Adam Smith will take care of everything, ye of little faith!”  More?  You want some more???  Everyone knows you can’t have any pudding until you eat your meat!

I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments (of charity) - they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.  If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.  The market must be allowed to work unfettered, and anything less is humbug, in my humble opinion.
Shall I ever understand this world? There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty, and yet, there is nothing it condemns with such severity as the pursuit of wealth.

Good day, sir.

Ebenezer S. (name withheld)

PS - If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘protect child labor laws’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!  Bah!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Doubting Donald

Reputed billionaire TV personality, Donald Trump, has ignited his own presidential ambitions by throwing fuel onto the ridiculous birther controversy, spouting off on every media outlet that can find him about his “team of investigators” and their secret findings.  I wish him luck, although I think this casino mogul has rolled snake eyes this time.  Sometimes when there’s smoke, there’s a guy creating some smoke.

You might be surprised to learn that this is not the first time that The Donald has stirred up birther controversy in his career.  Trump in fact has a long and sordid history of questioning the legitimacy of birth credentials.

January 20, 1996 – Donald Trump refuses to attend George Burns’ 100th birthday celebration until he produces his birth certificate from 1896. 

In an interview with the now-defunct George magazine, Trump said, “This guy’s been smoking and drinking for decades, and he’s still alive?  I find that curious, don’t you?  Now he is parlaying his ‘alleged’ advanced age into a cash cow, lining his own pockets.  No one would laugh at his jokes if he were 95, and he knows it.  Let’s see if he’s a charlatan or a comedian.  Show me the records, unless you’re a liar.”

September 4, 1988 – Donald Trump refuses to accept that the turtles of the Galapagos Islands can be up to 170 years old without some proof. 

In an interview with the Hair Cuttery in-salon magazine, Coif, Trump was quoted, “A bunch of liberal scientists come out with this self-serving pronouncement about old turtles, and the public eats it up without proof.  It’s a tourist scam, I tell you.  I say they should cut one of those giant turtles in half to count the rings.  Once my independent team of investigators has counted the rings inside, we will finally know the truth.  In fact, let’s get Geraldo and televise it.”

July 4, 1976 – Donald Trump questions how George Washington could be the Father of Our Country without a proper DNA test. 

During an interview for the 1976 Miss Universe event program, SpouseMatch, Trump said, “First of all, he wasn’t even in Philadelphia in 1776.  I have yet to see a shred of evidence that he ever had relations a territory, providence or colony.  Besides, it is scientifically impossible to conceive a new country during a colonial period.  The cycle has to be right.”

April 4, 33 A.D.  – The origins of his doubting ways:

John 20:24-31 (New International Version, ©2011), Jesus Appears to Trump

 24 Now Trump (also known as The Donald[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” 
   But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Trump was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Trump, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

 28 Trump said to him, “Pretty impressive, Jesus, but I will still need to witness your actual re-birth certificate.”

Editor’s Note:  Be sure to tune into The Celebrity Apprentice this Sunday evening, and help prove that Trump is a genius – there is no such thing as bad publicity when profit is your motive.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Row, Row, Row Their Boat

I’ve had a business plan rolling around in my imagination for several years. It’s so ingenious, that I have been hesitant to share it with you in this space. I feared that one of my more ambitious readers would steal the idea, head to market before me, and make me the Tyler Winklevoss of the next decade. Now, I know that my idea has already been stolen, so I share the concept with you today – in memoriam.

The secret sauce of my plan is quite simple – ready? Unpaid interns who work for me for college credits and ‘experience’ instead of cash. I know, pretty awesome.

Here’s how I thought it would work. I line up a number of small businesses looking for outsourced human resources assistance on simple tasks, such as developing their employee handbook, handling pesky employee grievances, or providing custom policies and the internal communications for implementation of those policies. I would write the statement of work, and then farm the actual heavy lifting out to my unpaid interns. These interns would do all the real work, while my job would be to edit their final work product before delivery to the client. They’d do a great job, primarily because they would be trying to get noticed for a future opportunity after school is over.

The interns would work with their college advisors to have the work considered for credits. The interns would gain valuable real life experience in the field. I could charge my clients significantly less than my competitors. My overhead costs would be dramatically lower. As the business grew, I could expand into placing the interns into future HR positions, since they would already have experience and be fully trained in the discipline. Interns would seek me out because having my company’s name on their resume would improve their chances at landing an interview and ultimately the job of their dreams. Once they were placed, I would stay connected, and they could be tomorrow’s clients. And so it would go.

