A Little Perspective

Let’s take a moment and think about the following scenario:

A young, white American woman and a young, white South African man conceive a child.

The woman gives birth to a healthy, white child in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

Forty-seven years later, that child wins the election to become President of the United States.

Can anyone out there argue that anyone would be questioning the legitimacy of that man’s birth certificate or his eligibility to become President?

Let’s be clear about all of this “birther” nonsense. It’s racism plain and simple.

Akin, You Already Have Your Base

Dear Mr. Akin,

You are wasting your money playing ads featuring blowhard Mike Huckabee here in St. Louis. He will not do anything to help you with the independents that you need to win this thing. In fact, it just makes people like me even more motivated to make sure you only see the US Senate from the visitors area.

Best regards,

Political Discourse At Its Worst

From time to time, I receive colorful email messages through the contact form on my website.  Ever since Tim Probst of Washington State ran to represent his state in the Washington State Legislature, I get some messages for him too.  It is amazing to me that people write these types of messages on my site without even thinking that perhaps there is more than one Tim Probst in this world.

Representative Probst has a nice official page, and his email address, phone number, and physical address are presented in the sidebar towards the top of the page. It appears Representative Probst can be easily reached by his constituents who take the time to actually figure out how to contact him.

Tonight’s email is one of the best yet, and I have to share it.  This message comes from S. Roberts who supposedly can be reached at roberts5532@ac.com.  Just for the sake of being thorough, I performed a WHOIS search on ac.com, and it happens to be registered to Accenture Global Services Limited.  I’m sure Accenture will be proud to know they have such a well written employee on staff.

So, here, in its entirety, is the email I received from S. Roberts on Saturday, August 4, 2012 at 11:43 PM CDT.

Your Name: s. roberts

Your Email: roberts5532@ac.com

Subject: Personal Invasion

Message: What gives you the right to invade my privacy again with your unwanted political B.S.? You were told before that I didn’t want nor appreciated your fucking junk mail. What part of NO don’t you understand, asshole? I didn’t appreciate the mudslinging in your mail either, this is a typical ploy that the scummy democrates always pull. Before you attack another candidate you first should take a hard serious look at your own shortcomings. For one you are a worthless incompetent piece of shit that doesn’t even comprehend the meaning of NO. Why is that, are you severely retarded, can’t read or a combination of both? For your info I have already mailed my ballot in and I didn’t vote for you asshole nor would I ever vote for you in any election. I sincerely hope that you lose, dipshit. Get the message?

Pretty nice, huh?  I especially enjoy the misspellings and poor grammar of this message.  This person cannot possibly work for Accenture, right? I have always assumed they have higher standards than this as far as intelligence is concerned.  I really feel for the politicians trying to serve their fellow man when they have to deal with this type of nonsense.

Feel free to pass this along to show your friends and family how not to communicate with another person.

Correlation Between Exposure to Different Cultures and Political Views?

Politics are a funny thing.  I am certainly not an expert and don’t claim to be fully informed on all issues, especially those involving economics.  My strongest views are based mainly in social issues, which stem from my involvement in the disability community.  It is a subculture in our society which receives popular exposure for things like the “Erasing the “R” Word” campaign and in recent years, Autism.  While these are both very important issues, they are merely the tip of the iceberg.  What most people don’t know, is that just like many impoverished countries around the world, the people of the disability community are struggling to survive.  They are struggling to find sanitary living conditions, they are struggling to pay for treatment or medical services, they are often struggling just to have enough money to put food on the table.  Unfortunately, the displacement of people with disabilities is not our only dirty little secret.  Let’s not forget about the elderly, minorities, and people living in poverty.

How do I know this and why do I care?  Exposure.  I have been exposed to one of the many ugly underbellies of our culture… the dismissal of our most vulnerable citizens.  When you have the experience of seeing human life struggle to survive, being virtually forgotten by their fellow man…  it strikes a cord.

Let’s take a quick visit over to the world or politics.  When you consider the “base” of our political parties, they are pretty clearly defined by the media as either “socialists” (those concerned more about social issues than things like economics – also known as Democrats… liberals… bleeding hearts), and “conservatives” (whether fiscal or moral, their “base” finds roots in the Christian religion, a.k.a Republicans).  Yes, these are broad and stereotypical points of discussion… but lets all be honest.  They are stereotypes for a reason.  Of course there are variations on both (fiscally conservative liberals, etc.), and some that even combine features of both (the Libertarian party).  But for all intents and purposes, currently we are a two-party system when it comes to elections and for the sake of this argument.

Given these stereotypes, it has to make you wonder how the Christian crowd doesn’t fall into the “socialist” category.  After all, wasn’t Jesus Christ the ultimate socialist?   I mean he DIED to make sure people were taken care of for eternity, right?  So how did “socialism” become a dirty word, and more importantly, how did the Christian-based Republican party become anti-social issues?

Enter the maps of the number of US Passports issued and the election results map from 2008 (above).  Interesting… there seems to be a direct correlation between the number of passports issued and the voting patterns of each state.  I may be totally off base here, but let’s go back to that whole “exposure” concept I mentioned earlier.  Is it possible that when US Citizens are traveling and experiencing other parts of the world, the appreciation for people of differing cultures increases?  Does this tolerance translate to the varying subcultures of American society?

Even more interestingly, you can look at the national maps of education, obesity, religion, poverty (and almost any other topic) and find similar patterns.  

