Sunday, November 28, 2010

All the News That's Fit to Print

Ahh . . . the Sunday New York Times. What would a Sunday morning be without the Times?
This morning, it included fascinating article in which the Times had asked a group of economists for ideas on how to end the massive unemployment crunch created by the Republicans with their Great Depression II. As I read the article, I kept thinking . . . really guys . . . you actually asked economists for ideas on how to end the unemployment mess? Economists?? The only thing worse I could imagine would be asking Republicans.
The Times surely must know that economists are basically statisticians. The best of the group can tell you what happened last month, or perhaps last year, sort of like good weathermen. But why would you ask them for ideas on how to end the great unemployment mess? And, predictably, they had no real ideas. Perhaps the funniest idea was from someone who argued that, with the Boomers aging, we would need a lot more medical toys, so that might create a whole new industry.
No one argued seriously for a joint government-private sector alliance of the sort that sent men to the moon within a decade. As in some kind of joint venture in which the government might “invest” tax dollars (borrowed of course from China) in a massive new energy industry (really a new anything) that would create initially research jobs, that would then turn into production jobs (assuming our capitalists didn’t immediately send the jobs overseas to China). Like republicans, the economists all believe that government can’t create jobs of any value—that is the province of the private sector. But I would argue that we would probably never have landed men on the moon, creating a whole new space industry, without the government. Our greedy capitalists would never have made the needed investments. Yes, we need the private sector to manage the scientists and engineers and high tech manufacturing capabilities needed for such a venture. That’s why we would need an alliance. It’s also why republicans, much like economists, would never propose such a scheme—socialized engineering they would call it. But they do like their tax cuts—the original “charge and spend” guys. Ahhh . . . I can’t wait for them to take over. Think of how much fun they will have, while the rest of the country goes broke.
And then there was the Frank Rich column about the role of money in politics, and how much worse it has become since Tony and his other Supreme mobsters issued their ruling from the bench that corporations were really people and needed their speech rights. Tony imagined that the thing we really needed in our political system was more money. Yep, that’s what was keeping it from being a really, really great system—more money.
And Mr. Rich, demurring from that position, was explaining how both parties are now being corrupted, if not equally, then surely enough to eliminate the possibility that the American people would benefit from that new system. And if that’s the case, if both democrats and republicans are now corrupt, I wonder why we bother any longer with elections. Perhaps, we should quit playing “Let’s Pretend” that we have a representative democracy and instead acknowledge that we have instead an oligarchy, drawing very close to a new kind of monarchy. There is as yet no monarch, but we do seem to have a ruling class—dukes and barons so to speak. People like Rupert the Magnificent, the Koch brothers, the CEOs of our insurance companies, surely the banking CEOs might all classify as Dukes. Johnnie Boehner, the Newtster, the old man Johnny Mac, Mike Dingleberry, and others of that ilk might be classed as barons, all owned outright by their respective Dukes. The rest of us all would be classified as the “peasant class.”
Perhaps in the next iteration, Tony and the Supremes will simply reinvent the actual monarchy, Think of how much fun Sarah will have trying to lay claim to the new throne of America. Queen Sarah the First.
Has a nice ring to it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pay for Performance