Everyone would be happy…except the IRS and the Department of Labor.

I know this now since it appears that Arianna Huffington has already stolen my idea and implemented it, to the tune of a $315 million cash out. She did exactly what I had planned to do. She aggregated the work of unpaid interns (bloggers from around the world), and then charged clients (advertisers on her site) for the privilege of reading the material. The unpaid interns (the bloggers) were happy, since they appreciated the name recognition and turnkey readership, the clients (advertisers) were happy because of the exposure, and most of all, the boss (Arianna) was happy because all she had to do was create the framework and bring in the clients. Unpaid staff did most the work (content).

Huffington will need to defend her business model in court now. According to Daniel Massey of Crain’s New York Business, “A class-action lawsuit filed April 12 in federal court in New York City alleges that as many as 9,000 unpaid bloggers for the Huffington Post were unjustly denied compensation despite contributing content that helped the liberal-leaning website’s price tag soar to $315 million.”

Massey writes:

Jonathan Tasini, a labor activist, writer and occasional political candidate is the named plaintiff in the lawsuit, which seeks at least $105 million in damages from, Huffington Post co-founders Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer, and AOL. In February, AOL bought the Huffington Post for an estimated $315 million.

“Bloggers have essentially been turned into the modern-day slaves on Arianna Huffington’s plantation,” said Tasini, who wrote 216 entries on the site, beginning in December 2005. “Huffington Post is nothing without the bloggers who create the content.”

“Anybody blogging for Huffington Post is a scab, producing content for someone who is attacking workers,” he said.

Here’s an interesting case of a non-profit liberal attacking the for-profit liberal. Only in America.

My professional jealous at Arianna stealing my unpaid intern idea is tempered when I reflect on the fact that the idea of having unpaid workers provide content for profit is nothing new. Millions of people populate Facebook with valuable content, and the only member getting a check is Zuckerberg. Twitter is worth billions, and the owner of that site doesn’t need to tweet anyone to cash his checks. The public provides the content, and does so in exchange for fame and notoriety in 140 characters.

Today’s aspiring entrepreneurs only need to group people together who are already doing the work for free. Somewhere, Bernie Madoff is laughing his ass off in solitary confinement.

At Arianna’s new level of wealth, I believe that the GOP would group her into the class of “job-creators” that should not have her taxes raised; in fact, they say, her tax burden should be cut. If these are the kinds of jobs, unpaid ones, that the wealthy plan on creating for the new economy, count me out.

I am patiently waiting to be discovered for a paying gig, however; inquire within.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Congratulations to Congressional Republicans for framing the debate in Washington.  The economic recovery (which is continuing its positive trend), corporate earnings growth (which is growing to historic levels), the rebound of the auto industry in America, and the upward trend in hiring are all off the front pages.  Spending and the deficit are issue Number #1 (unless of course, you poll the American public, which continues to respond in surveys that jobs are Issue #1).  Obama is now Reactor-in-Chief, and he is now playing on your turf, and debating on your terms.  Well played. 
As with many things in life, be careful what you wish for.  Obama has responded to the deficit/debt discussion with a full-throated defense of his own approach, and by extension, the progressive approach, to these issues.  The haters can stop reading at this point, and log onto a birther conspiracy blog to feed your souls.  For the rest of you, here’s the link to the full text of his address Wednesday:

Not everyone will have the patience to read the text of a full speech, and in the Land of Twitter and texting, I guess I’ll have to accept that.  For the adult ADHD sufferers, here is a brief outtake for your reading pleasure:

But as far back as the 1980s, America started amassing debt at more alarming levels, and our leaders began to realize that a larger challenge was on the horizon. They knew that eventually, the Baby Boom generation would retire, which meant a much bigger portion of our citizens would be relying on programs like Medicare, Social Security, and possibly Medicaid. Like parents with young children who know they have to start saving for the college years, America had to start borrowing less and saving more to prepare for the retirement of an entire generation.

To meet this challenge, our leaders came together three times during the 1990s to reduce our nation’s deficit. They forged historic agreements that required tough decisions made by the first President Bush, then made by President Clinton; by Democratic Congresses and a Republican Congress. All three agreements asked for shared responsibility and shared sacrifice, but they largely protected the middle class, our commitments to seniors; they protected key investments in our future.

As a result of these bipartisan efforts, America’s finances were in great shape by the year 2000. We went from deficit to surplus. America was actually on track to becoming completely debt-free, and we were prepared for the retirement of the Baby Boomers.

But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed. We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription drug program – but we didn’t pay for any of this new spending. Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts – tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country; tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade.

