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How Come the Republicans are So Much More Fun Than the Democrats?

March 8th, 2015 · Politics and Politicians Gone Awry

The difference between a Republican and a Democratic meeting is like the difference between a three-ring circus and a chamber music ensemble performance.

Remember when politics was totally boring? Back then, people were apathetic about politics because there was little perceived difference between Republicans and Democrats. It was like the politicians were speaking in an echo chamber. They put on a good show of arguing and fighting, but the politicos from both sides of “the aisle” ended up all saying and doing the same predictable thing—only louder because their governmental backup teams increased. Despite conservative Ronald Reagan’s famous rant against Democrats for favoring big government when he famously said, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Yeah, sure. During Reagan’s eight years in office, the size of the federal government more than doubled!

Politics back then was like the television commercial you see over and over and over again. The message might be cute and even interesting the first time you see it. But repeated ad nauseum, it becomes an irritant. And in the end, you simply tune it out.

It’s easy to understand why. Politicians invariably would promise change – “change you could believe in” – but nothing buffoonschanged. And the unchanging promises and matching changeless results became a permanent part of the political landscape from which there was only an occasional reprieve. Watching politics was like watching an NBA basketball game: you don’t need to pay attention until the final two minutes of the game. It’s much the same in politics—except you only had to pay attention every two or four years. And then, no matter who won, the results were the same. Is it any wonder that after a while, people just tuned out politicians and politics?

A Brave New World of Politics

That’s not true today—and we can thank our lucky stars for the Republicans who have worked so hard to make politics interesting and entertaining, if not serious and meaningful. By contrast, the Democrats are their same old stodgy, boring selves; welded in lock-step conformity to the same tired story, with little intra-party squabbling. But you can’t say that about the Republicans whose performances would make fertile fodder for a reality sitcom titled, “Dysfunctional Family Run Amuck.”

The result? Republicans have made politics fun again! Sure, the fun might be macabre, like going to an NHL hockey game hoping to see a fight and being treated to a slug-fest among the players on the same team. But thanks to the Republicans rejuvenating interest in politics, the cable news networks can offer 80 percent (in the case of FOX News, 99 percent) of their content on politics, rather than the Kardashians, water-skiing squirrels or mutant pumpkins growing in Mississippi. And because of this politics is no longer only an election-year game.

Let’s Look at the Republican’s Record Winning Scorecard

Last fall the Republicans handily won the election and took control of Congress by chastising President Obama for his failure to pass legislation they had effectively blocked. The Republicans promised the voters that, if they were given full control of Congress, it would be a “new day.” They would use their majority power to show how Republicans can provide real leadership. How has it gone so far?

From the start of the new Congress the Republicans have done little except bicker and battle among themselves. On the first day of business, House Speaker John Boehner – who had led the Party to victory – was almost deposed by a revolt among fellow Boehner_2417210bRepublicans. Talk about giving inmates control of the asylum. Despite a large majority in the House and control of the Senate, the Republicans have exhibited functionally fractured leadership, because they have split up into different tribes that are more interested in fighting among themselves than doing anything positive. The Sunni and Shia in the Middle East have little on the Republicans when it comes to intramural fighting. The activity of the Republicans in Congress may not be constructive, but it certainly is entertaining. Contrast this with the boring sameness of the Democrats. The Democrats in Congress have lost ground in each of the last three elections, and yet there has been little threat to change leadership. Nancy Pelosi the House leader and Harry Reid the Democratic leader in the Senate continue on singing the same song, as if nothing has happened. How boring is that?

The Media in Cahoots with Republicans

Sometimes it’s hard not to suspect that the media is actually paying Republicans to fill a slow news day. Take last Wednesday for example: The Republicans had lost the battle to hold the funding for national security hostage, because they were enraged by President Obama’s executive order on immigration. Prime Minister Netanyahu had made his pilgrimage to Congress to hold hands with the Republicans, but he was gone.

It looked like it was going to be a slow news week, but then, right on cue, would-be Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson (Ben who?) stepped forward early in the morning to create a news cycle for the media. He claimed on CNN that being gay was a “choice.” His scientific evidence for this conclusion was that people go into jail “straight” but come out “gay.”

The next day climate change denier Republican Senator Jim Inhofe brought a snowball he had collected on the steps of the Capital into the Senate chamber and from the podium he threw it at the Democrats. It was the Republican way of scientifically proving that climate warming is a myth.

Folks you can’t make this stuff up! Only the Republicans seem to have this innate ability to constantly make things interesting in politics. Do you think it is some genetic structure that causes them to be this way or is it a choice they make? Perhaps they enter the Republican Party as reasonable and levelheaded thinkers, but later, influenced by others in the Party, they make a conscious choice to be wacko.