What does this tell us?  Can we reasonably deduct that the conservative voters have less wealth, are less educated, less traveled, less concerned with health issues, and more religious while the more liberal voters are typically better educated, more health conscious, less religious, and well-traveled?

Yes, these are extremely broad assumptions based on a few maps, but is it really that far off?  Does the fact that conservative voters are less educated and exposed to fewer cultures mean they are less likely to have the ability to critically think about the basic philosophies of the conservative party – and more likely to believe notions such as “cutting education funding will help us lead the world in education”?   Does the fact that conservative voters are more likely to struggle financially mean they are more likely to believe (or want to believe) promises of jobs and growth?  Or that perhaps they don’t have access to resources like the internet to verify the information they see and hear in the media?  Will strong religious views cause conservative voters to be more distracted by religion-based issues such as abortion while their elected officials send pink slips to entire districts of teachers?

It seems many of these questions are currently playing out in the media as we speak.  Only time will tell if the conservative voters will continue on the journey of philosophical awakening as demonstrated this past week in the great state of Wisconsin.   Fingers crossed.

More on Wall Street Bonuses

In a follow up to my earlier post regarding Senator McCaskill’s drubbing of Wall Street executives, I wanted to give some perspective on the world of Wall Street bonuses. As I have said before, I am a proud former Merrill Lynch employee. At least at Merrill, there was very much a sales mentality that affected how people were paid regardless of whether or not that person was in a sales role. So, even for none sales employees, the annual bonus was very much an important part of a person’s compensation. As an example, in my final year with Mother Merrill, my annual bonus made up 37.5% of my compensation. So, in my case, the bonus was incredibly important for my family’s financial well being.

With that said, we non-executive employees were always told that bonuses were not guaranteed, and we should expect that they could be as little as nothing. We were told that the bonuses were based on several factors; first the performance of Merrill Lynch as a whole, then the performance of our business unit, and then our individual performance. That first criteria is what has me (and I think the rest of the country) really confused about how Merrill and other firms participating in TARP could possibly have had any money in their bonus pools to distribute to their executives and employees. If the companies were not profitable, how in the world did they have money in their bonus pools, and if they had money in their bonus pools, why would they not move it to their operating accounts to improve overall financial performance for their shareholders?

While I do not approve of the decisions the Wall Street executives made regarding bonuses (I am a shareholder after all), I have an idea about why they had to pay out the bonuses. If they had not paid bonuses at or near normal levels, the firms would be facing a massive exodus of high quality non-sales employees. You see, as was the case with my compensation and the compensation of others I worked with, the base salaries offered to non-sales employees were lower than those offered by other companies. It was the hope of a significant bonus and the prestige of working for a top firm on the Street that drew people to work for the big Wall Street banks.

If these companies are to survive and prosper, they must rethink and revolutionize the way they pay their non-sales employees. If they offer base salaries that compensate people for what they are worth, the bonus can become a true bonus, and there will be no pressure to hand out any bonuses when times are bad like they are now. This is something that should have been done years ago, and as a non-sales employee, I often spoke with co-workers about how I would have preferred being paid a competitive salary and offered little or no bonus. A lot of people felt the same way. Now, the firms may be forced to do something along these lines to regain the trust and faith of the American people.

Claire McCaskill Rocks!

So, my Senator, Claire McCaskill, lit up Wall Street yesterday from the Senate floor. It was a fantastic speech and something that needed to be said out loud. I used to work for Merrill Lynch and was very proud to have been a part of that institution. It did bother me a lot when the upper management team would receive enormous bonuses compared to regular employees like me. This was especially true during years when the bonus pool was apparently down, and regular employees did not get bonuses that were on par with other years.

Well, it looks like Senator McCaskill has had enough, and she has my support. Here is a video from MSNBC after her impassioned speech.

Republicans Take The Subterranean Road

As is said, there’s the high road, and then there’s the low road, but now we’re seeing the subterranean road. I honestly thought it could not get lower, but the Republicans have unleashed one of the most negative, fear-mongering, hate-filled, deceptive television ads I have ever seen. Apparently, John McCain decided it was time to play the Wright card. Being in Missouri, I am lucky enough to have to experience the ad over and over again. Thanks to some nice Photoshop work, they took Obama’s usual signage and replaced “Change” with “Hate.” The voice-over spews fear and hate. The intention of the ad is clear; smear Obama and hope it sticks. I haven’t thrown anything through my television . . . yet.

What really bothers me is that these types of ads still work with people. Case in point – our neighbor came over the other day and spoke to my wife for a bit. After seeing our Obama/Biden sign, she says “Barack Obama is the Antichrist” while performing the sign of the cross. Then she says “He’s been groomed.” What in the world does that even mean? How in the world do you respond to such stupidity? These are the types of people that most likely elected Bush twice. These are the types of people that will help McCain win on Tuesday if he wins. I just don’t get it.

I am writing about this to let all of you know what the McCain campaign is doing in the battleground states. He’s not offering ideas. He’s not providing solutions. He’s spreading fear and hate in the hopes that enough people like my neighbor will take the bait. I want all of you to ask yourself what kind of leader you want for our country. Do you want someone who offers solutions, ideas, hope, and change, or do you want someone who uses fear and hate to win at all costs? It is time for a new politics. It is time for a new direction. It is time for Obama and Biden to lead our country.

Obama/Biden 2008