To give you an idea of how much damage this caused to our national checkbook, consider this: in the last decade, if we had simply found a way to pay for the tax cuts and the prescription drug benefit, our deficit would currently be at low historical levels in the coming years.

Of course, that’s not what happened. And so, by the time I took office, we once again found ourselves deeply in debt and unprepared for a Baby Boom retirement that is now starting to take place. When I took office, our projected deficit, annually, was more than $1 trillion. On top of that, we faced a terrible financial crisis and a recession that, like most recessions, led us to temporarily borrow even more. In this case, we took a series of emergency steps that saved millions of jobs, kept credit flowing, and provided working families extra money in their pockets. It was absolutely the right thing to do, but these steps were expensive, and added to our deficits in the short term.

So that’s how our fiscal challenge was created. That’s how we got here. And now that our economic recovery is gaining strength, Democrats and Republicans must come together and restore the fiscal responsibility that served us so well in the 1990s. We have to live within our means, we have reduce our deficit, and we have to get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt. And we have to do it in a way that protects the recovery, and protects the investments we need to grow, create jobs, and helps us win the future.

Is there plenty of empty rhetoric in here?  Sure is.  How about some hyperbole and oversimplifications?  Check and check.  The core of the narrative resonates, however.  This is what happened, and this is why we are in this predicament in the first place.  Call it blame if you like, but it is what happened, in reality, on planet Earth.  Join us.  The weather’s nice here.

Obama makes a final point that I also believe bears repeating:  

This larger debate we’re having, about the size and role of government, has been with us since our founding days. And during moments of great challenge and change, like the one we’re living through now, the debate gets sharper and more vigorous. That’s a good thing. As a country that prizes both our individual freedom and our obligations to one another, this is one of the most important debates we can have (emphasis added).

But no matter what we argue or where we stand, we’ve always held certain beliefs as Americans. We believe that in order to preserve our own freedoms and pursue our own happiness, we can’t just think about ourselves. We have to think about the country that made those liberties possible. We have to think about our fellow citizens with whom we share a community. And we have to think about what’s required to preserve the American Dream for future generations.

This sense of responsibility – to each other and to our country – this isn’t a partisan feeling. It isn’t a Democratic or Republican idea. It’s patriotism.

Paul Ryan gets lauded for his bravery and courage in producing his draconian budget roadmap.  I do admire his willingness to begin the conversation, but I am not alone in not endorsing his plan at this point.  Most all of the 2012 GOP presidential contenders (except Rick Santorum, who’ll be a distant memory by Jan. 3, 2012) have offered tepid comments about Ryan’s roadmap, going only so far as to praise it as a good “first step”.  Not a ringing endorsement of the details, to be sure.  Give credit where credit is due – none of these candidates want “end Medicare as we know it” wrapped around their necks next summer, and that’s probably smart politics and smart policy. 

I think what gets lost in the debate over taxes and social programs is the business benefit of operating in a country that provide such security, stability and safety nets.  We want an educated labor force; we want a healthy workforce; we want a secure and efficient infrastructure.  These things are good for business, and I am looking forward to someone hammering that point home.

Break out those flag lapel pins, ladies and gentlemen.  Campaign 2012 is underway, and it's been framed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Trump Card

NBC has announced its new fall line-up and everyone is excited to see Donald Trump’s newest publicity vehicle, The Celebrity President.  In this excerpt from the transcript of the premiere episode, The Donald confronts the contestants in the boardroom:

TRUMP:  Your project was to create my marketing campaign for the Presidency of the United States.  The team that generated the most votes from the American people for me would win the task.  Let’s start with the men, Team Founding Fathers.  Ivanka, how’d they do?

IVANKA:  Team Founding Fathers’ strategy was to confuse the public, and they focused their energy on disparaging your opponent as ‘different’ and un-American.  While the public initially reacted very favorably to the tawdry tabloid style of politics, they experienced a backlash from independent voters that ultimately drove up your negatives.

TRUMP:  Romney, you were Project Manager.  Do you think your team won?

ROMNEY:  I believe, Mr. Trump, in the strength of our campaign, and the strong family values we represented on your behalf, so yes, I do think we won.

TRUMP:  Sit down, Mitt.  That’s a pretty strong statement, don’t you think?  But don’t you feel placing the voters attention on my family values was a risky strategy?  I do have a reputation for marital ‘flip-flopping’, if you will (laughter).  Who’s idea was that?

PAWLENTY:  That was mine. Mr. Trump.

TRUMP:  Well, you’re an idiot.  Huck, what did you think of Mitt as Project Manager?

