Excuses

Sunday, 5 March 2017

My grandpa used to say to me: “You have more excuses than Wrigley has chewing gum”. He grew up during the Great Depression, fought in World War II, supported 4 kids and a wife running a postal route, was a city councilman, et cetera, et cetera.

I can’t think of one time that I ever heard him complain or offer an excuse or fail to take responsibility for something that was brought to his attention – whether or not if it was his problem to begin with.

My life has been extravagantly decadent compared to his, but when I’ve been faced with adversity or failed at something I’ve always kept that saying of his in mind, and his example.

  • If you’re held responsible for something that isn’t your fault; there’s no point whining about it – you’re already blamed. Clarify the situation and help solve it. Take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
  • If you’re in any position of leadership, the failures of any part of your team are your failures. The instant you shift blame, you’re a whiner, not a leader. Spreading blame is worse than a waste of time, it is counter-productive. Are you here to find a scape-goat or get some work done?
  • Don’t complain that reality gets in the way of your goals. Don’t invent realities that justify your failures. Be humble, be honest, work hard, and know your capabilities.
  • Admit your mistakes but don’t give up; have another idea ready at hand. Ask for help, guidance, or feedback.
  • It’s okay to express frustration, but it should be done in private; and the next step after that is called “getting back to work.”
  • The difference between an excuse and an explanation boils down to responsibility. An excuse avoids it, an explanation owns it.

When I have interactions with people who do not seem capable behaving in the manners described above, I feel pretty safe in assuming that they’ve never truly been held accountable to others & probably won’t be able to hack it when they finally are.

State Capture

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

I keep reading articles & news posts about how the Trump Administration is doing a bad job of communicating its policies & governance. This presupposes two things:

  1. That the Trump Administration has objectively and holistically comprehensible policies and governance strategies
  2. That they have the desire to communicate them clearly to the public via the media

I think the press is still doing a bad job at understanding what’s going on here. The easiest way to #DrainTheSwamp is through neglect. Shut down whatever you can, fill key positions with administrators who will further hamstring the bureaucracy, and leave the rest to dry rot.

This is the kind of state/regulatory capture you learn about in an introductory public administration course.

Sincerity

Sunday, 22 January 2017

In the apotheosis of postmodernity that we are currently subjected to sincerity is hard to find. The alt-fact (propaganda) & alt-right (white supremacist) are unscrupulously disingenuous at dissembling. The social justice left has balkanized due to self-inflicted “No True Scotsman”-ship. Hipster irony in the early aughts was at least performative – a joke that everyone was in on; and even if you didn’t think it was funny, you at least knew it was a joke. Now, just about everybody is a revanchist.

The tools used to make nothing mean anything, and anything mean nothing have been so refined that 140 characters can take 10,000 of analysis to unpack. Speed, volume, and anonymity create so much noise that there might as well be no signal.

I used to think hipster irony was the problem & that sincerity was the answer. I was wrong. Postmodernity is the problem.

I still think sincerity is the answer.

My General Political Philosophy

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Ethics

In general I support candidates, legislation, and civil behaviors that most closely meet my ethical and moral standards. The discernment process becomes progressively more refined as necessary, which, it turns out, isn’t very often. I was raised Catholic, so my moral and ethical foundations are Judeo-Christian. Core tenets:

…Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
Mark 12:31

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
Luke 10:29-37

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:40

Reiterating: Meet those standards and get my support. Oppose them and I’m an opponent.

Reason

I support candidates and legislation that make the correct moral, ethical, and reasonable decisions, even when they are difficult. Policies and positions based on science, empirical research, and long-term viability get my support. I don’t believe in quick fixes. Government works best when it is evolutionary – a series of very gradual changes we can believe in. If a legislator or piece of legislation does not meet or impedes the progress of correct moral, ethical, or rational decision-making, I oppose.

Anti-incumbency, Complacency, & Overton Windows

Barring disqualifying ideological differences, if a candidate or party has been in office or in power in an area for a long time, I’m probably going to vote for their opponent, especially in a primary. I blame this on 30 years of hearing the same names on the nightly news. A Bush has been either President or Vice-President for 20 years of my life. Clintons have been in the spotlight for the same amount of time. The same names have been around in Cleveland for as long as I’ve been here. I’m not into dynasties – familial, ethnic, or otherwise. I thought it was hilarious that the best the Ohio Democratic Party could come up with for Senate this year was Ted Strickland, & the best they could do for the last Governor run was Ed Fitzgerald. Reheated, thin gruel. Yum! ← This, by the way, is how I feel about most major candidates that run for office.

I also think that the longer a candidate is incumbent – the longer they have to become comfortable, complacent, and likely to ignore their constituency. You keep a knife sharp by honing it. The same principle applies to people. Comfortable people are dull. I think every incumbent should be challenged in a primary when up for re-election. No free passes.

