Tag Archives: Politics

The World is Different Now from Then

My last post here was November of 2011.  Ouch.  On February 25, 2013 my friend jan finder died of cancer.  That rather dampened my interest in writing more blog posts that would push his writing back a bit.  Time has passed and I’m feeling a need to write something longer than 140 characters again.

My little New England town had its town meeting last Monday and will have its next town election on Saturday, May 17th of 2014.  This is the spring season for lawn signs extolling the names of local candidates for school committee, selectman, town clerk, and other elected positions.  The candidates and their supporters are very vocal.  Conversations about supporting one candidate or another are mostly emotional with no factual content.  Being somebody who can be swayed with a well presented fact or two, I never cease to be amazed at how people do (or don’t in most cases) vote.

The divisiveness of the two national parties is mirrored locally.  As former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.”  That phrase means more to me as the years go by.  All politics is emotional.  Local and emotional go together.  We care about local.  Locally “party” means less than the individual positions taken and results delivered.  Still, it’s no surprise that our local elections heat up as much as they do.  The same mudslinging and behind the scenes manipulation would appear to function on all political/human interaction levels.  

As a side note, the reason marketing holds my interest is that it involves psychology and biology.  Conveying a message and having somebody else accept it requires either an incredible instinct for human nature or a studied, systematic approach to presentation.  (I’m not working on the best, most persuasive way to present this information.  I’m just ruminating.)  I’m fascinated by the state of American politics today.  It is no different than it ever was, I suppose.  It’s about power, control, money and sex.  At least nobody has been shot or run through with a sword in the Congressional halls in recent years.

There are multiple types of intelligence if you buy into  Howard Gardner’s model in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  One of those types of intelligence is interpersonal.  The folks who score high in that area are considered charismatic and are often leaders.  Of course, they can also be good scam artists, but we’ll let that go for the moment.  Or not.  Again, the human appeal is emotional.  That’s what drives us.  It’s interesting to think we are electing people with interpersonal intelligence but possibly not as much intellectual ability as we might prefer.

This is on my mind because recent conversations with people I like and respect are sometimes strange.  People can hold strong negative convictions about elected officials who I have never known to be anything but kind, honest, hardworking, and competent.  How good people can come to opposite emotional convictions is fascinating.  Facts are gathered or made up or stretched, perhaps, to coincide with an emotional position.  I’ve heard people make strong claims about politicians from local up through the POTUS where there isn’t a single measurable fact to be found.  Just a feeling on somebody’s part that “these people” are (insert negative term of your choice).

In my town I’ve observed that the most powerful voting block is the parents of school age children.  They appear at town meetings where a school department article is to be voted, they vote, then they leave.  When I was younger I was less interested in being active in politics because my time was committed to my job and my family.  As the family matures, you and your significant other may feel a pull to become more politically active.  (Or not!)  You have the time to volunteer and the experience which is valuable to town committees and boards.  At different ages, our interest in, and time for, political activity changes.  So why were young people so politically active in the 60’s and 70’s?  How about because the Vietnam War focused the attention of a whole generation on survival?  We fight for what’s important to us.  I had hoped that more would come of the Occupy movement in view of the serious threat the mishandling of the American financial industry was causing worldwide.  But it was not to be.

So.  Is it age and time availability or self interest or a mix of the two that make us politically active?  Some 40 years ago more than one third of all workers in the US private sector were unionized and in 2014 less than 7% belong to a union.  History tells us that unionization generally involves broken bones, blood in the street, and the use of words like goons and scabs.  Labor is always at a physical disadvantage… until it isn’t.  Why we don’t see more unionization today I do not understand.  Leadership is not exactly encouraged in the 99% by the 1% which control the US economy.  Why are all the good people in this country allowing the financial system, healthcare, manufacturing, the environment, and heaven knows what else… to deteriorate?