HUCKABEE:  In all honesty, sir, he confused us with his message.  It would change from one day to the next, and he was always contradicting himself.

TRUMP:  If your team loses, do you think he should be fired?

HUCKABEE:  Yes, I do.

ROMNEY:  Of course he does, Mr. Trump, but he also thinks Earth is only 6,000 years old, so I think you need to question his judgment skills.

PAWLENTY:  Speaking of judgment skills, how’s that Massachusetts health insurance mandate working out for you, Mitt?

TRUMP:  Well, well, Pawlenty has a voice, nice to finally hear from you.  Sounds like you’re ready to shed your Midwestern Nice Guy routine.  Look out, Team Founding Fathers!  He might step up to be the next Project Manager and surprise us.  OK, Don, what about the women’s team?

DON:  The women had a unique approach.  Team Glass Ceiling spent their time repeating meaningless phrases about you over and over, and hoped that the press would be more interested in the intrigue, Internet innuendo and bombast than actual policy statements.

BACHMANN:  That’s right Mr. Trump.  We believed that if we kept saying “fiscally mature” over and over, the press would actually fill in the rest and assume that you WERE fiscally mature, and overlook your questionable financial dealings and deceptive economic shell game practices

TRUMP:  But isn’t that the women’s team strategy for every task so far?  To repeat poll-tested expressions and hope no one does the hard work of vetting your statements for factual truths?

PALIN:  We felt like that would be the most fiscally mature approach.

TRUMP:  Are you sure we weren’t married once, Sarah?  What the heck are you talking about?  I might have to see your birth certificate to prove you’re from this planet.  You know, when my opponent started calling my economic policies “fiscally manure”, I thought you had miscalculated, but we’ll see.  You could always appear in one of my pageants if this doesn’t work out, you know.  I might even sponsor a Hockey Mom calendar, and you’d make a fabulous Miss December.  Think about it.  OK, Ivanka and Don, who won?

IVANKA:  The men, Team Founding Fathers, using their “confuse the public” strategy on your behalf, generated 47 million popular votes.

TRUMP:  Very impressive, gentlemen, but was that good enough to beat the ladies?  Don, how did Team Glass Ceiling do?

DON:  The women garnered 53 million votes with their “meaningless phrases” campaign, so they won this task.

TRUMP:  Congratulations, ladies.  This is a real triumph of Twitter over 60 Minutes and Facebook over Face the Nation, isn’t it?  Your reward is a one year contract for each of you as a paid political consultant on Fox News.  Team Glass Ceiling, you may go back to your dressing room suite and watch the boardroom on TV.  Team Founding Fathers, you stay.  Someone will be fired. (cue theme song)

After the commercial break…

TRUMP:  Romney, you were Project Manager, and your team lost.  Who was your weakest player?

ROMNEY:  Newt Gingrich.

TRUMP:  Really?  No hesitation.  I thought you were going to say Santorum.  Let’s face it, no one knows who Santorum is or why he’s involved at all.  He wouldn’t be missed.  Does Newt intimidate you, and that’s why you want him gone?

ROMNEY:  No sir, I just believe that on this task, preparing the general public for your Presidency, he was distracted and spent too much time looking out for himself and not enough time looking out for the team.  He also advocated using big words in the press, and given the success of Team Glass Ceiling, it’s obvious that hurt our team.  Kenya-ian Colonialism doesn’t resonant with the base, sir, and frankly, no one knows what it is.

GINGRICH:  Mr. Trump, let’s wait and see if Mitt changes his position in 5 more minutes.  Given his track record, that’s a good bet.

TRUMP:  What hurt your team is that the public would rather watch Palin and Bachmann talk on TV than your ugly middle aged mugs.  Can you blame them?

SANTORUM:  If I could add…

TRUMP:  (cuts Santorum off with a wave of his hand) No, Rick, you may not.   I’m not sure I’ll have to fire you.  You’ll just fade away if I ignore you long enough.  (turning to Romney) Mitt, are you going to sit there and take that from Newt?  You know, it wouldn’t hurt you to show some emotion, a little engagement – something.  It’s a bit too early to start posing for Mount Rushmore.  Ivanka, what do you think?

IVANKA:  Whatever you think, dad.

DON:  Me, too, dad.

