Political Cycle: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I’m surprised I don’t see more stories about how this election is just another example of how sick people are of both parties. For the last few decades, any time one party held all the power, they lost it as soon as possible. The only time that a party stays in power in one area is when they aren’t in the other.  People are fed up of both parties trying to push their one-sided agenda, so they keep switching power back and forth between them Yet, politicians don’t seem to clue in. Republicans will get power back, they’ll do stupid stuff, and then Democrats will regain power.
Etc, etc
How long will it take before it stops? Or are we so entrenched in this system that the powers that be will maintain it? I just don’t get why people, of both parties, will admit that this is a problem, then continue to vote their career politician into office.

Target and Corporate Campaign Spending

Target has come under fire for a recent $150k donation to a group in Minnesota called MN Forward. They are a pro-business group that supports Tom Emmer, a Republican running for governor in MN. While Emmer has business friendly proposals, he also has voiced opposition to gay marriage and other gay rights.

The site MoveOn.org has proposed a petition to boycott the store due to the fact that they support a candidate who opposes gay rights, but also because they disagree with corporate donations to political agendas. I have a feeling that the first of those is really the underlying issue. Interestingly, on the MoveOn.org homepage right now, the Target item is still the main point, despite that yesterday the AFL-CIO said that they would spend well over $50 million before the November elections to support Democratic candidates. To be fair, the AFL-CIO is not a corporation, but they are definitely a special interest group, which MoveOn claims to be opposed to. I agree with MoveOn when they say corporations are not people, but I also I don’t think a labor union is a person either. Sure, they “represent” people (laborers), but really so does a corporation (shareholders). Both are going to do everything they can in order to reap the most benefits for those they represent.

As a reminder, the Citizens United ruling affected both corporations and unions. Something that the MoveOn.org site seems to fail to mention.

Target will do whatever it can to get higher profits. That’s what their job is, and they use various methods to do it. One of these was to give $150k to a group that supports a candidate that will try to enact policies they favor. Another thing they do is give a ton of money to charity. I honestly don’t think that they don’t give away all this money because they feel a moral obligation to do so, I think they do it as a PR gig in order to drive sales. Really, though, it doesn’t matter why they do it, they still do it. Every dollar I spend at Target, some small portion of that comes back to my community. I’m buying cookies, and helping some school or something. Does this influence my buying habits? Heck no, I go where it’s cheap, but a lot of people do take note.

What’s my point with all of this? A couple, actually. My main one is that I don’t think you should boycott Target for this. As far as “evil corporations” go, Target is actually pretty good. They’re just looking out for their best interest, the same way any other entity would be it a person, company, or nonprofit organization. Second, if you do feel like you need to stop shopping there, think about why. Is it just because you disagree with someone they indirectly support, or is it because you don’t think a company should be able to give to a political cause? If it’s the former, I can understand. If you’re doing it for the latter, though, as MoveOn.org suggests, I ask that you rethink your reasoning. Would you stop sending your kid to school in NJ because the teachers union there spent $6 million in ads against Chris Christie simply because you don’t think special interest groups should spend on political ads? Not supporting something because it backs someone you disagree with is one thing, but to get mad when a corporation gives money to a political cause while ignoring that unions do the same seems a bit hypocritical.

Political Stuff

I don’t usually get too political with what I write on here, though it’s usually not hard to get a sense of my leanings. That said, a friend of mine sent out an email with a few links to things regarding the election on Tuesday. I figured I’d repost part of it here, so that people can get pointed to some interesting pieces.


I want to share a few articles since they stirred my thoughts on the elections this year, but perhaps more informatively, I will share what little advice I can offer regarding election night.  I am not involved with the elections this year–I don’t know what my election-night plans are the month before for the first time since before 1996–, so I can’t say what has changed.  But the answer is probably: not much.  
Here are the WSJ pieces (they’ve become my most recent favorite source for election-related commentary):
  • This piece contains some new & interesting ideas, particularly given the author’s past experience: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122533157015082889.html
  • This piece contains the reality I have been trying to propound to people about polling during this election cycle (along with a glimmer of hope): http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122533149619882883.html  To be blunter about it: if someone tells you they have any idea how this will turn out, that person is lying.  The polls this cycle are likely to be radically inaccurate because we’re likely to hit new historical markers for which there is no past data.  Increased black turnout, increased young voter turnout (often predicted, rarely realized), and perhaps anti-Obama racial effects may all show up in this election to some extent.  No one knows how these will play out.  Lots of guesswork is going on right now, and it’s not any more than that, which is also why even daily margins on these polls is so extreme.  That said, it’s telling that all of the polls are leaning towards an Obama win: McCain is very likely behind–but by how much, no one knows.
  • This piece sets up the stakes of this election for our economic philosophy better than anything else I’ve read (Karthik: this goes to the comment you made the other day about a “better product.”): http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122533132337982833.html
I especially like the last piece because the author connects the themes from Obama’s plans and talks about the rhetoric.  Obama’s use of “investment” in that way upset me as well–investment denotes that we can hope to see a non-zero financial return.  It’s yet another example of how he won the rhetorical battle throughout this election.
These pieces pretty much mirror what I’ve been thinking and telling people. The polls are interesting too look at, but in reality, the race is far from being decided. That’s not to say that an Obama blowout isn’t possible, but just saying that it’s not actually a sure thing, as some polls make it seem. I hope that you guys find them interesting as well. 