Just last week Republican governor and presidential candidate Scott Walker scored a double-bagger first by saying he didn’t Walkerknow if Obama is a Christian and then by comparing the teachers’ union in Wisconsin to the terrorists ISIS. (It is true that the teachers did want to behead Scott, but still?) And just a week before that Rudy Giuliani, hungry for publicity – any publicity – in the Trump mode, accused President Obama of “not loving his country, because he was not raised to think like the rest of us.” (This from a guy who avoided service to the country he loves so much by wrangling two draft-deferments and then cajoling a federal judge to intercede on his behalf with the Draft Board to keep him out of the Army.)

The Republicans have been blessed with a long line of “intriguing” personalities and this has given them a virtual monopoly on making politics interesting. There is the dowager queen of the Republicans Sarah Palin, who proclaimed her expertise in foreign relations, because “she can see Russia from her home.” Michelle Bachmann was such a godsend to making politics interesting there are still web sites that trace her comments; such gems as, “I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. I’m not blaming this on President Obama I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.” (Just for the record, the 1976 Swine Flu outbreak she was referring to happened when Gerald Ford, a Republican, was president.) Are you keeping score? There’s still more.

Then there was Herman Cain who became a leading presidential candidate in 2012 with his famous “9-9-9” plan. Only later did we learn that 9-9-9 referred to the number of women he had been accused of harassing in the workplace. There was Christine O’Donnell, the former Republican candidate for the Senate in Delaware, who claimed in a campaign ad, “I am not a witch, I am you.” And who could forget the Republican Senate candidate from Missouri who famously claimed, “If it’s a legitimate rape the body has ways to shut the whole thing down.”

And of course, it would be unfair not to include one of the great luminaries of the modern Republican Party on this list – Donald Trump, who other than Mitt Romney is the only person I have ever seen eat pizza with a fork. This entrepreneurial head of such losers as Trump Airlines, Trump Mortgage, and Trump CasiTrumpnos, perennially threatens to throw his hat into the presidential ring. My advice: Keep the hat and put a permanent lid on that mystery hairdo of yours. (What is that thing, anyway? It is a comb-over? A toupee? A transplant?) But at least give Trump credit for being a significant contributor to the Republican effort to keep politics interesting.

And what do the Democrats have to offer to counter all this political excitement generated by the Republicans? Well, by comparison, not much. But there is Vice-President Joe Biden. He certainly has the history and proclivity to make buffoonish comments. At the passage of Obamacare, for example, a microphone picked up him whispereing into Obama’s ear, “This is really a big ‘ffen’ deal.” But the Democrats have pretty much muffled him and we only see occasional pictures of him groping the wives of newly appointed cabinet officers. (In a recent survey 43 percent of the respondents could not name the vice-president, but 84 percent identified Sarah Palin as a Republican leader.)

Of course the Democrats do have Hillary Clinton. But how can anyone, even in their wildest imagination, claim that she makes politics fresh and exciting? Talk about a repeating commercial that gets old and irritating. Clearly Hillary is the face of the Democratic Party; boring same ol’ same ol’ stuff, emails and Whitewater notwithstanding.

No, the Republicans deserve and get all the credit for making politics interesting. Without a doubt, politics would be totally boring if it were not for the Republicans. Their antics are a political train wreck that entertains in an infinite loop; you simply can’t help but pull up a chair and want to watch. Even though it is a little like watching reruns of  the”Family Feud” or the “Gong Show.”    Send article as PDF   

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Net Neutrality Creates Fundamental Conflicts for Republicans

March 1st, 2015 · Business Management

The Republican core philosophy has always been based on individual freedom and opportunity for all. But it is a philosophy that can lead to conflict. Especially when the financial support Republicans need to fund elections comes from large corporations and wealthy elite, who favor freedom and opportunity—but for only the few.

This past week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted by a 3–2 margin to declare the Internet as essentially a public service that should be available to all on a neutral and equal basis. The theory driving the FCC’s decision is that dependence on the Internet has become so pervasive and critical to communication and cablescommerce in the country that – like public utilities and interstate commerce – unfettered access to it should be protected.

(In May of 2014, I published a blog that discussed “net neutrality.” You might find it helpful to review the issues raised at that time.)

In reporting on the FCC’s action, the media pointed out that the vote was “along party lines,” with the Democrats on the Commission voting in favor of an open and free Internet, while the Republicans voted against that concept. Last year, President Obama came out in support of what is called “net neutrality.” In his comments Obama said, “An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life.” Nevertheless, when the FCC decision was announced, the Democrats praised it and the Republicans condemned it.