TRUMP:  Maybe we should revisit that family values message.  These kids know what to say and who’s the boss, don’t you all agree?  I’m thinking that given the weakness of Team Founding Fathers, I probably should fire you all and keep Team Glass Ceiling.  Lord knows I could use the eye candy around me.  Instead, I could end up staring at Haley Barbour all day long if I’m not careful.  OK, everybody out while I make my decision.  (cue theme music)

Who will stay and who will go?  Tune in this Thursday night to find out who Trumps fires as he continues his quixotic quest for the Leader of the Free World.  Now stay tuned for the Miss Universe Pageant, sponsored by…you guessed it!

Reason and accountability – YOU’RE FIRED!!!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Theme Tablet

My reading table is filled with 90% political books, which many would describe as part of the fictional genre (maybe even science fiction to some).  These books, along with the other 10% various and sundry tomes on workforce issues, the science of human behavior, and historical texts, inform my thinking, and by default (since you are reading this today) your thinking, too.  Here’s a brief summation of three books I’ve recently finished.  This will help you understand the source of your indoctrination.  See if you can identify the connecting theme:

The Upper House, by Terence Samuel.  This isn’t about the Big House or the Out House, although the members of this body could from time to time be assigned to either.  The Upper House refers to the US Senate, the big brother to the feisty and rambunctious lower house, the House of Representatives.  The upper house is where the grown-ups are supposed to reside, and throughout history, they occasionally spent a free weekend.  The book focuses mostly on the last 6 years of Senate activities and personalities, but was particularly focused on the 2006 incoming freshman class (8 Democrats and 1 Republican, if memory serves). It started as a non-partisan retelling of the orientation of these new Senators to the Washington scene, and the Senate rules and protocols in particular, using interviews and personal stories from the Senators themselves.  It devolved into a sympathetic story about poor lonesome cowboy Harry Reid and his problems leading a dysfunctional group of rich folks, but I digress a bit.

This was not a great book, but there was one good takeaway (reminder, really) for me after reading it cover to cover.  The Senate was designed by the Founders to move slowly and deliberately, and to act as a counterbalance to the passions of the moment, usually embodied by the actions of the House.  It was designed so that the minority could stop just about any action, any piece of legislation, and by minority, I mean even just one person.  This feature makes compromise a necessity in the Senate.  Majority does NOT rule in the Senate.  You might say that the “Do Nothing” Congress was exactly what the Founders were hoping for when they drew up the Constitution, so Mission Accomplished. 
Dirty Sexy Politics, by Meghan McCain.  This book was a guilty pleasure, like looking through the pictures in this month’s People magazine, or watching the season finale of Celebrity Apprentice.  There’s no redeeming social value in the activity, but for a few moments, it’s fun and mostly harmless.  I love all the campaign trail books – can’t get enough of them (surprising, right, given my exploits in New Hampshire 4 years ago).   I read Game Change and Renegade about the 2008 campaign but I knew this would be different.  It was, mostly because it read like a teenager’s diary and not like a political columnist’s attempt to channel Theodore White.

The book follows Meghan’s travails as a blogger for her dad’s campaign - the seedy hotels, the back stage ennui, and the conservative paranoia about cultural diversity.  It did not offer as much political intrigue and strategy as I like, but it was a lazy read, perfect for the beach or the restroom. 
Meghan represents the more socially libertarian wing of the GOP (soon to be known by its other name, the Democratic Party).  She whines on about her exclusion from the national party because of her views, views that she claims in the book are more closely aligned with Goldwater and Reagan philosophies than the current mainstream GOP thinking.  She states that the GOP is too homogenous, not tolerant of diversity in thought or appearance.  Typical young person, you say?  If you said that, you might be right.

In all fairness, Meghan’s rants could merely be someone close to the center of the campaign who could not grasp why she couldn’t “go rogue” and just be herself.  Differences of opinion at the top of a national campaign are not signs of inclusiveness.  They are signs of dysfunction and loss of control over the candidate’s message.  A presidential campaign must speak with one singular voice.  At the top, I am certain that Obama’s campaign was no different in touting a big tent on the trail and a small, insular homogenous message on the inside.  It was the Dems, you’ll remember, that did not allow Bob Casey a speaking role at the 2004 convention because his pro-life message did not jive with the top of the ticket.