As I perused the morning newspaper, I came across an interesting article. In it, the author claims that Charlotte-area companies are now beginning to link year-end bonuses to company or individual performance. Gasp . . . what a concept. Linking pay to performance in the private sector. What will they think of next? The author states:
As the unsteady economy continues to pressure businesses in Charlotte and across the country, many year-end bonuses have disappeared, going the way of pay raises, 401(k) matches and lavish holiday parties. The ones that remain are often based on performance, paid only if the worker or company does well.
This year, there are hints that bonuses are returning. And experts say those performance-based incentives will be most common, as companies look for ways to keep employees engaged while keeping the company afloat.
The article drew me back to the recent yakking in the paper and elsewhere about this concept of pay for performance in the education field—paying teachers more only if they perform well—emulating, of course, that paragon of virtue, the private sector. But, you mean the private sector hasn’t always linked pay to performance? You mean, they just gave out bonuses, regardless of performance??? Like paying huge bonuses to auto CEOs, even when their company was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Or paying out large bonuses to banking and investment rogue CEOs, even after their firms had collapsed because of their crazed performance, and required the public (that’s you and me) to bail them out, lest the world should implode. Yeah, that private sector. The paragon of virtue that is apparently without virtue, and where all the CEOs wear no clothes . . . ya’know, like the Emperor.
It also drew me back to days of yore, when I worked for the Government during the Carter & Reagan administrations—when they were implementing Civil Service Reform and Pay for Performance for public sector employees. I was remembering that the experiment didn’t turn out too well. Oh, they put it into practice, and bonuses were paid out to the senior executives alright. But, as it turns out, few can discern the difference between high performance and average performance.
The entire concept of performance based pay, or even the broader topic of performance appraisal, is a topic worthy of study, but often, it seems, the systems are being implemented before any serious study has been accomplished. It turns out that pay for performance would require us to understand performance in more sophisticated ways than we seem capable. While an assembly line factory worker performing an entirely repetitive task could arguably be appraised on the basis of how well he/she carried out the task (that’s what industrial engineers have been doing for perhaps 100 years), how is one to assess the teacher of a mixed group of 30 fourth graders? Or how would one assess the performance of a biomedical researcher working on a new vaccine? Or how might one assess the performance of a design engineer working in a group of 150 other design engineers all working to produce a new design for a missile system? How might we assess the performance of a “journalist” who writes a weekly column for the Washington Post? Or how about the performance of an investment banking CEO when his company nears financial collapse?
It is true that there are relatively mechanical ways to assess performance of people such as the above. The teacher could be assessed on the basis of the performance of the students on standardized tests; the biomedical researcher on the basis of how well the vaccine eventually produced works to eliminate a particular virus (perhaps delaying his/her payment for ten years until the vaccine is developed and tested). Or the engineer could be assessed if he produced "high quality" design drawings according to an arbitrary schedule. We could, of course, assess the banker based on how well the overall bank portfolio performs for his clients, but, hahahaha, that would much too sensible.
All of the obvious approaches present problems because of external variables outside the control of the person being assessed. When we used to carry out performance evaluations of social or economic development programs, we used a thing called a “logical framework” to lay out the essential elements of the design and the evaluation schema. The framework laid out the series of cause and effect means and ends that would lead from a person’s specific work input (brains being applied to a problem) to an intended outcome. But after laying out that logic, we would add an element at each stage of the input to outcome logic. That addition was the question: “suppose you do everything correctly, what other external factors might weigh in to frustrate the achievement of the desired outcome?" The reason for adding that question was to see whether it might be possible to bring those external factors within the control of the program? If not, then at a minimum, one would want to measure those external factors to determine how they were affecting the achievement levels expected. In teaching that group of fourth graders, for example, the home situation of the kids might be such a factor. If the kid’s life at home is chaotic, the learning process will be negatively affected, and the teacher might not be able to work around that problem.
But in real life today, we don’t work that hard to develop our plans for performance pay. We measure what is easy to measure, as distinct from measuring that which is important. Or, in the case of the world of commerce—that highly vaunted private sector, we don’t bother to measure at all. We just put the bonuses into play, regardless of performance.
So, in the midst of all the chaos of today’s mixed up economy, it’s nice to see the private sector rethinking its bonus system. Maybe there’s light at the end of this very long and very dark tunnel after all. And perhaps we might envision the possibility of some bright soul rethinking the pay for performance concept as applied to our teachers. Couldn't hurt.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

I’m thinking of Thanksgiving. Amidst all the turmoil in the nation created by republicans and their corporate owners, I’m still thinking of Thanksgiving. We have lived a long life, and a full one. Happily, that full life continues. It is the Fall of the year 2010. As always, we will share our Thanksgiving table with family and friends. Some birds, many actually, will fill the groaning boards of America. A few, like the champ below, will be spared. He is a handsome dude, and so he needs to be spared. And so he shall.
I have many thoughts this Thanksgiving. Our daughter was diagnosed last Spring with breast cancer. She was treated and is now doing well—one of the fortunate survivors. She also just emerged from a scare—a misdiagnosed heart attack—they thought she was having one. Happily, she was not having one. She is home in the loving arms of her husband. For that we are thankful.
Our other children, and their families—spouses, grandchildren, even great grandchildren are all wonderfully healthy and happy. They grow, each day and change a little each day. But the family tree continues to sprout happiness . . . and that’s a good thing.
And at home, Carol and I continue to live and love together . . . 55 years and counting. So on Thursday, we will celebrate our good fortune, and our family, both near and far, and our chain link of friends hither and yon, scattered about this great globe.
So, to one and all, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, and however you celebrate this special day, please give thanks for our collective lives and the happiness brought to each of us, every day.
We love you one and all.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22, 1963