While acknowledging both the importance and impact of the Internet, Republicans prefer to grant the large corporations that control access and content delivery over the Internet the right to determine what fees are charged for access and speed of content delivery. The result of that action would be to limit the best aspects of the Internet to the haves, keeping others as have-nots.

None other than the intellectually irrepressible stalwart Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas led the opposition to the FCC ruling by referring to net neutrality as “Obamacare for the Internet.” What’s going on here? We have been led to believe that the Republicans are committed to individual freedom and opportunity. In today’s world nothing speaks more to individual freedom and opportunity than does an open Internet. Companies and services such as Google, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Angie’s List, Pandora, YouTube, Amazon are children of the Internet that could not have come into being if it were not for free and equal access to the Internet. Countless millions of commercial and non-profit websites have charted the same unfettered course, websites that could have ended up here.

How can the Republicans be so entrenched in opposition to an idea – net neutrality – that goes to the very core of their professed political philosophy of individual freedom and opportunity? Don’t they constantly speak of their commitment to small business and entrepreneurs? Maybe this anti-net neutrality is simply an unthinking knee-jerk reaction to oppose anything that Obama favors. After all, this has been the operational philosophy of the Republicans from the first day Obama took office. On the other hand, the Republicans could be hiding behind their often-stated belief that any government regulation of commerce is, by its nature, bad and should be resisted. The Republicans argue that the FCC ruling is just another landmark expansion of the government’s regulatory agenda that is an anathema to individual and corporate freedom and opportunity.

Biting Your Nose to Spite . . .

The Republican logic seems a bit convoluted here. Opposition to net neutrality is consistent with their dogged rejection of virtually any government regulation, but for a political party that positions itself as the champion of small businesses and entrepreneurialism, its anti-net neutrality position is at best confusing, if not downright hypocritical.

It has been the very openness of Internet access and service that has given individuals and new businesses the freedom and opportunity to develop and flourish. The reality is that an open Internet is the only way small businesses and entrepreneurs with a creative vision can be on a level playing field with the biggest companies. It is the only way startups and the next great new idea can compete and potentially flourish.

Government regulation of the Internet may be contrary to Republicans’ belief in a free market, but restricting access to the Internet or allowing bigger companies better service, would serve only to inhibit innovation, small businesses and entrepreneurs. Why would, of all people, the Republicans now be willing to allow the Internet to fall under the control of huge, virtually monopolistic corporations, bent only on making more profits for themselves? And in the process shut off the freedom of opportunity and access for all.

There is an interesting historical irony here. Republicans have a better track record of using government power and regulations to create opportunity and protect the interests of small business and entrepreneurs than do the 92822603Democrats. Teddy Roosevelt and his successor William Taft, both Republicans, were the first to use the power of government to attempt to create a level playing field for small businesses and entrepreneurs by breaking the monopolist power of huge companies. These two Republicans did this by declaring certain activities as essentially a public service that should be regulated to assure equal access to all. The best example of this is how Roosevelt dealt with the Internet of his day – the railroads.

In the late 19th century, the railroads meant as much to commerce in this country as the Internet does today. As the railroads spread across the country there was what could be called “railroad-neutrality.” Scores of railroad companies were formed to compete for the business of transporting goods all across the country. Railroads were open and available on an equal basis to any and all who wished to ship goods to market. As a result, new businesses were created and the economy flourished. But then, unable (or unwilling) to meet the competition, railroads began to consolidate. Before long the entire railway network was under the control of only two or three “railroad trusts,” which met the competition by conspiring together to eliminate competition.

No longer were railroads “neutral” and open to any business. Those who controlled the railroads were free to charge any price they decided and to favor large shippers over smaller ones. Since there was not viable a alternative to the railroads, just as there is no alternative to the Internet, individual freedom and opportunity was suppressed; while the rich got richer. In 1906 Roosevelt pushed through legislation (the Hepburn Act) that basically declared railroads to be a public service. The law (later strengthened by Taft) gave the Interstate Commerce Commission the power to regulate railroad rates and forbid preference for larger companies. The effect was to ultimately restore “railroad neutrality” that provided access to all on an equitable basis. The result was greatly expanded opportunity and commerce.

It is sad that today’s Republicans have not learned this lesson from the Republicans of the past. There are times when the use of government power to regulate is the best way – maybe the only way – to assure a level playing field that will create individual freedom and opportunity for all. You would think the Republicans would rush to accept this concept, but instead they fight it. Then again, maybe they are just too conflicted between the principles of their party and the hundreds of millions in principal that the corporations opposed to net neutrality contribute to the Republican Party to fund their election campaigns.