That said, McCain warns of a shrinking party if their issue appeal continues not only to narrow, but to repel the young and minorities.  On that point, she could be right.  The demographics in this country are trending blue voters (i.e. minorities) more and more each year, and the GOP is becoming more and more rigid in its ideology more and more each year.  If the national leadership can get past Meghan’s whining about her clothing choices for public appearances, they might learn something from her book.
Third World America, by Arianna Huffington.  Like many of the other Far Left or Far Right 50,000 word diatribes I have read before, I found myself arguing with an example or an assumption on almost every page.  The book read like a statistician’s delight.  There are numbers to support every argument she makes, yet I found myself arguing with every number.  To be more accurate, I was arguing with her conclusions gleaned from the numbers.  Her writing didn’t come around to the Left’s version of the optimistic “Morning in America” theme until about page 180, and by that time, I was ready to emigrate before a bridge collapsed, before I drank poisoned water, and before we elected Bank of America’s Board of Directors as President.  It almost made you forget that Arianna just sold HuffPost for $315 million.  Poor woman - what a country.

The Right is often accused of wanting to return our nation to the cultural and social values of the 1950s (some of which were good, and some of which were not).  Huffington at times represented Left thinking that wants to return our nation to the economic moorings of the 1950s – union shops, little neighborhood banks, and lots of assembly lines.  To both sides I would say, “Wake up, van Winkle – it’s 2011”  Conditions have changed, so assumptions must be challenged, and approaches need to change.  We all know the definition of insanity, right? 
One takeaway from this particular book: Nations are rarely murdered; they usually commit suicide.  According to the book, one effective way for a nation to kill itself is overspending and debt caused by military expenses.  This was a cause of Rome’s demise (trying to protect too large an empire), and it certainly hastened the fall of the Soviet empire.  Could the same thing happen here?  Ted Koppel has written about, and Colin Powell has spoken about, the terrorism-industrial complex, and its potential to slowly drain financial and other resources away from other priorities in our country.  This could be the genius of bin Laden.  Watching our country try to defend against every possible threat drains our financial strength, and his band of merry terrorists never have to actually attack anything – just tweet that they might. 
So what’s the connecting theme for these three books?  That’s right!  Joe has too much free time if he can read all these books, and write about them.

Next up on the bedside table: The Tiger Mom book that's all the rage!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Teach Less, Learn More

I clipped this from Daniel Pink’s website ( because education is such an important issue to me as a parent and as an American.  We need future citizens who can think critically, and instead we are raising future citizens who can memorize effectively.  Don’t we want lovers of learning and not lovers of techniques to avoid learning?

The study described in this article is fairly simple, and I cannot speak to its scientific validity.  I can only say that the conclusions rang true for me.  Judge for yourselves.

New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire.

Ours is an age of pedagogy. Anxious parents instruct their children more and more, at younger and younger ages, until they're reading books to babies in the womb. They pressure teachers to make kindergartens and nurseries more like schools. So does the law—the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act explicitly urged more direct instruction in federally funded preschools.

There are skeptics, of course, including some parents, many preschool teachers, and even a few policy-makers. Shouldn't very young children be allowed to explore, inquire, play, and discover, they ask? Perhaps direct instruction can help children learn specific facts and skills, but what about curiosity and creativity—abilities that are even more important for learning in the long run? Two forthcoming studies in the journal Cognitionone from a lab at MIT and one from my lab at UC-Berkeley—suggest that the doubters are on to something. While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution.

What do we already know about how teaching affects learning? Not as much as we would like, unfortunately, because it is a very difficult thing to study. You might try to compare different kinds of schools. But the children and the teachers at a Marin County preschool that encourages exploration will be very different from the children and teachers in a direct instruction program in South Side Chicago. And almost any new program with enthusiastic teachers will have good effects, at least to begin with, regardless of content. So comparisons are difficult. Besides, how do you measure learning, anyway? Almost by definition, directed teaching will make children do better on standardized tests, which the government uses to evaluate school performance. Curiosity and creativity are harder to measure.

Developmental scientists like me explore the basic science of learning by designing controlled experiments. We might start by saying: Suppose we gave a group of 4-year-olds exactly the same problems and only varied on whether we taught them directly or encouraged them to figure it out for themselves? Would they learn different things and develop different solutions? The two new studies in Cognition are the first to systematically show that they would. 

In the first study, MIT professor Laura Schulz, her graduate student Elizabeth Bonawitz, and their colleagues looked at how 4-year-olds learned about a new toy with four tubes. Each tube could do something interesting: If you pulled on one tube it squeaked, if you looked inside another tube you found a hidden mirror, and so on. For one group of children, the experimenter said: "I just found this toy!" As she brought out the toy, she pulled the first tube, as if by accident, and it squeaked. She acted surprised ("Huh! Did you see that? Let me try to do that!") and pulled the tube again to make it squeak a second time. With the other children, the experimenter acted more like a teacher. She said, "I'm going to show you how my toy works. Watch this!" and deliberately made the tube squeak. Then she left both groups of children alone to play with the toy.