We were living in an apartment in San Francisco then. I traveled a lot. On November 21st, I had traveled to our company’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A couple of us had gone to visit a client and were just returning. We had the radio turned on. Suddenly, as we pulled into the company parking lot, the announcer came on and informed us, solemnly that “ . . . the President of the United States has been shot . . .”
At first, nobody seemed to know whether he was ok, or not. Then the fateful words. “He has been killed. The President of the United States has been killed."
We were dumbstruck. Surely that couldn’t be true . . . but it was true. We had just lost John F. Kennedy, the most promising President in years. I was 29. JFK had appealed directly to me and to my generation.
But who would do something like that . . . here in the United States? This wasn’t some banana republic where violence ruled the day. We were a nation of laws . . . or maybe not.
It just all seemed like a bad dream, but on awakening, the same reality was present. Flying home the next day, I was still in a state of disbelief. On boarding the plane, and hearing the doors close and the engines begin their roar, I became aware of a sudden unease. I had always loved flying. I flew a lot, and the experience continued to delight me. On this flight home, however, I became nervous with every change in sound. Landing was both a great relief and an exercise in terror. Would the plane crash?
I was vulnerable. The flight had been entirely uneventful, but for the first time, I felt vulnerable. The feeling has never left me. The Nation has never been the same for me.
Sitting here, this November day in the year 2010, our Nation seems even more vulnerable. We are a nation at War with itself, a sort of latent Civil War. It wasn’t always so. It is now. Republicans insist.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Speaking to Murdoch

Finally, someone has spoken truth to power. Mr. Alan Rusbridger, at the Guardian, spoke in Australia regarding the threat inherent in the kind of media concentration being attempted by Rupert Murdoch here, in Great Britain and in Australia. I quote below from an article in the Guardian focusing on Mr. Rusbridger's talk.

"Alan Rusbridger, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, today stepped into the debate over whether Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation should be allowed to take full control of BSkyB, by warning of the "chilling effect" that "one large media company can have on public life".
Giving a lecture in Murdoch's native Australia, Rusbridger said that the revelations of phone hacking at the News of the World illustrated "the nature of the problem" when one media group becomes too powerful in the UK.
The controversy, Rusbridger said, "raises questions which are not so much about hacking, troubling as those are, but about how other forces in society – whether it is other media organisations, the police, the regulator or parliament itself – behave when faced with the muscle of a very large, very powerful and sometimes very aggressive media group".
He added that "something is dangerously out of kilter" when MPs such as Adam Price on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee confess they have been "held back" from probing into News Corporation's affairs because of "fear of what that company might do to them" – or when former employees are "too frightened to speak publicly about what they know" .
In June, News Corporation proposed an £8bn buyout of the 61% of satellite broadcaster BSkyB it does not already own, a deal that would bring together the largest newspaper group in the UK, with nearly 40% of the average daily sale with the largest broadcaster by turnover. Combined, the two companies would have a turnover of £7.5bn, compared to the BBC's £4.8bn.
Rusbridger queried whether it could be "good public policy to allow a still greater concentration of power across not just one wing of the Fourth Estate but two". He said that while it was possible to come up with "all kinds of metrics" to justify the merger on competition grounds, "it would still feel wrong".
He said that the argument about the proposed buyout was not about the individual merits of Rupert Murdoch as a media owner, warning instead that "there's no one I would want to have that much power" – whether it was the BBC, the moderator of the Church of Scotland or even Sir David Attenborough.
Last month, a group of competing newspaper groups and broadcasters – including Guardian Media Group, publisher of the Guardian – signed a letter calling on Vince Cable, the business secretary, to refer the proposed merger to Ofcom on "public interest" grounds. The other signatories included the companies behind the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror, as well as BT, Channel 4 and the BBC. Cable referred the bid to Ofcom in early November, after News Corp had formally notified the European Commission of the proposed takeover.
The deadline for submissions to Ofcom is today, with a range of media groups and thousands of individuals expected to put their views forward – including the members of the alliance of newspaper owners and broadcasters opposed to the deal. However, the BBC has decided to drop out of the group, amid a row at the corporation over whether it is legitimate for the public broadcaster to take a hostile stand against any rival."
Thanks to the Guardian and its editor-in-chief for having the courage to speak publically about the growing threat to democratic systems posed by Mr. Murdoch and his merry band of thugs.

