The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

NO EINSTEINS NEED APPLY

God invented cream cheese for two reasons.  The first, of course, is as an ingredient in Cheesecake.  The second is for the liberal application of that substance on bagels.  (Without cream cheese, bagels have no reason to exist).

Perhaps, like me, you occasionally get a craving for something.  In my case it was for a bagel with a liberal amount of cream cheese applied to its toasted surface.  So I went to the best bagel bakery in town – only to find it had closed.  This shocked me since we have a relatively large and well-heeled Jewish population in Las  Vegas who I would have thought supported such a place.

Well, I’ve tried the bagels before in the large supermarkets but they are simply unpalatable (no matter how much cream cheese is applied to them).  So I went to a bagel bakery/deli very near my house and found that their doors were locked.  There was no sign on the door indicating the reason for that – so I assumed there had been some sort of family emergency which prevented them from opening.

Of course my taste buds were simply going berserk by now – but I decided to hold off until the following day and pick up my bagels.  But when I returned the next morning, a sign had been posted on the door which read “Store for Rent.”  Imagine, two bagel joints going out of business within a week.

Then I remembered there was an Einstein Bros. Bagel restaurant about a mile and a half down the road.  While I hadn’t truly loved their bagels five years before when I last ate one, they were still a step up from the ones at the supermarkets.  So I drove down there.  I needed a cream cheese/bagel fix bad.

It was relatively early in the morning, about 7:45 and I expected the restaurant to be full of customers picking up their “to go” orders as they went to work.  Much to my surprise (and delight), I was the only person in the store other than the cashier and three young women who were standing behind the bagel display.

I saw the sign, hanging from the ceiling that said, “Order Here” which was directly over the display case and I walked over to order.  On the wall there was a listing of the various bagels which one could purchase, though I found it easier to choose by looking at the bagels in the case.  And after a few seconds I had decided on one “Everything Bagel”; one “Garlic Bagel”; and one “Onion Bagel”.  I was ready to order.

Unfortunately, none of the three young women seemed remotely interested in interrupting their conversation in order to accommodate my wishes.  They were thoroughly rapt in discussing where they were going to get their next tattoos done and who did the best “Eyebrow Weaving” (whatever that is).  I checked my watch and waited patiently for two minutes.  Then I made a small, “Ahem” which they managed to ignore.

Finally, in pure desperation, I said, “Excuse me … would there be someone available to take an order?”  One of them looked at me, obviously annoyed that I had interrupted her conversation with her co-workers and said, “Whaddya want?”

I placed my order and she donned a plastic glove to pull the bagels from the case.  “For here or to go?”  She said this with all the delicacy of a hippo in rut.  I overlooked the fact that most individuals, particularly of my size are unlikely to eat three bagels in one sitting so I politely responded, “They’re to go, please.”

“Do ya wan em sliced?”

“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, I would appreciate that,” I responded.

She then took my purchase down to the cashier who appeared a bit relieved that she actually had something to do.  As she rang them up I noticed she charged me $1.19 for one of the bagels and $1.29 for the other two.  (Frankly, paying more than $.75 for a bagel is, in my opinion, tantamount to highway robbery.  But I was desperate).

I did question why there was a price difference.  The cashier, armed with the answer to this question went on to explain.

“Well, your ‘Everything Bagel’ is one of our Classic bagels but your ‘Onion’ and ‘Garlic” bagels are Signature bagels.”  Feeling light-hearted that I was soon about to satiate my craving, I responded jokingly, “Well, who signed the bagels and where would I find the signature?”  Needless to say, the humor in this comment was totally lost.  I could see her brain was in a loop as she asked herself a question that had probably crossed her mind many times, “Why do I always get the retards when I’m cashiering?”  As an act of pure compassion I said, don’t worry, I’ll find out for myself.

So I paid for my purchase and slathered lots of cream cheese on my bagel as soon as it popped out of the toaster.  All things considered, I gave the bagel itself about a 6.5 and the overall experience of shopping at Einstein Bros. Bagels about a 3.5.  In other words, it was pretty close to the average of quality and level of service that I have come to find in most retail outlets.