More Election Brilliance

As a lot of you know, I live in Texas and March 4 was our big day.  Of course, that means that there’s going to be a lot of stuff about the elections that are from here on the local level.  I was reading one of the local papers here yesterday, and they were interviewing some people after they had voted.  One of the things that they were honing in on was the way that females were voting.  They were talking about how ladies had a difficult choice to make between voting for Hillary, because she’s a woman, or voting for Obama, because they agree with him on things.  Here’s one of the good quotes, talking about women that like Obama.

"…and some of Obama’s biggest fans were unable to vote for him, fearing a vote against Clinton would be a vote against their gender."

Hmm, so that’s a good idea.  Let’s not vote for who we think will be the better president, and instead vote for someone just because they’re the same sex as us.  The reasons that some people have for voting astound me.  If the reason that you are voting for someone is just because they are black, or a girl, or an old rich white guy, then you really don’t need to be voting.  Vote based on character, on where they stand on issues, and on how well you think they’d do the job.  People need to vote for someone that they want to be president because they think they would be the best president, not because they want them to be the first black, first woman, or oldest. 

On a somewhat related note, if you actually did want to vote for Hillary, check out what Lawrence Lessig has to say about it, it’s very interesting.

Rebate Ridiculousness

I bought a hard drive a while ago from a brick and mortar store.  A while later, I got an email from the company telling me that they were now offering mail in rebates for the drive, and that I would be getting one.  Here’s that email.

Dear Jeremy,
We’re happy to announce that we’re trying to make an effort to increase business, and to do so by offering mail in rebates to our customers.  We see that you recently purchased a hard drive from us, and this qualifies for a rebate.  Please be patient as we process these, but recipients should be receiving checks in the next four to six weeks.

Sam Peterson

Well hot dog, right?  Just had to buy the thing, and I’m going to be getting some money back.  I waited for the check to come, but it never did.  After eight weeks, I emailed the company.

Dear Mr. Peterson,
I was thrilled to hear about the rebate offer you announced some time ago.  In the email, you stated that I should expect the check in four to six weeks, however, it has been eight and I’ve seen no signs of it.  I just wanted to make sure there were no errors in my information, or if I just need to wait longer.


The next day I heard back from the company.  I was a little taken aback by what they had to tell me.

Dear Jeremy,
Hi Jeremy, thanks for your email.  I’m glad to hear that you were happy to hear about our program to help increase business.  Rest assured that we have all of your information correct, and that you don’t need to worry about waiting any longer.  While you were the one to purchase the hard drive, we have sent your rebate money to a Mr. Christopher Johnson.  He contacted us requesting that we send a check to him. I hope this clears up any confusion. 

Sam Peterson

That just made me even more confused.  They had everything correct, but they sent my check to someone else?  That doesn’t make much sense at all.  I decided to go ahead and email back trying to dig a little deeper to see if I could find out why my money went to some other guy.

Dear Mr. Peterson
Thank you for your attempts to explain where my check went.  I must admit, though, that I’m even more confused now than before.  Why exactly did my rebate check get sent to someone I’ve never even heard of?  Was there a mistake?  If it was my rebate money, should it not have come to me?  I appreciate any further clarification.


The following day he responded.  This time, though, his response made even less sense than before.  I don’t know what’s going on.

Dear Jeremy,
Don’t worry, there was no mistake at all.  While you were the one to purchase the hard drive, we decided to send your money to someone else.  Mr. Johnson never actually bought anything from us, but since he asked us to send him money, we used yours.  We believe that since you had the money to purchase the hard drive in the first place, that you probably don’t need any more.  We do appreciate all of the money that you do give us, though. We look forward to you giving us more in the future, as we won’t likely be getting any from Mr. Johnson.

Sam Peterson

So let me see if I understand how this works.  I give them my money, then they just give my money to someone else?  I’d rather that they just kept it for themselves and used it to make improvements.  I fail to see how exactly this is a rebate program.  Don’t rebates usually entail you giving them money, then they give it back?  Not, you give them money, then they give it to someone else.  Am I completely off base here?  If they really don’t need the money, they should give it back to whomever gave it to them.  If they do need the money, don’t give any of it back.  Use it to improve the company.  Let me know what you think.

Glad We Have Our Priorities Straight

I was reading over an article on the New York Times online about the results of the New Hampshire caucus, and some of the things that it talks about are truly amazing. 

First, let’s look at why a candidate thinks you should vote for them, and why they think they are the best candidate.  Here is a bit that address why Mrs. Clinton thinks you should vote for her. (emphasis mine)

Mr. Obama, who trailed in most state and national polls until his surprisingly broad victory in the Iowa caucuses last week, was seen by New Hampshire Democrats and independents as the Democratic candidate most likely to defeat the Republican nominee in November, a marked turnaround from earlier surveys. Mrs. Clinton has cited her strength and electability against Republicans as the strongest argument for her candidacy.