Fox's Nazi-fixation

Roger Ailes, Rupert’s main henchman at The Faux News Network, is once again flinging the Nazi term at the “liberal” establishment—this time at NPR, one of the more moderate and unarguably middle of the political road organizations in the country. Now, it is well known that Rupert hates public broadcasting. He has been trying to trash it in Australia and in Britain for many years. Apparently, Rupert hates public broadcasting precisely for the reasons it is valued by so many millions around the globe—because it is objective, intelligent, and yes even interesting—kind of the opposite of the Faux News Network.
But it’s fascinating that he and his merry little band of thugs use the term Nazi so frequently. I have been wondering why. What drives them to toss this pernicious label at groups that are the exact opposite of what the term connotes? I’m now beginning to conclude that it is a distraction—an attempt to rid themselves of the label. That they are so close to the Nazi side of the political aisle makes them vulnerable to be so labeled. So, to deflect such charges, they fling the term at their opposition, hoping their audience won’t notice the “pot calling the kettle black” thing.
I keep thinking. Maybe their vicious shit is allowed here precisely because this Nation is open to all comers, including the crazy wing of the world. That Rupert, Roger & Co. would have been comfortable in 1933 Germany is scary, but defines the openness of our society. They clearly want censorship of opposing views, right out of that Nazi rascal Joseph’s playbook. They have even taken to calling, literally, for beheadings of prominent liberals. And nobody’s blown up their headquarters.
Is this a great country, or what?????

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Let’s Pretend

Increasingly, America appears to be living with a “Let’s Pretend” philosophy. That is, we would prefer, apparently, to make believe that things are as we imagine them to be in the best of all possible worlds, ignoring the reality of our daily lives. Example abound.
Business Ethics: what can one say here, but “business ethics” is now a classic oxymoron. We would like to think that private business people behave according to some ethical code, when we know, deep-down that no such code exists. Business people behave so as to maximize profit to themselves. Full stop. There are no ethical norms in business. Businesses behave "unethically" whenever it is in their best economic interests to do so. That is why businesses need to be regulated by outsiders, i.e., the government—to prevent them from behaving in such a way that the general public is harmed. We know about environmental concerns—recent mining and oil disasters only serve to punctuate the public concern here. Our last election (2010) was a grand exercise of “Let’s Pretend” in this regard. But even more fundamentally, we should understand that business people will behave periodically so as to damage your own economic interests, so long as the actions enhance theirs. It is not that they intend to hurt you; that would be a side-effect of their actions. That is a primary characteristic of pure capitalism in free markets, that philosophy so beloved by many in our country.
Political Ethics: Hmmm, perhaps, "Winning isn't the most important thing. Winning is the only thing."
Sporting Ethics: High on any list of “Let’s Pretend” in America is the notion of amateur athletics. While we long ago gave up any notion that Olympic athletes were “amateur”, we maintain this pretense big time when it comes to college athletics. In baseball, the major leagues created and largely own their feeder system—the minor leagues. Kids graduate from high school and the best of the playing lot go to a minor league team, hoping to make it into the big time—the majors. In basketball and football, though, the minor leagues are colleges. Frank Deford, perhaps our most daunting critic of big time athletics, recently called it like it is, in commenting on a case involving an Auburn football player, in which an “agent” was accused of trying to squeeze $180,000 from Mississippi State to recruit a young player, Cam Newton, into their football system. Deford goes on to say:
“Withal, the most illuminating tidbit in the whole saga is that Newton's father, a preacher, says he didn't want his son to go to Mississippi State because there he would be, "a rented mule.”
Well, that's the best definition of college athletes I've heard.
The NCAA said the running back was ineligible in 2005 because he received improper benefits.
Everybody makes real money –– some real big money –– except the athletes, except the mules, the Cam Newtons. They're not allowed to be represented by reputable agents, so of course, mountebanks come out of the woodwork. They're not allowed to be paid, so of course money will slip under the table. But the NCAA, in delusion, persists in trying to continue to prop up the failed concept of 19th century amateurism.
Yes, 50 years ago, the NCAA had company in hypocrisy. Many Olympic sports –– skiing, track, swimming, figure skating –– were supposed to be amateur then. So were tennis and rugby. By now, all these sports have realized it was impossible –– let alone immoral –– to be popular, commercial entertainments, but not remunerate the performers. In all the world of big-time sport only in American college football and basketball does the myth of amateurism still exist.”
How would this system change were we to ever stop playing “let’s Pretend”? Well, perhaps, we could allow the colleges to become the literal minor leagues of football and basketball. Let colleges hire football players and pay them salary levels similar to that which they might get were they minor league baseball players. The players would be full-time professional athletes, not students, so they wouldn’t have to play “let’s pretend” I’m an actual student, and college teachers would no longer have to play “Let’s Pretend” my student athlete has actually done the work. The students could still attend games and cheer for their team, much the way small towns around America still cheer for their minor league baseball teams. The athletes would get paid, some would go on to the majors and earn big bucks. The rest could decide after they fail to achieve major league professional careers, whether they wanted to try college as an academic activity, or simply go on to something else.
Judicial Ethics: Ahh, a big subject is judicial ethics. It was perhaps brought to the forefront of American consciousness when Antonin Scalia led the pack of Republican justices that voted to appoint George Bush President, rather than let the votes actually be counted in Florida, thus corrupting fundamentally our system of Democracy, and by the way, fouling the notion of non-partisan justice in the land.
So, building on that history, we have here in North Carolina, a system in which the people vote to install judges. In our most recent exercise in the “Peoples Choice Awards” we had a gaggle of people running for various judgeships. Now, the ballot identifies the judge candidates as “Non-Partisan”, i.e., their political affiliation is not identified, giving rise to at least the concept that we might expect our judges to act as non-partisan.
But it turns out that this is simply another exercise in “Let’s Pretend.” One of the candidates running for a judgeship, openly advertised himself as a Republican, with the elephant displayed proudly on his signs, announcing to everyone that, whatever the ballot might suggest, if you vote for me, you will get a Republican judge, with everything that means.
On protesting to the State Judicial Standards Commission, I was told, in response that:
”A judge or candidate may:
(3) identify himself/herself as a member of a political party and make financial contributions to a political party or organization . . .”
So, the announced “non-partisan” nature of the judicial election process is simply another of our exercises in “Let’s Pretend.” My response back was:
It is certainly good to know that you have a standard covering this last election.
And I suppose it is good for us, members of the lay public, to put aside this silly notion about non-partisan judges who will make decisions based on the law, as distinct from political affiliation. I have written to the Charlotte Observer, copying our county board of elections to urge that we now ask judicial candidates to identify their political affiliation and rid the system of the fiction that judges are non-partisan.

