Tuesday, September 16, 2008

CEOs v. Sole Proprietors

By and large, Republicans manage the economy like corporate CEOs. They are only concerned about the next quarter's earnings statement, because their bonuses (re-election and high-paying lobbyist jobs) depend upon it. They are willing to raid the pension fund and delay infrastructure improvements in order to maximize short-term profits.

Democrats tend to manage the economy like sole proprietors. They take a longer-term view, because they see the company as their only retirement nest egg. They maintain the physical plant and keep their current salary low in order to re-invest it for the future. The problem is that many of them are not very good businesspeople. They will hire their nephew because he needs a job, even if he's crappy at it. They will keep buying from the same supplier, even when it becomes unprofitable.

I shudder whenever I hear someone say that government should be run like a business.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Faith v. Reason

Eight years ago, Slate's William Saletan wrote this column titled "Why Bush Is Toast." An intelligent, articulate centrist, Saletan gave a compelling, logical argument, citing poll numbers and trends. He stated that, barring an unlikely event like a Gore sex scandal or electrifying speech by Bush, "...there is no reason to think Bush will recover. Ultimately, reasons drive elections."

Four years later, Saletan made a similar logical error in stating that the election was Kerry's to lose. He no longer covers politics for Slate. His "Human Nature" column covers science and health. I read it regularly, and I enjoy Saletan's wit and intelligence. His logical mind is better suited to science than politics.

Saletan's error, I believe, was in assuming that most voters make their decisions logically like he does. Certainly, facts and logic play a part in the decision-making process. However, emotions and faith play a larger part. I'm not talking necessarily about religious faith (although it certainly influences some voters). By and large, people believe what they want to believe. They have an enormous capacity to reject facts that are incompatible with their chosen worldview.

Transcripts of the Scopes monkey trial indicate that William Jennings Bryan was in over his head. He was ignorant about the relevant issues, even the theology he was supposedly defending. Clarence Darrow made a better legal case. However, the jury sided with the prosecution, because they wanted to believe them.

If Barack Obama wins in November, it will be largely because most voters want to believe he has the intelligence, vision and integrity to lead this country on a golden path back to peace and prosperity. If he loses, it will be largely because most voters want to believe that John McCain has the wisdom, courage and integrity to right the wrongs of the Bush Administration. Actual facts on the ground will have only a small influence on those beliefs.

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan posted this blog entry, in which he said "The McCain camp is in a death spiral." That sounds eerily like "Bush is toast."

Yes, McCain is now telling some boldfaced lies about Obama. However, he is likely to get away with it because people want to believe he is the straight-talking maverick he appeared to be eight years ago. The liberal bloggers will continue to be outraged, but will the general voting public conclude that McCain has sold out and is now approving dishonest messages?

They are more likely to believe that McCain's memory and judgement are beginning to slip, due to his age, past health problems and damage suffered while he was POW. That narrative does not challenge the belief that he has truly been a straight-talking maverick for all of these years.

The liberals who are trying to get McCain supporters to change their minds are going about it all wrong. When you engage in a faith versus reason argument, reason never wins.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Thank God The Primary Is Over

I'm really looking forward to spending a lazy Saturday afternoon in my pajamas, without worrying that a candidate for the 81st Assembly District will ring my doorbell.

I have received enough campaign literature on my door to curate my own museum exhibit.

One thing struck me as odd as I left my polling place during morning rush hour. Several blocks away, I saw a number of people on the sidewalk along Northport Drive, holding campaign signs for Justin Sargent. Right next to them were a smaller number of people holding signs for Kelda Helen Roys. Around the bend, on Packers Avenue, I saw a still smaller number of people holding signs for Peng Her. In each case, the display was on the same side of the street as traffic leaving the polling place.

I glanced across the street to see if anyone was lined up to be highly visible to those who were on their way to vote, but I didn't notice anything. I must have overlooked some signs, since it's a busy multi-lane divided street, and I was busy driving. After all, what would be the point of aiming campaign displays at people who have already voted?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tear Down This Nominee

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photographed this proof that either rednecks can't spell or today's McCain/Palin rally in Cedarburg was infiltrated by ironic hipsters.

Citizen Arrest

Kudos to the patrons of the Plaza Tavern for their quick action on Wednesday night following the fatal stabbing of Juan Bernal. While the stabbing was sudden and therefore probably not preventable, bystanders chased down the perps and caught one of them, ultimately leading to two arrests.

Maybe we all need to take back the night. If bystanders had tackled some of those drunk assholes who kicked in windows on State Street on Halloween a few years ago, maybe Mayor Cheese Whiz wouldn't have ruined everything with snow fences and ticketed admission.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Doyle Campaigns on the Taxpayer's Dime

So our esteemed Governor, who spent several years as State Attorney General and should therefore know the law pretty well, had a State employee work on his speech for the Democratic National Convention.

He claims it was a legitimate use of State resources because he was promoting Wisconsin. That sounds suspiciously close to Scott Jensen's excuse for using employees of the State Assembly Republican Caucus, rather than campaign workers, to campaign for Republican Assembly candidates (that promoting a Republican majority was part of his job in the Assembly). Sorry, Governor, a speech at a political party convention cannot possibly be non-partisan.

I thought after the Caucus Scandals, Scott McCallum's State Plane Scandal, and Keg Schlossenlager's State Car Scandal, our elected officials would finally realize that the taxpayers get really pissed off when you slash services and the State workforce but still manage to syphon State resources for personal (or campaign) use.

I also thought the Government Accountability Board was supposed to be a better, stronger, faster replacement for the old State Elections and Ethics Boards. It is now obvious that it was simply stitched together from leftover parts (which included neither spine nor balls).

No wonder Ed Thompson (who is no Jesse Ventura) managed to draw 10% of the vote when he ran for Governor. If Doyle keeps treating the State of Wisconsin like his own personal fiefdom, the Duke of Tomah might make another bid for the crown.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Totally Hypothetical Situation

Imagine if you will...

You and your friends (or SO) treat yourselves to dinner at Appleby's (or TGI Friday's or Houlihan's). Your perky young waitron takes your order.

MARY: "Hi, I'm Mary, and I'll be your server tonight. Can I start you with some appetizers?"

YOU: "Actually, you can start me with a black russian."

MARY: "I'm sorry; I can't serve alcohol. Would you like a Coke instead?"

YOU: "No. Why can't you serve alcohol? Are you underage?"

MARY: "No. I'm a devout Baptist. Drinking alcohol is a sin, so it goes against my conscience to serve alcoholic beverages."

YOU: "Then send another server over here to take my drink order."

MARY: "I'm afraid I can't do that. You're sitting in my station, and the other servers are busy covering their own tables."

YOU: "Then we would like to move to a different station."

MARY: "We're very busy tonight. It will be a 45-minute wait for another table."

YOU: "Then I'll go to the bar to get my own drink, and then I would like to talk to your manager. I'm guessing you haven't worked here long."

MARY: "This is my first night. How did you know?"

YOU: "Because you have no business working in a restaurant with a liquor license. Why don't you work at Perkins or Country Kitchen instead?"

MARY: "They aren't hiring right now. Besides, this restaurant is closer to my home, and I like the food better. I have every right to work here."

YOU: "I don't think your manager will see it that way."

MARY: "They can't fire me for following my conscience."

YOU: "Yes, they can."

What will happen to poor Mary? Will she lose her job and be forced to work at Denny's? Who will defend her conscience rights? Is there a Republican in the State Assembly who will risk the wrath of the Tavern League to introduce legislation that will allow devout Baptists or Mormons to work in restaurants and refuse to serve alcohol without fear of being fired?