Friday, September 17, 2010

Blame the Voters

Heard a new sound bite from Jerry Brown. He claims that he won't raise taxes without voter approval. That's the dodge he used when he was called on the increases in city taxes on Oakland. Nothing heard yet on how hard Brown pushed to get those measures passed.

In the same vein, Whitman is still running the Clinton Senate ad. Good call from where I sit, particularly compared with the ads Brown currently airs. Brown's ad directly calls the debate ad a lie and clings to the statement that Brown lowered taxes.

So the lesson is: if taxes go up, blame the voters. If the voters force a tax cut, Jerry will be the genius behind it.
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Imminent Sleight of Hand

I wrote earlier that ads are running against Meg Whitman for not voting for nearly three decades. I saw the ad again this morning and caught that it was paid for by California Working Families for Jerry Brown. The link above doesn't really have much to it, which is good because it will automatically redirect to the official Jerry Brown for Governor site.

The working families site only makes a brief attack on Whitman for trying to spend her way into office. I think that the Brown campaign is going to try to pull a fast one. From the looks of things it would seem that Brown is going to use fake grassroots groups to do much of the actual spending during the campaign. Then Brown can use his personally low spending numbers and Whitman's spending of her own money as a rhetorical point throughout the election. Meanwhile, those who would have been donors are giving Brown all the benefits of their money without tainting his hands with their filthy lucre.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Apprenticeships in Life

Debates about Abby Sunderland's attempt to sail around the world has started debates all around that same planet. Heck, it is starting one even here in my house.

There's no argument about who should be paying for the rescue, or at the very least should be looking for a second mortgage to pay the costs. The source of contention is whether the parents were negligent in allowing Abby, and by extension her brother, take on these voyages. The wife and mom-in-law are of the mind that the Sunderlands are crazy.

My position comes from ideas I've had that our culture does not challenge adolescents to learn to take on the world as adults. That attitude is all over the coverage in how news readers insist on referring to Abby as a girl, or worse yet as a child. Please, at the least, refer to her as a young woman.

In order to teach adolescents to take on the adulthood there have to be adults taking responsibility to teach them and to someday say that they are ready to take on the challenges. Something like a solo trip around the world is one whopper of an example, but a similar decision has to be made for anything a teenager might want to do. A number of years is only a single criterion. Some of the others are:
  • The adult has to accurately gauge the skills of the adolescent.
  • The teenager has to accurately know the extent of their own skills. This, with the first point above, leaves no room for empty self-esteem.
  • The adult has to keep setting challenges so that the adolescent's skills keep improving.
  • The teenager has to learn how to motivate herself to keep expanding her skills.
  • The adult has to know just what the magnitude of the risks in the challenge are. I asked my wife, who grew up with horses, whether she would allow our daughters to take up show jumping. She has no problem with that, but I bet that someone whose only knowledge of the sport is pictures of Steve Reeves in an wheelchair would think that would be negligent.
  • The teenager has to learn how to gauge risks with clear eyes.
It surprises me the number of conservative minded people who are jumping up to make blanket statements about teenagers' capabilities. That, in my mind, is too close to saying that people outside the teacher/student (typically parent/child) relationship are competent to judge better than the teacher.

The real problem is more that too few adults are willing to really do the hard work of training their adolescents. Look around at the twenty- and thirty-somethings who are flat out refusing to grow up and take on mature responsibilities. I'd bet my keyboard that you will find parents who thought that all they had to do was look after Junior's self-esteem and that he'd figure the rest out on his own.

Teenagers are not adults. Neither are they children. Teenagers need to be taught how to be adults and to handle responsibility. Not full adults, but an intermediate step, Apprentice Adult.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No Rest for the Voter

Just when we thought is was over, commercials are coming on TV for the November gubernatorial election. The one I have seen the most so far has been the one that replays Meg Whitman's wholly non-responsive response to a question about her not voting over the past 28 years. While she was nominally taking responsibility for her record, not giving the reason is going to keep this an issue.

My advice on this matter is to again take responsibility but to also embrace an emerging demographic. I would suggest an answer like this.

"It is true that I had not voted for many years. The reason I did not vote is that I was complacent. Government was not an important issue in my life at the time. At least, I did not think it was important. During those years, the Legislature, Governor's office, and regulatory agencies in Sacramento were expanding their budgets and granting themselves ever more influence in our lives. While they were doing that, I abetted it by being complacent. And over those same years, the rates of voter turnout have dropped while Sacramento careened out of control.