I keep coming back to income inequality as a root of our differences and our problems.  Yes, people have a right to be rich.  And, as the Bible says, “The poor are always with  us.”  But there’s a matter of degree today which seems unsustainable in a healthy society.  I’ve always been a fan of Bill Joy, a tech giant from years ago.  I can’t find the quote, but he was talking to a reporter once about all the money he made from Sun Microsystems, and he pointed out that he plays hockey so now and then he buys a $15 hockey stick, but other than that he doesn’t need much.  Living in Silicon Valley has never been cheap, but I appreciated his point that money, after a certain level, isn’t buying you a better life.  The 1% in the US are living a gilded, privileged life, but they could live that same life on 10% or less of the pile of cash they can access.  So the vast wealth of this nation is really sitting idle when it could be driving a better quality of life for more people.

The world has changed dramatically in the last 50 years.  It has changed dramatically every few decades over the history of the human race, too, so my point here is about looking forward to what kind of world we want to leave to posterity.  I believe Americans should  not face a life burdened with heavy debt to pay for their education.  I believe that a certain level of healthcare is a right.  I believe people should be able to do, think, and say whatever they like as long as they don’t hurt anyone else.  I believe we can learn from Europe that dense cities surrounded by agricultural land with public transportation between cities is a good thing.  Eating up our agricultural land with suburban housing developments has been a poor decision.  And I believe that the wealthiest people in the country are more than welcome to 20 to 50 times what the poorest people have, but not 300 to 1000 times.  By freeing more people from physical and economic stress we can have a more productive, peaceful, creative and happy world.  Isn’t that what we claim this country is about?  It isn’t about giving people a guaranteed plush existence, it’s about giving people an opportunity to earn their living, making the most of their skills in service to their community.  Isn’t that what this country is about?  Or is it about “I’ve got mine,” and that’s pretty much the end of it, which I see too much of today.

Just ruminating.  Wondering how we got where we are today and whether it is possible to improve the lot of people as a whole in this world.



Updogs, Downdogs, Marketing, and Politics

Yoga gives you time to think. And updogs and downdogs get me thinking. Thinking about optimism and pessimism.  Thinking about how we view the world, ourselves, and each other.

Mothers are traditionally considered nagging, restrictive, etc. by their children. All of that is true, of course, and the species benefits by the concern of the mother (and father) for the welfare of their offspring.  “Look both ways before you cross the street.” “Don’t talk to strangers.” “Wear your coat.”  “Be careful.”  Sometimes negative sounding words are said with love and concern.  On the other hand, mothers cheer their children on, applauding every step forward, marveling at their beauty and cleverness. Downdogs and updogs?

When we are an updog, we bubble humor and positive vibes, let’s say. We look to the sun as we bend upward. We’re optimistic. Then we have to do something nearly the opposite, designed to stretch an entirely different set of muscles and ligaments. The downdog brings blood to our head, focuses our attention on the ground, and might be considered the narrow, pessimistic, protective position.

Actually both positions remind me of the Village People making large letters, but that is neither here nor there. (Peter Minister gnomes below)  Yoga is fun and I’m easily amused.

So, my thinking drifted towards the difference between blogs that are light and amusing and those which are serious and about subjects which are important to the future of life as we know it.  Various marketing analytics have proven pretty conclusively that the most popular blogs are positive.  Let’s restate that to simply upbeat and downbeat posts: updogs and downdogs.  We all have enough stress in our lives, it seems, that we do not actively go seeking more.  So it would appear that the best advice for bloggers and marketing folks is to emphasize the positive.  Dwell on the solution, not the problem so much.  And, whatever you do, do not disparage the competition.  Ignore them.  Point out how your product is strong in an area, not how theirs is weak.  Your customers aren’t dumb, they’ll figure it out.  Know what?  It works.

But this is an election year.  And while it’s true that gunfights and fisticuffs rarely break out on the floor of the US Congress today, the verbal equivalent is everywhere, all the time.  The scandals that arise, the anger expressed on all sides are amazing to me.  I’m wondering how anyone can conceivably consider THAT candidate when they are obviously a perverted, arrogant tool of corporate interests with a massive negative advertising budget.  How can that be?  In the political world, “going negative” is done repeatedly, because everyone believes it works in the political sphere.