Ah, so that’s why we need to vote for Hillary: she can win in a vote against the Republicans.  See, I was under the impression that maybe we should vote for her because we agree with her views on Iraq, or healthcare or something.  I didn’t realize that we were supposed to be voting for who had the best chance at winning instead of who we want to see elected.  Maybe this is a problem that is only on the Democrat side, though.  Maybe those Republican voters won’t be so bad.  Let’s take a look. (emphasis mine)

As they had in Iowa, Democrats cited a desire for change in making their votes. Republicans said leadership and personal qualities were more important to them than positions on the issues.

Oh, well that’s refreshing to see.  The Republicans aren’t all concerned with who might win the election, they just look at what type of person the candidate is.  I don’t really know if that’s all that much better or not.  Apparently, for Republicans, they don’t really care whether or not the candidate agrees with them on economic policy, or tax reform.  No, they just want to make sure that he’s a good Christian that loves his family.

So, really, are either of these things all that bad?  Shouldn’t we be interested in electing someone that has a chance at winning so we don’t just hand the race over to the other guy?  Shouldn’t we also be interested in making sure that the person is a decent human being so that we can assume they won’t think genocide is a good idea?  Yes, to both of these.  However, to make them your primary focus is a horrible idea.  The concept of looking at non-issues when determining who deserves your vote is why we’re in the current situation.  And no, that’s not directly solely at Bush, I mean politics in general.  By taking away the issues (and I really should clarify that I mean all issues, not just the issues that get mentioned on CNN), we reduce the race to a contest of not who would do a better job, but who we like more.  We’re not voting for homecoming queen here, we’re voting for the person that will be the figurehead of our country.  You shouldn’t hire someone that knows nothing about tax law to do your taxes just because he’s a good guy, and you shouldn’t hire someone to be your president just because they have better poll numbers. 

This is exactly why we shouldn’t leave it up to the idiots to pick a president.

Keeping Our Borders Safe for Crossing

I’d like to congratulate Bush on his plan for placing Guardsmen on our border in order to “protect” us from illegal crossings. Three Texas Guardsmen were just arrested for smuggling over illegals, and taking them as far north as Dallas. The article doesn’t say how many total people were brought across, but it seems like they were doing about 20 a trip. When they got caught, they had 24 in the van. The van was even leased by the National Guard. I’m glad to see our money going directly to assist the crossing of the border by migrants. See, not only do we pay for the guys to drive you, we even pay for the vehicle!

Drink Coke? Stop Saying There’s Genocide in Dafur

When I first heard that Sudan had threatened to cut off the world’s supply of Coca-Cola I thought it must be some kind of joke. Sadly, it doesn’t look like that’s the case. The ambassador, John Ukec Lueth Ukec, spent an hour denying the killing that is going on in Dafur. He claims that there is nothing wrong going on, and that his country is actually building the world’s best democracy. Johnny said that the U.S. is the only country in the world that claims there is genocide happening, and that the sanctions imposed must stop. His threat if the U.S. doesn’t back off? Sudan will stop the export of gum arabic, which is required in the production of Coca-Cola. His country accounts for 80% of the world’s supply. I guess that they have us beat. How can we survive without our Coke?

Pedal to the Metal

I actually don’t have a big problem with speed cameras, despite my driving habits. I can’t say I’m for the use of them, though. My real beef is the red light cameras. Ironically, I don’t ever worry about getting a ticket from one of these, I just don’t believe they do any good. In fact, I’m of the school of thought that they are actually more likely to do harm. The fact that the companies that sell them tout how much more revenue the city can get, not how many accidents can be prevented, should tell you something. Either way, I’m glad that the Texas House just passed a bill that will prevent the use of speed cameras and require warning signs for red light cameras. Perhaps we can ban the use of the red light ones one day too.

Ronny has a Point

I have not really paid a lot of attention to the current debates and goings on of the presidential race. The main reason for this is that the 2008 election is basically going to be picking who sucks the least instead of who is the best. It is a little like the tagline for that horrible Alien vs. Predator movie, “Whoever wins….we lose.” That really isn’t the point of this post, though. If you have been paying much attention to the internet over the last few days, you’ll have noticed that there are a lot of people out there that support Ron Paul. I don’t know a ton about the guy yet, but apparently he said some things that upset people. Namely, in the Republican presidential debate in South Carolina, he said that part the reason for the Sept. 11 attacks was a backlash against our involvement in the Middle East. Giuliani did not like this one bit, and shot Paul down saying that it was absurd, and that he had never heard of anything like that being suggested. This made the audiance roar and cheer for Rudy. That is pretty funny, when you consider that bin Laden himself has said that’s why they did it.
CNN’s Roland Martin writes today that Ron Paul’s point deserves some debate. Personally, I don’t think that it is his point that needs to be debated, but rather, what can we do to prevent pissing people off further, and defending ourselves if we do piss them off. That’s right, just cause we wrong someone doesn’t mean that I’m all for them coming over and killing us. The same way that I don’t think they’re too keen on the reversal. In the end, this is all some fairly interesting stuff that you definitely need to educate yourself on if you want to make an informed decision about the future.