It may be some time until my bagel craving returns.  That is the nature of cravings – they are evanescent.  But I’ve armed myself for its recurrence by finding several recipes for making homemade bagels.  They really don’t sound that tough.  I have all the ingredients but I do need a stylus so that I can sign my work and create my very own “Signature Bagels”.

In the meantime, all the cream cheese that I bought on sale that I thought I would apply over 12 days to the dozen bagels I anticipated purchasing did not go to waste.

You see, I do make a killer cheesecake.

OOPS!!! (Or: DO I HAVE EGG ON MY FACE?)

It was February 7, 2013 and I sat down to write my more or less daily post.  My laptop and I exchanged blank stares at each other – it waiting for me to do something that would stimulate it into activity.  But as I sat there, all that went through my head was “white noise” – a tabula rasa where something clever should have been.  So I said to myself, “Self – you’ve written a lot and you’re entitled to a day off.”  So I took one.

I was no more stimulated the following day or the next.  I mean, with the failure of the Mayan Apocalypse to materialize, the world was as brain dead as ever and I guessed that I had joined the ranks of the Great Unthinking.

No matter how much I contorted myself, I just couldn’t squeeze out anything that I thought would be of interest to anyone – myself included.  So I decided to take a week off from blogging.  And I did.  If this was an example of writer’s block, I was the ultimate blockhead.

Armed with a week’s rest I was certain that my remaining 27 brain cells would have had sufficient time to recharge and get me going again.  However, I was feeling no more inspired than a week before and I thought that I should just go on a somewhat indefinite leave.  But I didn’t want any of those who were following this blog to worry about my physical well-being (I know some of you have concern for the state of my mental health), so I wrote up a nice post and scheduled it to be published a week later – thinking that just in case the Muse came to pay a call on me I could cancel it.

The Muse must have been on vacation because I wasn’t feeling any more insightful that week than the previous one – so I thought, I’ll get back to blogging when I’m feeling inspired again.  (And I’d covered my bases with the pre-scheduled explanation).

The only thing that went wrong with this plan – (I had never used Scheduler before) was that I forgot to push the button – which I only just discovered this afternoon.  OOPS!!!

My apologies to all those who have expressed concern.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your checking on me.  But I am alive and well and ready to spring back into action.  (That is in earnest after I cull through the 12,000 emails that have accumulated in my absence).

I hope all of you are well and I look forward to visiting with all of you very soon.

LET’S GET DOPEY

This is normally a “G” or on occasion a “PG” rated blog (I gave it those ratings – not a government agency) so parents need not worry about exposing their children to this post.  This is not about killing one of the Seven Dwarfs.  Rather, it’s about how technology is facilitating our getting dumber and dumber.

Once upon a time there was an expression which went, “He had to live by his wits.”  That time is past and that is a fortunate thing for most of us.  If we lived by our wits or perished, the funeral home industry would be working round the clock, seven days a week and there would still be a backlog of bodies to process.

I was inspired to write this post because of an event that happened yesterday.  I used one of the greatest technological inventions of all time, the car horn and saved a life from being extinguished because of another, more modern technological advance, the “smart” cell phone.  I’ll get to the details of the incident in just a moment.

When I blew the horn on my car I wasn’t even sure if it still worked.  I think it’s been about three years since I heard it – and that only because I was getting out of my car with a large bag of groceries in my hands and I accidentally bumped into it.  That naturally startled the dogs who were milling around waiting for me to open the door of the house so I, of course, apologized to them and they forgave me.

If there’s anything that really irks me it is the idiot who is one centimeter from your rear bumper as you are waiting for a stop light to change and when it does, one nano-second after the green light is displayed, lays on his horn to advise you of the fact.  I am very attentive to changes in stop light coloration so this is unnecessary.  Because I do not enjoy being “honked at” I don’t do it to other people.  So for me to employ my horn means that something really critical is in progress.

Returning to the incident … I was driving to the dog park with Gracie when a young man walked into the street almost directly in front of our car with his eyes firmly affixed to the screen of his cell phone.  I would have guessed him to be in his early twenties and unlikely to reach his early thirties.