Why would “going negative” work in the political sphere but not in business to business sales and marketing?  Even consumer products rarely go “very” negative.  A taste test, perhaps, but Tide would never say that Arm & Hammer is terrible laundry soap and just plain doesn’t work.  (And it makes you fat!  Actually I recall a beer company years ago that set up a hotline phone number you could call and they would say things like that about their competition.  It was a hoot, but it was traded virally, under the table, not advertised. It was funny because it was snarky and underground.) That would be foolish.  Hardly anybody would believe a blatant lie about a commercial product.  But people will believe mudslinging charges thrown back and forth regarding political candidates, according to studies. I don’t find negative ads engaging or educational, but that’s me.

I am much more reminded of Adolf Hitler’s Big Lie Theory, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”  I read that many years ago and rather hoped it was not true.  But time has shown that it is, in politics.  Hitler is also known for having said: “It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge.” And “The victor will never be asked if he told the truth.”  Big, simple, lies, often repeated. Sounds like a description of political ads this time of year.  So how is it that so many people vote against their own best interests?  How do we allow some of these horrible human beings to run for office and actually elect them?

Tis a puzzlement to me. Updogs and downdogs are both designed to do us physical good.  Optomistic and pessimistic blogs may not be equally successful, but they can each have been written with good intentions.  Not every product review on CNET is a glowing tribute.  We seem to have invested so much emotion and faith in our political views, that a party which aligns itself with one important political view of yours would appear to capture your heart without your brain considering ALL the views of that party.  Belief is strong.  And unquestioning.

There is a 2004 book (with an awful cover) called Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate — The Essential Guide for Progressives by George Lakoff,  Howard Dean, and Don Hazen.  They raised questions about how the right was so successful in framing the debate and winning the hearts and minds of Americans.  Well, it seems simple enough.  When you control the media, all the media, you are likely to be able to get your point of view across better and more persuasively than any other view.  Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and Lucy were shows of another, more restrained age.  I’m not arguing for their return.  Far from it.  In recent years I’ve enjoyed Chuck, 30 Rock, Psych, Burn Notice, Glee, and bits and pieces of other shows.  I can’t abide the bad manners, anger, and side of humanity I see in so much of TV: reality TV, Fox News, and so on.  These are values we’re transmitting to our children.  We’re teaching them that those behaviors are acceptable…. or they wouldn’t be shown on TV as part of our commonly shared (accepted?) culture, right?  Tipper Gore wanted warning labels on rough rock lyrics.  The  poor woman must faint dead away if she listens to what passes for some “rap music.”  Why do people watch these things?  Why do people listen to these things?  They presumably reflect something already in their lives.  Or their lives come to reflect them.

Is there a conclusion here?  The same one that’s been around for hundreds if not thousands of years: we are each responsible for our vote.  That people are trying to manipulate us and make finding “truth” very difficult is pretty much the human condition. The search for The Truth is an arduous, but worthy goal.  I can’t help but believe that a strong vision of the future and an expression of specifics the person would fight for makes better political advertising than mudslingging.  Or do I mean “better” in terms of how I would like to think of our society, as opposed to what constitutes effective political marketing?  Which is why I like business to business marketing, and not political marketing.  Please vote next Tuesday.

So tell me more about this economic recovery thing

Forbes magazine, both in paper and on-line, has always struck me as one of the good places for intelligent people to explore economics and investing ideas.  John Mauldin, shown below, has a nice blog piece entitled:  Impossible Things And Our Economic Recovery. This is well worth reading and is presumably the first of a group of pieces he will write on the topic.  I encourage you to read it/them.

I responded with the following comment which may have a delay in being posted or may not appear at all.  Who knows?  I just write these things.  Forbes controls the “publication,” at least on their site.  So here’s the comment:

Well done, John. It’s all true, unfortunately. That so few people understand basic economics and continue to vote for the status quo is sad.

As you say, an increase in GDP depends upon an increase in (working age) population and/or workforce productivity. Back in 1999 Harry Dent’s book The Roaring 2000s Investor described the international demographic and technology trends we could expect to see play out in the 2000s. Country by country, I’d say he did pretty well with it. Dent’s book is now too old to be on the World Future Society’s current book list. Those folks who never read Dent’s book aren’t reading the rest of the WFS’s book list, either. (Here’s where we mumble something about those who do not study history, or the future in this case, are condemned to relive it, or play it out, or mumble mumble mumble…) Dent’s arguments, much like yours, rely on inescapable economic concepts.