Thank you for clarifying this matter. You have been most helpful.”
I continue to like to play “Let’s Pretend” with little children about Santa Claus at Christmas Time, or with the “Easter Bunny”, or with the “Tooth Fairy.” But that’s because little children soon learn that we are just playing a game for their amusement. But that aside, “Let’s Pretend” on more adult subjects seems to me to render more harm than good. Perhaps I should speak to the bearded old white guy in the sky about this matter.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dumbing Down America

I was dismayed twice last week, filling me with questions about our nation’s education system. Here’s the scenario.
I’m in line at a large craft store, waiting to check out. There is a woman in front of me, trying to pay for her merchandise. One item was 40% off the retail price of $11.75. The cashier is looking through several sheets, on which is printed prices, discounts, and resulting sale prices. She can’t find this particular combination of $11.75 and 40% off. The woman trying to check out asks if there is some problem. “No”, says the sales girl, as she turns to another cashier, asking for a calculator. She is handed a calculator and begins fumbling with it. After a minute or say, with no visible progress, the woman asks if she can help. The sales girl gives up and says, “I don’t know how to do it.” “It” in this instance is taking a 40% discount off the $11.75 price. Huh, I think to myself? She cannot discount, using a calculator that would require her to multiply 11.75 times 0.6 to arrive at the new sale price (she could have done it the hard way also by taking the 40% off the price and then subtracting that from the retail price). Outside, I spoke with the woman who had checked out. She was as stunned as me. “Wouldn’t you imagine that they might have checked her basic math ability before hiring her?” Yeah, you’d think, huh?
By the way, this math problem could be solved by most competent fourth graders.
So, then, the next day, I am filling up the gas tank in my car, when a young woman walks up and says that as a thank you, she is going to clean my wind screen. Nice, I think. So, she is trying to engage me in conversation. “So, are you doing anything fun today” she says.
“Why yes” I say, “ my wife and I are going to the symphony tonight.”
Blank look.
She says, “What’s that?”
Not understanding the cause of question, I say again, “We’re going to the symphony in Charlotte.”
“What’s that” she says again.
“You know, a musical performance by a symphony orchestra?”
Evincing no clue, she says, “So, have you been before?”
“Why yes, we subscribe for the season.”
“Oh, well that’s why you’re going again.”
So, I’m thinking, this 25 year-old non-Hispanic, Caucasian woman has never heard of the term, “the symphony.”
Wow! And we think we can resolve the unemployment rate, with candidates like these?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The MSNBC Silliness