"The commercials imply that it is hypocritical for me to be running for Governor when I have not performed the minimum asked for of citizens in the past. I answer that it is not hypocrisy but an awakening. My neglect, and the neglect practiced by millions of other voters, have ultimately created the crisis we now face, and now we have to wake up and see the problem fixed. That awakening is happening, and the citizens of California need to either lose their complacency and engage the process or to re-engage by overcoming the despair that their vote cannot create a difference."

Those who haven't voted in the past but are now pissed off enough to get out on the streets.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Reflections on a Bumper Sticker

I passed a car with a bumper sticker calling for the repeal of Prop. 13. First time I had ever seen one like that, probably because almost everyone likes the control on property taxes. It makes it quite easy to be able to count on politicians being bound from jacking up taxes at a moment's notice.

Sounds kind of like rent control. I wonder what bumper sticker owner thinks about keeping landlords from raising rents whenever they feel like it.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

This Would Truly be Ironic... I Think

It is really hard to know what exactly is ironic, but this situation would be if it happens.

Imagine: a Category 5 hurricane is barreling down on New Orleans. The damage is expected to be devastating, to say nothing of the oil slick that the storm surge will bring ashore.

Then, as the storm hits the site of the Deepwater Explorer fire. The oil slick, coating the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, prevents water vapor from rising up and feeding its heat into the storm. Starved for heat, the Hurricane dies out and hits the coast as little more than a tropical storm.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

There is a Certain Tactical Advantage

I can see some possibilities for a clandestine uprising in this story out of Saudi Arabia. Imagine a Virtue Cop stepping up to harass a woman, but said woman takes a gun out of her hijab and shoots the cop. Then she drops the gun mob style and disappears into a crowd of similarly concealed women.

There is a certain flavorful irony in taking advantage of the rules the state sanctioned thugs are charged to enforce to make them afraid.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Where the Cuts are Felt

Powerline has an article referencing another poor care scandal in the government run hospitals in England. One part hit on a thought floating in my head:
An independent inquiry found that managers at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust stopped providing safe care because they were preoccupied with government targets and cutting costs. ...
Out here in California we voted down a series of tax increase initiatives disguised as budget controls. Since then it feels as if the state government is determined to punish the voters for denying the funding. In one Case, when the idea of furloughs was just being mentioned, some state beaches closed their showers, claiming lack of personnel to do the labor. If I recall correctly, that didn't fly because the cleaning was done by people doing Community Services terms.

That drove home what is the biggest ground level difference between the public and private sectors. Government agencies tend to resort to service cuts at the first sign of budget shortfalls. Meanwhile, a company in a competitive market would try to conceal those cuts from their customers for fear of losing them to the competition.

I will grant that not all corporations follow that logical path. Cable and insurance companies have the worst reputations. So my issue is not against the public sector as much as toward monopoly. The British story from their single payer (by definition monopolistic) system is classic.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An Intriguing Thought, But...

Meg Witman is running for governor of California on the premise that she has been successful at establishing a large corporation efficiently and profitably. I think that she is setting herself for one hell of a culture shock.

I would question the capacity for a successful executive to manage a government. My view is that a large corporation starts its slide and loses efficiency in direct proportion to the degree that it begins to act like a government. For said large corporation then, it would follow that an executive is successful in how she prevents that type of culture from developing.

So if there is was to be an executive that I would particularly feel good about voting for would be one who has taken an ossified, hidebound corporation and turning it back into an innovator. For instance, taking Microsoft and developing a consistent slate of products that would generate buzz on the level of Apple.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Creepiest Ad From the Super Bowl

Granted there is a minute plus left, but I don't think this one will be topped:

Are there any paranoid fantasies about environmentalism that they didn't use in this commercial? The worst part is that people are supposed to feel good about these scofflaws being punished. *shiver*

Friday, February 05, 2010

Starting the Cycle

The government is making noises that a sub $250,000 per year tax cut would lead to new jobs being created. How I see it is the cycle working like this:

Step 1: Consumers have more money to spend.
Step 2: Consumers purchase goods from corporations.
Step 3: Corporations have more money.
Step 4: Corporations hire more people.
Step 5: Return to Step 1.

Not too bad on the face of it, but there is one assumption that does not fit into the history of some of the actors involved. At the moment when Step 3 comes into effect the usual suspects will take offense and demand a remedy. In short "Tax Them!"