I also vote to shift the Overton Window closer toward the Judeo-Christian ethic illustrated above.

Hoosier Libertarianism

I don’t want legislators or legislation to dictate to me or others how and in what way our private, personal business is handled. All y’all deserve the protections enumerated in our constitution. And by all y’all I mean all y’all.

Whatever Remains

I realize that this description of my political philosophy isn’t nailed down to the last shingle, but I don’t think it needs to be. That orthodoxy results in the political climate we currently loathe. When there were grey areas to be had in a politics, I welcomed the chance to discuss them, learn, and possibly have my mind changed. Those days seem to be long past, and not returning any time soon.

7 Years of Political Silence

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

I stopped writing about & voicing my political opinions back in 2008 or 2009 after J. Kevin Kelley & Kevin Payne got busted by the FBI for their corruption. At the time I tweeted something along the lines of “I can’t believe I worked on a project with these scumbags.” That project being a redesign of the County Engineer’s website that had languished for over a year, complete, but without sign-off to go live. The next day I got called into the Director’s office with my boss and syntax was structured that tangentially implied that further public commentary from me on anything job-related would affect my employment. That Director, Dan Weaver, later got sentenced to 3 years in prison as part of the same giant pile of corruption that infected the management of the entire County. I think the FBI stopped fishing soon after because everything left was small fry.

They scared me. I had a brand new infant, a mortgage, there were no job prospects in Cleveland, so I deleted the aforementioned tweet and kept my head down for another 5 years. The FBI burst in to my office because these criminals spat upon the same civil responsibility that I was honored to contribute to. Everyone at the County was implicated. I know how louche it is to voice personal opinions regarding one’s professional position, but some shit needs to be unequivocally repudiated. The following tweet is, as far as I can tell, the only one left standing from that time:

I’ve spent 7 years with my lips zipped – which is not an easy thing for me to do. I’ve tried to be as non-partisan as possible in my dealings with everyone. Going along to get along. I’ve avoided engaging in anything that might be politicized, but what isn’t these days? Ain’t nobody playing for low stakes.

I can continue to kibitz, or I can throw my two cents on the pile & see if anything shifts.

Mainly, though, I’m tired of keeping my mouth shut.

Empathy is Not Always a Virtue

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

I’ve written a few times about the qualities of empathy and our society’s general need for more of it in the last year or so. However, empathy is not always a virtue. When you empathize with someone so much that you become emotionally incapable of meeting your own responsibilities (like, say, taking your final exams), you have left the path of reason and accountability, and become a type of fundamentalist.

And there is no effective mode of discourse with a fundamentalist.

Ray Rice is just a symptom

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

I’m not normally one to beat upon a string of ideological adjectives when making a point, but lately it seems necessary.

Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that the limit of knowledge is obtaining maximum money – the most admirable goal; and then does all it can to prevent minority groups from achieving it. Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that we are not people, but human resources; (celebrities are not even human – they exist only as a brand, a product) and then does all it can to make minority groups appear generic & cheap. Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that objects sold in the material world will satisfy our desires, and, failing that, objects provided in the virtual world will do the same; and markets to everyone so they will become more racist, more patriarchal, and more capitalistic. Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that its paradigm is the only paradigm.

Ray Rice is a victim of racist patriarchal capitalist society. It has made Ray think he is a product shaped and rewarded for his strength and skill at violence. It has not rewarded him for empathy, compassion, or wisdom. It has supported this training by covering up his violent behavior outside of the game he was paid to play. Ray Rice is a tone-deaf, unrepentant abuser – but he didn’t have to be.

Janay Rice is a victim of racist patriarchal capitalist society.  Orders of magnitude more a victim than Ray. It has made Janay think that she should silently accept and ignore being abused by her husband. It has not rewarded her for autonomy, assertiveness, or wisdom. It has supported this training by blaming women for everything that happens to them: rape, violence, stolen cell phone photos. Janay Rice is blind to her oppression, but she didn’t have to be.

I am not assigning all blame for the behaviors of Janay & Ray Rice to racist patriarchal capitalist society. Despite what they have been trained to think, they remain capable of healthy choices and healthy behaviors. The tectonic weight of racist patriarchal capitalist society has just made it much harder to be a healthy person and much easier to behave like a racist, patriarchal capitalist. That’s why it’s so easier for police to shoot & kill than do actual police work. That’s why some men think they can hit people & some women think that being hit is okay.

We are animals first. We respond to what is in front of us. We are outraged at Ray Rice, the NFL, Janay Rice, the police of Ferguson, MO. We react to stimuli as we have been trained to do. We are sapient second, and rarely. Though each individual is and should be called upon to be less racist, patriarchal or capitalistic – playing whack-a-mole each time we see an egregious example of our racist patriarchal capitalist society does little to effect change. Change requires action. Effective change requires knowing where to act, and how. We can go on identifying the symptoms, or we can try to end the disease.