MSNBC has suspended (fired??) Keith Olberman for financially supporting the Democratic Party. And that is in furtherance of exactly what policy/standard? NBC has some standard that continues to pretend that its “news” channel, MSNBC, is objective?? That MSNBC? I suppose they are trying to make the “fair and balanced” (wink wink) Faux News Network feel badly. Oh, like Rupert cares what MSNBC thinks or does.
I thought, along with many other people, that NPR was stupid to fire Juan Williams for announcing to Bill O’Reilly that he is uneasy when he sees people in Muslim garb board a plane on which he is to fly. There may have been many reasons to fire Juan Williams (that he is a hack opinionator is tops on my list) but his commentary, however, stupid, wasn’t among them.
Now, I guess everyone is looking to Rupert to see whether he will make some gesture to pretend that his opinionators are not explicitly right wing republicans. The chances of snowballs surviving in hell comes to mind here.
Perhaps it is time for everyone to quit pretending that the “news” shows on TV (cable or network) are actually presenters of news, i.e. facts and stories about real events intended to inform the public about what is happening around the globe. We know there are shades here, or some kind of spectrum from left to right, with precious little in the middle, of programming about real news events. Mainly however, what we have on “TV news” shows, of whatever stripe, is opinion about what is happening, with the opinion more or less scripted by the owners. On the Faux News Network, the scripting is clear and up front—Rupert instructs his salaried minions what to say, gives them their bullet points and they mouth those points over and over again each hour. With MSNBC, something similar occurs, and the other “news” shows operate along similar lines, although less obviously than either MSNBC, or Rupert.
Let’s just call it a day on “news” shows, and everyone should quit pretending. First, there isn’t nearly enough actual news to warrant the absurd amount of coverage extant. Second, the opinionators are really much, much more annoying than any commercial currently playing on any channel.
Does anyone out there still actually believe anything they hear emanating from the “news” shows, especially but not exclusively the Faux News Network. Maybe we need a new title for these reality TV shows—something like the RUPERT THE MAGNIFICENT NETWORK. That way, we’d know what to expect—truth in advertising??
And elsewhere, The Wall Street Journal has decided that, despite all indications to the contrary, it will continue making believe it is a financial newspaper. hahahahaha . . .

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Oh Happy Days are Here Again

Well, it’s over finally—the election of 2010. I guess it’s reasonably final now that the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch won, although not as big as they had hoped. I assume they will now reap their rewards for all their investment in the fake grass roots group known fondly as the teabaggers of America.

Some of the crazy people, Rand Paul comes to mind, actually won, and a few of the nutcases lost—the witch in Delaware comes to mind. In Alaska, the darling protégé of Sarah Barbie, Joe Miller, perhaps the craziest of any of the candidates in this weird election, may not have won. The “write-in” apparently has won, and that would mean Murkowski has beaten the odds and the teabagger crazies.

As I was helping to clean up after the election, at our polling precinct, one of the men who was also helping his wife, asked me about the race and about people trying to rig the election through false voting. I said that the republicans had won in 2000 and 2004 by just that kind of corrupt electioneering practice, and he said, “Huh, I didn’t realize I was dealing with enemy.” See that’s the term that first sprang into his head—the enemy. And yet the Republicans shriek when Obama used that term to refer to Boehner. But that’s what it has come to in America. Each group regards the other as “the enemy.” And Boehner, the man poised to take over as Speaker of the House, now promises to spend the next two years trying to bring down the President—his words. So, instead of trying to solve problems (we have a few I understand) he will be trying to unseat our President—shades of Newt Gingrich. And everyone is surprised that people see each other as “the enemy”.

I continue to marvel that this group that wants to “take back their country” never ventured to try a take-back when Bush was launching unnecessary wars, spying on private citizens, employing torture and denying due process at will, while simultaneously running our economy into the ground. Nope, nary a peep out of the tea party fans. They were all happy campers.

So, we will now see what they propose, and what directions they wish to take our country. Who knows, maybe we will invade Canada??

And elsewhere, speaking of invading Canada, I understand that Americans are busily preparing their applications for migration to the frozen northland . . . just in case the “enemy” thing turns out to be real. Canada, are you ready for that??