The US has “outsourced” most of our manufacturing jobs. Big mistake. The US has created a pink puffy cloud of financial nonsense to spur personal consumption. Big mistake. The political structure of the US has enabled powerful, wealthy individuals to become ever more so. Big mistake. Increasing disparity in wealth translates into increasing political partisanship. Big mistake. The founding fathers are spinning in their graves.

Don’t you wonder what happens when somebody brings a war to our soil? Whoops, they already did that. I meant to pose the question: what happens when we can no longer manufacture anything of value? What happens when we don’t or can’t produce steel or silicon or the basic components of our modern lives? Maybe vertical integration isn’t always the best path for a corporation, but it has a lot of strategic safety for a country. It isn’t likely the US government will try to reverse our decreasing ability to manufacture. We are far along on our way to becoming a farming and service economy. That will not permit us, ultimately, to pay off our consumption debts. And if the rest of the world becomes angry because they believe the US is responsible for economic problems faced everywhere today, what leverage do these other countries have against us? A lot. Financially and production-wise.

The US has the benefit of observing economic laboratories around the world. Some have worked better than others. But the results of those lab experiments are not readily visible to the average American. Our media would rather produce cheap junk reality shows. One thing the world laboratory has proven is that universal healthcare is a good economic foundation for a country. But that doesn’t play out well with the power and wealth entrenched in the USA. The US used to have a small wealthy class, a small poor class, and a large middle class.  The middle has been crushed over the last 10 to 20 years. Now .1% of the US population controls some 20% of the country’s wealth. Big mistake.

I love the French. Their food, their wine, their art, their language, their French Revolution. Watching the Enron, Adelphia, Countrywide, etc. stories unfold, who wouldn’t want to see a guillotine factored into the proceedings?

Let’s just say it establishes a threshold beyond which tyranny is unacceptable to a rising middle class. Whoops, the US middle class is not rising and it lacks leadership to establish significant changes. So it goes. The US government reflects the best interests of the wealthiest citizens. Capitalism and democracy have lead to politicians being hired by the wealthy and their corporations in return for the campaign funds that get them elected. Long term big mistake. Looking forward to see if you have any ideas how we can dig ourselves out of this hole!

Obama Healthcare Town Hall Meeting in Portsmouth, NH on 8-11-2009


Last week I received an email from Kevin Jones who runs much of the Norwell Town Democratic Committee asking anyone interested in attending the Obama town hall meeting in Portsmouth, NH on Tuesday, August 11th, to respond.  My mother is visting and I thought this was something we’d enjoy doing, so I promised the two of us would attend and assist in any way needed.

Days went by, we confirmed our volunteering and ability to drive ourselves up there, our ability to make a sign of some sort, and willingness to commit to an all day effort.  Ok.  All of this was being coordinated through John Bowes our key regional community organizer.  Someone who has a clear future in politics.

Tuesday morning dawns, rain – maybe even hail – threatens but holds off during the 70 mile drive to Portsmouth.  Mind you I’m in a 2001 Prius so the ecofootprint of this trip isn’t as bad as it might be.  So we searched for the address we were given near the old Pease Air Force Base.  No such address.  We stopped a couple times and asked at what buildings were there… no such address.  Called the organizer who said go to the Park and Ride we had passed.  Still with me?  We park, walk over to the bus, introduce ourselves, blah blah blah, get on the bus, …and THE SKY OPENS.  Like a firehose.  So far we were blessed!  The bus fills up and starts over to a field where a rally is to take place.  HA.  No, I don’t think so.



Everyone who had been at the park was walking their wet way to the Portsmouth High School which was where the President’s town hall meeting was to take place.


This wasn’t pretty.  A few stalwart souls were standing outside, drenched to the skin.  The media folks must have been there the night before since lots of equipment was firmly established.



