Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Something happened today that pissed me off.
I live about 1/4 of a mile from Kroger. I had to buy Macaroni and Cheese and Resolve carpet cleaner, and since I've had a stressful day at work I figured I would walk.
On my way back this guy runs across traffic yelling, "Hey LC!"
I'm not LC, but he seemed to want to talk to me anyway, so he and I began walking.
He said, "Look at what I found" and pulls out a switch blade, which he proceeds to open.
I was near him, and partly out of nervousness and partly out of reaction I knocked the thing from his hands and picked it up.
He said, "Why did you knock it out of my hands, I was just trying to show you what I found."
I actually bought the thing from him (I didn't want to walk off with it because: a) Maybe he was telling the truth and b) If he perhaps had another weapon I didn't want to incite him. So I did what I do, I negotiated. He actually offered me a necklace as well...he was diversified I guess.
Now I have a ten dollar illegal letter opener and have again turned down jewelery for my wife, but at this point I am not to the point where I'm pissed. Here's what pissed me off.
He says, "Man why don't you trust me...(wait for it) all black people aren't the same."
Blow me.
How dare you suggest that my only motive for not trusting you was race...let me rack my brain for alternative reasons why I might not want to go into business with this guy. While we're at it, what the hell does it mean that "Black people aren't the same" as if my status quo should be a guy with a switchblade.
So that pissed me off.
Anyway, if you need a knife...

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Discourse: Part Two

It's poli-sci 101. You're a Freshman. You sit down in class, and after doing an ice breaker of some sort the Prof. asks a question--"What is Political Science?"
You define it as, "The study of power." Maybe you define it as, "The study of how people get what, when, and why?"
That is how the modern world defines political science. The original political theorists thought of political science/political philosophy as a study of how to make the right kind of society.
Read Antigone. Don't think of it as the fascist Creon taking the sweet girl to the woodshed--think of it as a play about a dynamic tension at that point in human history. Creon was standing firmly for the position that the city was the right source of law. Creon's assertion is a great thing to debate with a nerd at a coffee shop; I don't really care about the answer right now.
What matters is the underlying question, "Based upon what we think is MORAL how should we order our system of government, our structures to execute these laws, and the laws themselves." How can we set up systems to enact our "Morality?"
For a lot of years--from something BC until some time around the 1980s this was the question for political scientists. The right continues to answer this question, the left changed.
Now the big brains in liberal Political Science try their best to be scientists. That's fine, except that in the empiricial view what is measurable is more important. It's tough to measure moral right. Passionate and intelligent people can gather information, and sometimes this analysis can inform action. The question they ask is, "How can we develop effective "Policy."
And there we are. In one paragraph Morality and Policy become discrete elements.
This is why Democrats seem out of touch.
During the middle of the last century smart liberals had a great chance to create what they viewed as Moral Policy. The New Deal, The Great Society, The Civil Rights Act, all of these were opportunities to create policy to assert the moral right. Some of the policies worked, some failed, but in some ways the success of any individual policy doesn't matter--ideas were tried and democracy has a tendency to find and eliminate dumb ideas.
Following the surge of liberal policy, the ideological right formed some think tanks to punch back. Many people argue that it was the strong, well capitalized, and intentional effort of the ideological right that has led to the current "decline" of the democratic party. I don't think so.

I think the big problem is that in regards to domestic policy, the left is putting out dumb ideas because they're asking the wrong questions.
The question should be "What are our fundamental values?" and "How can we translate those values into effective policy."
Right now there are a handful of good new liberal policy ideas, lots of them are conveniently coming out of University of Chicago and Harvard (Convenient for Democrats because Obama is plugged into both, convenient for me because I'm talking to both schools.) The resurgence of the Democratic party will happen when some smart people move in to effectively sell these ideas. The emergence of real political discourse will come when two groups with different perspectives start asking the right question.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Note: This is a boring entry. I like politics more than the average bear.
Condoleea Rice is a proficient writer. Before she was the NSA she advocated that the prudent position of the United States following the Cold War was to act boldly in its national interest.
Smart people argued that as the lone superpower the US had some role as a steward of the broader human interest. Other smart people shot back that this would create both the impression and in some cases the reality of American imperialism because people like power too much, and countries often act like people with lots of big weapons.
This debate is complex and is vital for the long term viability of the US and the world.

Scott Petersen did something. I saw it on the news.