Fortunately, at the early hour I could see there was no traffic coming the other way so I swerved into the opposite lane and gave a quick toot on the horn to see if I could rouse him from his fixation on the cell phone screen.  In the process of swerving to avoid hitting him, Gracie got jammed up against one side of the wagon and banged her right side on the car frame.  I am pleased to say that she, the young man and I all survived relatively unscathed.

I pulled the car over to the side of the road and my first reaction was to be angry with this cell phone-fixated fellow.  Then I remembered that I have promised myself to try to be nice and kind and gentler to the people I meet.  But I did think that it was important that he understood that his actions might have involved all of us in a life-changing event.

I got out of the car to speak with him.  He had lowered the cell phone and was apparently beginning to grasp what had happened on his own.  Nevertheless, I thought it was appropriate that I let him know my thoughts on the subject and I presented them in the nicest and kindest and most gentle way I could muster considering that my knees were shaking moderately because of all of this.

Well, I found out the source of his fixation.  It was his girl friend.  He had spent the night at her house and was walking back to his apartment when she sent him a text message saying that she didn’t want to see him anymore.  He was naturally surprised,shocked and “distracted” by this announcement, coming only twenty minutes or so after he had left her.

I didn’t see the text message so I don’t know if this was an excuse for his lack of paying attention.  If it was the truth, what does it say about our ability to communicate?  We now can use technology to trivialize our relations with others, shielding ourselves behind its cold flat panel screens.  Other than in a philosophical way, it didn’t really matter to me whether he was telling the truth or making up an excuse.  So we took our leave and went on about our business.

You are probably thinking that proves nothing about how using technology is “dumbing us down” and you would be right on the money.  Anything has a potential to be used or misused and it is up to us to make the choice.

There is nothing inherently right or wrong in sending or receiving an email or text message.  Of course, if the email contains a death threat or pornographic images of children, we believe that is wrong.  Although not in a legal sense, I would argue that there is something inherently wrong if staying in touch is so pressing that it jeopardizes our life.

To many of us, being able to access information almost instantaneously is very important.  If it weren’t, various network providers would not have run extensive advertising campaigns about how their service provides the greatest geographical coverage and quickest download times.

In the case of this young man, let’s agree that his need to access his communication while paying attention to it and not the fact that public streets often contain moving vehicles was a poor choice on his part and not the fault of the technology which enabled him to do that.  That many people engage in that exact form of behavior should be clear from all the furor over drivers who “text” while they operate their vehicles.

I am moderately surprised that the FCC, as an extension of our paternalistic government, hasn’t advocated for the abolition of all cell phones based on the danger that they pose to those of us who misuse them in this way.  My only explanation for why that hasn’t been proposed is that acting thus in the “public interest” might put them out of a job.  That, and the fact that our cell phone dependent populace might lynch them.

When I was learning to type, Mom who was my instructress, emphasized that “accuracy matters.”  I remember all the exercises, how I placed my hands on the typewriter’s keyboard, learning where all the letters were and finally, without having to look, being able to create words and sentences – and to do it quickly.  At my peak I typed over 140 wpm with 100% accuracy.

In those days of carbon paper and manual typewriters, accuracy was important.  If you messed up you might have to correct one or more copies by manually erasing the error and re-striking the correct letter in its place.  This created a product that looked sloppy.  So we invented “corrassable” paper which left far fewer smudges.  And we invented “White Out” to cover our mistakes – but this still left evidence on the printed page.

We moved from manual typewriters to electric ones and IBM invented the “Selectric” typewriter which could remove an error on the original document by re-striking the mistake while hitting the “X” key and magically it would disappear.  Of course these early technological advances in written communication were primitive by comparison to what is available to us today.

We can move whole paragraphs around and if we find a mistake we made earlier, we no longer have to crank a carriage to return to the scene of the crime.  We merely cursor up and over it, delete the error and correct it.

If our spelling isn’t that great we have the magic of spell check to guide us and suggest for us what it is that we meant to say.  So why make the effort to learn to spell when technology can make up for our learning disabilities?  The answer is that we don’t.