All of the children pulled the first tube to make it squeak. The question was whether they would also learn about the other things the toy could do. The children from the first group played with the toy longer and discovered more of its "hidden" features than those in the second group. In other words, direct instruction made the children less curious and less likely to discover new information.

Does direct teaching also make children less likely to draw new conclusions—or, put another way, does it make them less creative? To answer this question, Daphna Buchsbaum and I gave another group of 4-year-old children a new toy. This time, though, we demonstrated sequences of three actions on the toy, some of which caused the toy to play music, some of which did not. For example, Daphna might start by squishing the toy, then pressing a pad on its top, then pulling a ring on its side, at which point the toy would play music. Then she might try a different series of three actions, and it would play music again. Not every sequence she demonstrated worked, however: Only the ones that ended with the same two actions made the music play. After showing the children five successful sequences interspersed with four unsuccessful ones, she gave them the toy and told them to "make it go."

Daphna ran through the same nine sequences with all the children, but with one group, she acted as if she were clueless about the toy. ("Wow, look at this toy. I wonder how it works? Let's try this," she said.) With the other group, she acted like a teacher. ("Here's how my toy works.") When she acted clueless, many of the children figured out the most intelligent way of getting the toy to play music (performing just the two key actions, something Daphna had not demonstrated). But when Daphna acted like a teacher, the children imitated her exactly, rather than discovering the more intelligent and more novel two-action solution.

As so often happens in science, two studies from different labs, using different techniques, have simultaneously produced strikingly similar results. They provide scientific support for the intuitions many teachers have had all along: Direct instruction really can limit young children's learning. Teaching is a very effective way to get children to learn something specific—this tube squeaks, say, or a squish then a press then a pull causes the music to play. But it also makes children less likely to discover unexpected information and to draw unexpected conclusions.

Why might children behave this way? Adults often assume that most learning is the result of teaching and that exploratory, spontaneous learning is unusual. But actually, spontaneous learning is more fundamental. It's this kind of learning, in fact, that allows kids to learn from teachers in the first place.

Patrick Shafto, a machine-learning specialist at the University of Louisville and a co-author of both these studies; Noah Goodman at Stanford; and their colleagues have explored how we could design computers that learn about the world as effectively as young children do. It's this work that inspired these experiments.

These experts in machine learning argue that learning from teachers first requires you to learn about teachers. For example, if you know how teachers work, you tend to assume that they are trying to be informative. When the teacher in the tube-toy experiment doesn't go looking for hidden features inside the tubes, the learner unconsciously thinks: "She's a teacher. If there were something interesting in there, she would have showed it to me." These assumptions lead children to narrow in, and to consider just the specific information a teacher provides. Without a teacher present, children look for a much wider range of information and consider a greater range of options.

Knowing what to expect from a teacher is a really good thing, of course: It lets you get the right answers more quickly than you would otherwise. Indeed, these studies show that 4-year-olds understand how teaching works and can learn from teachers. But there is an intrinsic trade-off between that kind of learning and the more wide-ranging learning that is so natural for young children. Knowing this, it's more important than ever to give children's remarkable, spontaneous learning abilities free rein. That means a rich, stable, and safe world, with affectionate and supportive grown-ups, and lots of opportunities for exploration and play. Not school for babies.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Blame It on the Reign

Why does it look inevitable that the federal government will shut down tomorrow night?  We know it is because a budget was never passed by Congress for the fiscal 2011 year.  Who is to blame depends on whom you ask.

My friends on the Right blame the Democrats.  This week’s GOP talking point is in standard-issue bumper sticker format, proclaimed from the highest Fox News mountaintop (or signal tower):  “If the Democrats had done their job and passed a budget when they controlled both houses last year, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”  This excuse has the benefit of being simple, but as with most ‘simple’ talking points, it tells very little of the story.  The Dems couldn't pass a budget when they controlled all the levers of power in DC because they did not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.  According to the Left, Republicans put secret anonymous holds and filibusters on each budget proposal, making budget passage all but impossible.  That's the power of the minority.

So while it’s nice to say "Democrats couldn't pass a budget", it goes right back to the Republicans delaying any bill from passing.  As a matter of fact, the Dems did pass a budget bill in November and the Republicans blocked the budget from coming to the floor.  Blaming the Dems is not entirely justified.