The bus was driving a circuit from the high school to the Park and Ride.  Let me point out that the bus was never completely full, before I admit that we didn’t want to get out in the pouring rain and stand around outside at the high school.  So my mother and I rode the circuit, along with a couple other wimpy souls, back to PnR and around again to the high school.  This is around 8:30 or so am.  Then the rain stopped.  The sky brightened.  We joined the crowd at the high school.




There were a large number of media folks, which was to be expected.  Newspaper reporters with pads of paper, photographers and video folks with huge black cameras sporting what looked like very heavy lenses.  There was a lot of interviewing going on and reporters were drawn particularly to older participants.  Given the scare tactics being used, like Sarah Palin’s “death panel” allegation, the media was testing to see just how scared these older folks might be.  Again, HA.  They so do not know my mother.  But being a white haired old biddy, she was interviewed several times.  The most pleasant of which was by a lovely young lady shown below.


With respect to the crowd, the pro healthcare reform folks were on one side of the entry road and the paid shills and mislead lambs were on the other.  The anti reform folks had that huge stupid color sign printed on vinyl purporting to show how the healthcare plan will work (an expensive scare tactic), they had bullhorns, they had an angry attitude.  They shouted across the road at

signpeople.  The organizers had made a point to tell everyone, as they boarded the buses, not to respond to the antagonists,  since that plays into their efforts to obtain publicity.  Fortunately there were no serious confrontations all day.

There was one nutcake who was walking around with (what appeared to be) a large gun strapped to his leg.  The police knew about it, so I figured that was their business, not mine.  It does make one a bit nervous, however.  In retrospect I assume it was a toy used for effect.   The Charlotte Observer has some great photos, including one of this nutcake.  Most of their photos are of the opposition. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/galleries/gallery/882852.html

So the angry folks festered, they shouted for supporters to go home, leave them their “freedom”, and keep government out of healthcare. And don’t mess with their Medicare, either.  Wha?

On the other side of the street, the good guys were having a great time.  Lots of individual groups had come together: AFL-CIO, Green Energy supporters, Mass Nurses, and others mostly recognizable as groups by their matching tshirts.  And now and then a group shouted slogan.  Mass Nurses’ slogan was “Everybody in, nobody out.”  The whole scene was quite noisy.



There’s mom holding my hand made, heartfelt albeit not terribly artistic, sign.  And this is why I appreciate graphic artists of all persuasions!

The best of the noise on our side was the African drum guys.  They played all morning and were a delight.  You can listen to a bit of it over on YouTube…

As if this wasn’t enough fun, there was a group called the Leftist Marching Band which was a real hoot.  Hey, Democrats are a lot of fun, what can I say?  And, like all good musicians, their dummer had a Zildjian cymbal (I’m a big fan and Zildjian is headquartered in my town).



Of course you have to hear them live…  At one point the band and the drummers played together.  I believe I was too busy dancing to tape that.  Oops.

So that was pretty much the morning.  The sun began to shine.  Some of us had box lunches overflowing with goodies which we shared with people nearby. Bottles of ice water were wonderful in the heat and humidity.  Everybody who was going to get into the High School for the Town Meeting had a ticket and was already in line.  A line which snaked a long way, I might add.


John Bowes, our community organizer, came through with tickets for my mother and I.  And we were ushered inside.  Oh, yes, I bet you’d like to hear about the town meeting part of the day….  Obama was supposed to arrive around noon.  We were inside the gym around 1:30 pm I think it was.  There seemed to be maybe 2o00 or more people inside the gym.  The group was in good spirits.  The high school band played until the presidential seal was installed on the podium.  A woman who had been an entrepreneur and had employed people herself spoke about how she was now uninsurable due to a condition she currently has, Hepatitis C, which had killed her husband.  She introduced Obama.


It was a crowded room with plenty of media.  One set, shown above, was against the back wall of the gym, another set was off to my right on the side of the room.  Luckily Obama really “works” a room, going from side to side and addressing everyone, so I think all the media and attendees had a sense of connection.    It seems a bit silly to include video of the President since he looks and sounds exactly like every single time you’ve ever seen him on TV.  What you see is what you get.  I began to think of the Secret Service guy on our side in front of the president as our personal watchdog.  The guy actually made me a tad uncomfortable, but he certainly kept an eye on folks.  Other Secret Service guys, state police, local police, etc. were all over the place.  I think that is why the Obama town meeting was more “polite” than the meetings Senators and Congressmen have been holding.