A Washington think tank recently determined that at this time Hydrogen Fuel cells are not an economically viable technology based not only on the very low prices for fossil fuels, but also the tentative supply channels for such a technology. Innovators shoot back that somewhere in the history of everything that works there was a time when it didn't, and that we can't wait for perfect alternatives to begin modifications. An increasing number of firms are making bold initiatives to increase energy efficiency, yet some indict these moves as half measures. Malthus is pissed we've made it this far, but a lively debate is critical.

Eminem did something. I saw it on the news.

I don't mean to be that dorky Economist-reading- coffee-sipping,-NPR-listening-to-weenie who looks down at the tater-tot-munching-fear-factor-watching-yokel with scorn, I just don't get why in a time when we could have a great debate with experts, and well structured arguments and passion we get O'Reilly v Franken.

Part of the reason is because policy and values have now become opponents.
The news (Even good news) has the temperance of my neighbors dog, so we've all been clearly informed that the Democratic Party is dead. The truth is more complex. It starts with Oedipus and ends with Bush.
I'll write more about this later.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Men as if trees

I tried the experiment I mentioned before. For a week I was going to intently and actively care about the people I was around. I chose for a week to care about the guy at Arby's, the girl at Target, the oddly friendly guy at Uno's during my date, and also about the guy's I worked with. It was hard for me, because I've become hard. It was also right.
My car is a stick shift, as is the car of the guy at the Arby's between my Cincinnati shop and my house in Columbus. He cut my sandwich in half because it would make it easer to drive. He learned how hard it was to drive, shift, and eat when he was driving his new bride to Pigeon Forge for their honeymoon seven years ago. They could see Dollywood, and that was good. They have two kids. They are getting a divorce. He vows to protect the kids.
The last time I was in Pigeon Forge I saw a lady named June and met her son Cody. He was brave and sad. I never spoke to her.
The girl at target crosses her arms across her chest because too many men have looked at her wrong.
One guy I worked with does a great PR accent. We're doing a project in PR, the firm we're working with speaks a little English, so I will always be on the line until we get someone on the line who's English is better than my Spanish. My phone line dropped out so I couldn't be heard. The other guy from my company continues in English, but with his best fake Mexican accent. It worked. Hilarious.
A strange number of people really like cats.
The guy at UNO's does art and looks like an accountant.
The girl at the store doesn't know what she wants to do and will probably end up a doctor.
The other kid wants to be a doctor, and probably won't.
One lady says, "Not a problem" too much when she's nervous.
One great guy has lived the wrong life, and his best angels and most stubborn demons are engaged in a cage match 3/4" from the back of his retina.
One guy's wife was a "spear holder" in an opera. I don't know what that means.
I think I'm better now than I was before.
Everything beautiful requires risk, and compassion is beautiful
Trees are safer.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Last night my wife went out to purchase the following:
Two (2) sets of handcuffs.
Two (2) Cop Costumes.
Five (5) Pillows.
Eighty (80) Condoms.
That's hilarious to me.
Her motives were innocent; she's a theatre teacher, they use non-lubricated condoms to insulate the body microphones, there are cops in the play, and I assume characters at some point need to get comfy. Imagine the reaction of the check out kid. "Uhh...Mrs. Cook...do you need me to bag that?"
I got to thinking about the poor check-out kid, and once I got past the shopping list I thought about something else.
I'm a jerk.
Jesus at one point heals a guy's vision, the guy pops up and is asked, "What do you see." He responds something like, "I see people like trees, walking around." Jesus then goes back in and fixes his vision again.
Apparently seeing people like some living yet senseless object is no good. The problem I face is that I do that: I see people as things. There is enough evidence to convict.
When I got to thinking about the check out kid, my mental image was a blue apron. I did not picture some kid in a uniform. A kid could want to be a doctor, or have a sick mom, or just lose his girlfriend, or skateboard poorly. A uniform gives me my milk and shuts up. I pictured an apron.
Yesterday I took a survey called the "McKinsey Global Business Executive Survey." It asked lots of questions about how the economy is doing and where we see it heading. It also asked a lot about hiring and firing practices. The term it used was "growth in workforce," it gave me a seven point Likert scale, 1 meaning many jobs eliminated, 7 meaning many jobs created. Again, I am unhappy that I comfortably address some guys vocation on a Likert scale.
When I was a little boy I was nice. Now I am effective. I guess the world needs effective, but I kind of miss nice. Today, I'm buying candy for my check out kid.
All this lesson from eighty condoms: that and improved cardiovascular health.