It is also true, however, that the Democrats dragged their heels on debating a budget.  Steny Hoyer, former House #2 to Pelosi, stated that his side of the aisle was going to wait and hear what the President’s bi-partisan commission on the deficit was going to say.  Let’s face it, waiting for a commission’s findings in DC is the oldest dodge in the books.   That’s a cop out to protect your decision-making culpability behind some commission.
My friends on the Left blame the Republicans, and there are some good reasons.   There are no liberals protesters on Capitol Hill right now chanting “Shut it down!” – those are all GOP voters from the Tea Party base.  The GOP leadership has stated time and again publicly their intention to force a debate over the role of government in the 21st century by shutting down the government.  This is no longer a budget debate – the Dems caved on the dollars.  On that count, the Republicans have won the battle of this budget cycle.  This is no longer about money – it is all about ideology, pure and simple. 

How do we know?  First, a shutdown will ultimately cost the federal government MORE money, not less.  For a party devoted to reducing the deficit, that should be a matter of some concern.  It isn’t.   Secondly, the GOP is clinging to restrictions on the powers of the EPA being included in the final budget.  Third, defunding Planned Parenthood, NPR, and the implementation of health care reform are part of the package of GOP cuts.  Never mind that the same dollars can be found elsewhere.  These three targets represent the 2011 Holy Grail of Right Wing Red Meat (in 2008, it was ACORN, William Ayers, and Rev. Wright; in 2009, it was Government Motors, socialism and Barney Frank.  This party needs an Enemies List or it cannot attend a dinner party).  The only money issue at stakes for the Right are future campaign contributions.
Many blame Obama, and I understand that.   I have not been impressed with the President’s leadership on this issue, but his job is not to pass a budget – that is the job of Congress.  If anything, Obama is acting more like the Constitutional version of a President – more Administrator-in-Chief than leader of the free world.  The power of the Presidency, and our expectations of the position, has evolved over time.  We expect more from the position and the man, so much more that I have read a variety of posts wanting to know why Obama hasn’t passed a budget yet.  Hey, McFly, the President doesn’t pass anything – that is Congress’ job.  If anything, blame Obama for outsourcing the project to Boehner and Reid without sufficient oversight on the progress of the talks.  Blaming Obama for not passing the budget is like telling the government to keep its hands out of your Medicare.
While Obama’s pragmatism is at times frustrating to a public enamored by bold action and media driven proclamations, it is more in line with what the Founders envisioned.  Congress is supposed to introduce legislation, debate legislation, and pass legislation, including a budget.  I don’t like how Obama has outsourced the traditional role of his position to a Congress designed NOT to get things done, but that is one way to insure limited government.

While the 2011 budget did not get passed during the Democratic reign, and Obama hasn’t signed a budget into law during his reign, and the GOP would like to end most social spending and taxes on the wealthy during their reign, it is ultimately political vanity that reigns supreme at this hour.  During this type of reign, it’s we little people getting wet.

Put on your raincoats.  We’re about to get trickled on.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

151 Proof

One year, 151 posts.  How intoxicating.  Drink it up. 
One year ago, I wrote my first MSRP post on this date, April 5th.  At the time of inception, I broke every rule of effective goal setting, and was led by the most generic non-directive statement I could imagine: “Try to write something regularly”.  Quite ambitious, I must admit.  Specific, measureable, action oriented, realistic and time driven.  OK, not so much.  I did not have a specific goal in mind because I wanted to enjoy the experience of writing.  I wanted to see if I could do it.  One year later, I won’t say “Mission Accomplished”, since that expression is fraught with unintended political meaning, but I will say…what will I say?

You’ll have to keep reading daily to find the answer to that question.

I have said things about my oldest daughter, my son, my youngest daughter, but not much about my wife (she reads it too often, and discretion is the better part of valor).  I’ve said things about my travels, my work, and my bedside reading materials.  I’ve said things about sports, music and religion – the MSR of MSRP.  On occasion, I’ve expressed a reasoned, infallible political point of view.  While I appreciate the feedback that some of my posts have generated, the ultimate satisfaction has come from within, the inner sense of accomplishment.  The money isn’t very good, so I’d better enjoy it.
My attitude about the blog has now changed (while its income potential has not).  I know that I can do it, and that I enjoy doing it.  This change encouraged me on Dec. 31st to set a new blog posting goal for 2011 (this is on top of the stretch goal set at New year’s to grow a greener lawn this year).  My writing goal?  150 posts for the year.  Looking back at my first year’s production, I’d say that is a pretty weak goal, and I am already well on my way to surpassing that level of production (50 posts in 3 months).  So I have set a new and improved goal for this year.  Specific, measureable, action oriented, realistic and time driven.

I’ll write better material. 
Damn, I might have already blown it.  Happy New Year.