The governor of Maine and governor of New Hampshire were both there, although not the governor of Massachusetts.  The usual collection of Congresscritters and local politicians were all greeted individually by the President.

I’ve attached some pieces of Obama’s speech and his answers to various questions in the video below.  He spoke about savings anticipated from Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and from eliminating the Medicare Advantage programs which have added no value to Medicare but have significantly increased the costs.  (I’ve been struggling for hours to squeeze more and more seconds out of this video to get it under what YouTube thinks is 10 minutes or 2 GB whatever comes first. Very difficult. So if my editing sucks, well, so be it.)

In any event, even the people who had serious concerns (inside the gym) were polite.  The speech and the Q&A were both conversational.  The President made an effort to address not only those who agree with him, but those who disagreed and had concerns.  I still think the event organizers managed to keep the screaming crazies outside.  The process of obtaining tickets to the town hall meeting was said to be open to everyone and was posted on the whitehouse website, so if the other side did not register for tickets in time, I can only imagine that is because the organizers tried like crazy to get all the tickets signed up before the opposition learned about them.  That seems fair enough, given the way politics is generally fought. And particularly so on this issue.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the President walked around, shook hands with and spoke briefly with a great many people.  Probably driving his Secret Service guys a bit nuts.


That second photo was the last one I was able to take before the President was close enough that I could shake his hand, and so I did.  Cool.  I think the world of the man and am pleased to have been able to tell him I support his effort on healthcare.

We left after that, eventually took a shuttle back to the Park and Ride to see a line of trucks, cars and people pressed up against the Pease fences across the road.  Air Force One was sitting on the ground and about to take off momentarily by the time we got there.  That thing really takes off fast.  I thought I’d have more time to get a picture, but …that’s all foks.


We had a great time, enjoyed seeing the President live, and were pleased to have lent our support on this important issue.

Last night and early today the various media already had their stories about the event printed, aired, and posted on the internet.  Here are links to a few:

WBUR http://www.wbur.org/2009/08/12/obama-nh-visit

NECN http://necn.com/Boston/Politics/2009/08/11/President-takes-pitch-for/1249982712.html this is ABOUT the NH meeting, but no video from it.

NECN http://necn.com/Boston/Politics/2009/08/11/Obama-Americans-shouldnt/1250022649.html this is part of the speech

WSJ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124999368750322533.html headline reads Under Pressure, Obama Defends Health-Care Plan / In Town Meeting at New Hampshire School, President Faces Friendly Audience in the Hall as Protestors Chant on Streets Outside.  (Well, actually it was on the driveway leading into the school.  And they were noisy.  But so was the other side. Guess you can’t expect the WSJ to be objective on this.)

AP via Yahoo News – this is a well written, comprehensive summary  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090811/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_obama_health_care_overhaul

Voice of America http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-08-11-voa48.cfm (decent article but needs editing)

Washington Examiner http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Obama-takes-on-_death-panel_-claims-8092307-52987527.html

Christian Science Monitor http://features.csmonitor.com/politics/2009/08/11/obama-steps-up-attack-on-healthcare-status-quo/

You Tube – somebody else fascinated with the drummers, there may be more videos up there, don’t know.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsciYt0oZ4w

The Portsmouth Herald covered the arrest of a guy who broke into the high school just before the town meeting event and had a gun in his truck  http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20090812-NEWS-908129980

report on the meeting and related topics  http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20090812-NEWS-908120357

Boston Channel [WCVB] has 5 pieces – the comments mostly appear to the from the paid lobby or the sadly mislead.    http://www.thebostonchannel.com/news/20359043/detail.html

Boston Herald has what we’ve come to expect.

Boston Globe, Boston.com has a lot of stuff – my favorite being a quote from AFL-CIO president Mark MacKenzie “New Hampshire workers desperately need major healthcare reform and we will not let our voices be silenced by the corporate-funded mobs on the other side.”  http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/08/12/at_nh_forum_obama_hits_wild_criticism_of_healthcare_overhaul/