Republican Teddy Roosevelt must be rolling over in his grave.    Send article as PDF   

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“They” Rule Most People’s World, but They Shouldn’t Rule Yours.

February 22nd, 2015 · Business Management

Who the Hell are “They” Anyway?

How often do you hear the phrase “they say”? As in: “They say it’s going to rain on Wednesday.” “They say the Cubs are going to have a good team this year.” “They say the climate in changing.” “They say that’s the way we always do things.” “They say you can’t do that.”

I could go on ad infinitum with examples of this ubiquitous little banality, but I think you get the point. The “they say” qualifier is so pervasive in common conversation, we pay little note to it, except to accord it a credibility it may not deserve.

The use of the “they say” phrase is generally intended to imply the relative truth or generally proven perception theysaidsurrounding the particular statement that follows. The assumption we are expected to accept is that, if “they” say it, it must be true. Even if we don’t know who “they” are, it’s assumed that this faceless group is a reasonably informed and unbiased source whose opinions are invariably better than yours.

In most cases, such as dealing with the weather, sports or politics, this lazy reliance on what “they say” is so innocuous it does little harm. However, when it comes to how we live our lives or seek career success, an important lesson to learn is that most of those who are “they sayers” are in reality “naysayers.”

If we blindly accept what “they say” and allow it to influence our attitudes and actions it can have a very deleterious impact on our future. Without taking the time to question and challenge what “they say,” – especially when it comes to our life, career and future – we run the risk that “they,” not we, will be in control of our future.

Taylor Swift best expressed this sentiment in her first hit-song, Tim McGraw:

They say not to have too much fun
They say not to get too much sun
Democrat, Republican
I guess I’m screwed, I’m neither one
Don’t say “hell”, say “what the heck”
Do what’s politically correct
Don’t pray in school, but have safe sex
Isn’t that what they expect?

Who are they?
Yea you know what they say
Who are they?
Someone I gotta pay
Who are they?

They probably own the Village Voice
The Nashville Scene, The People’s Choice
To me it is all a bunch of noise
Decided on by the funny boys
They say who does and don’t belong
They say our hair’s too short or long
They say who’s right and who is wrong
As if we’ll all just come along

Swift’s implied advice is prescient beyond her years. Where would we be today if, for example, Henry Ford had caved in to what “they” said in 1908; that manufacturing an automobile so inexpensive that even the workmen who assembled it could afford to buy one was a fanciful pipe dream? Suppose Fred Smith had taken to heart when “they said” that express overnight parcel delivery was an impossibility? That’s right. They’d be no FedEx. And how about Steve Jobs? They said in the late 1990s that Apple was finished; a has-been company doomed for the corporate junkyard. But Jobs refused to accept what “they said.” And his transformative technology reshaped one industry after another, from computers and smartphones to music and movies. In the process, of course, he also reshaped our lives.  As a side note, Taylor Swift would probably be writing poetry while on Wal-Mart coffee breaks today if she had accepted the “truth” that major music publishing houses don’t hire teenage songwriters (she landed her first writing gig at Sony/ATV when she was 14).

You are probably going to meet a lot of “theys” in your life and career, just as Ford, Smith, Jobs and many others did. I know I have. They want us to believe that they know what is best and that it is best for us to go along with what they say.

From my perspective, the best way to respond to what they say is to say, “you don’t say.” In other words, you should be the one to have the say, not they. If we blindly allow the “they says” to influence our thoughts and actions, the opportunity to prove that they were wrong will be lost.

The problem is that “they says” evolve into a set of rules promulgated by an amorphous group of “theys.” These cheattowincoverbecome presumptions and assumed truths that must be followed because they say so.  Some of the biggest “they say” edicts I have experienced include: “They say you can’t attack the traditional products of the industry.” “They say you can’t start a new life insurance company.” “They say you can’t give all employees ownership in the company.” “They say you can’t write a book titled, Cheat To Win. Thank goodness I didn’t listen to what they say.

The truth is that success is easier when we don’t allow what “they say” to determine what we do. Listen to their idle pronouncements with a cheerful inner indifference. The key question you’ll be silently asking is who “they” are. Challenge the “they says” and when you do, more often than not, you will find they lack credence. Careers should not be built on what “they say.” Rather, a career should be based on what you say and do.

The next time someone throws a “they say” at you – especially when it pertains to what you want to achieve – stop, question and challenge the assumptions behind the “they say.” If you find their views based more or custom and assumption than reality – and you often will – you will recognize the opportunity to prove that what you say is more viable than what they say. The poet Edgar Guest noted that when he wrote:

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
      There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
      The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
      Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
      That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

The real path to success, is not what “they” said, but what “we” did.    Send article as PDF   

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