I used to pride myself on being able to type a document quickly and accurately.  Let me be honest and tell you that in typing this post I’ve probably made at least 100 errors and corrections – so far.  I’ve deleted whole paragraphs and replaced them with others.  I’ve typed incorrect characters and backspaced to eradicate them.  I’ve substituted words and phrases which I felt added a better nuance to the piece.

I do proofread my work because I take pride in it and want to present a professionally written post for you to read.  But I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times, after I’ve published a post, I’ve caught an error or decided to add to or delete something that I had previously written and simply changed the piece after publication.

It’s as though I were an author whose works were available in hardbound book form and after publication, an erratum on page 47 line 6 was discovered.  So magically, at the press of a button, it was corrected on all the copies that were already in circulation.  That master of illusion, David Copperfield has nothing on technology.

What I hope I am conveying to you is that my once accurate approach to typing has been dying a slow death.  I still probably accurately type faster and better than most – but that is only because I had many years of practice where it wasn’t the better choice but the only choice.  And if you think that this wasn’t important, I made a lot of money in high school and college typing up other students’ term papers at fifty cents a page.

Today, however, by relying on technology I will be the first to admit that I’ve gotten sloppy.  It bothers me and I still strive for accuracy.  It is, in the end, far more efficient to do it right the first time than to have to re-do something – even if re-doing it is now far simpler.

I suspect that those who have grown up in and only know our present environment have little or no understanding of this concept – which is not their fault.  That they are technologically dependent rather than self-reliant speaks directly to the root cause of at least some of our problems as a society.

A few days ago I was speaking with the mother of a three month old baby boy.  She was telling me that the new brand of disposable diapers she just purchased, (another technological advance that is one of the greatest contributors to the pollution in our landfills), has a strip which changes color when the diaper is wet.  I don’t know what extra amount the manufacturer is charging for this feature but I know she is paying for the convenience of it.  Mom used to know when my cloth diapers were wet either through a visual or touch test.  I mean, how hard is this?

Later that day one of the guys at the park asked if anyone knew where the least expensive place was to buy razor blades.  The men standing around made several suggestions.  This fellow said that his last razor blade cartridge had “just gone white.”  I didn’t understand what the meant so I asked him to explain and he did.

Apparently there is a little strip at the top of each of these which starts out green and as the blades dull becomes lighter in color until it finally turns white which means that it is time to replace it.  I asked innocently, “Wouldn’t you know that because the cartridge is producing less smooth shaves or pulling at your beard?”  I thought that was a reasonable question.

He and the other men looked at me as though I were from the planet Uranus (as it was formerly pronounced).  I wish my dad were still here so I could ask him how he learned when it was time for him to change the double edge blade he used in his “safety razor.”

Now please don’t get me wrong.  We have made technological advances which I wouldn’t trade for the world.  Today’s air conditioning beats the pants off our version of a bowl of ice and an oscillating fan that was the best we could do to cool ourselves when I was growing up.  This is just one of hundreds of improvements to which I could point.

But when we allow technology (or for that matter another person) to do our thinking for us, we give up, if Descartes was correct, our right to call ourselves human.  And I have often wondered, if all the satellites and the batteries suddenly disappeared, how many of us would be able to find our way home?

FINGER POINTING

Mother once gave me a lecture on politeness which included the phrase, “It’s very rude to point your finger at someone.”  Apparently, those who are the copy writers for political ads and those candidates who conclude them by saying, “I’m So and So and I approve this message,” never got the same talking to from their own parents.  More’s the pity.

When people brought Barack Obama into the White House in 2008 it was on a theme of “Hope and Change”.  Things were tough.  We knew they were tough.  The newly elected President campaigned on the theme that while things were tough, he was going to fix all that.

Simply put, he didn’t.  In fact, by many metrics, those things that were tough have gotten even tougher.  The current mantra of the President’s ads is that things are actually getting better; that he has a plan which needs time to work; and that we should stick with him for another term.  It is an ad featuring a far less confrontational Obama than we have seen during the last four years.

Much of the hyperbole about why things are tough and it’s going to take longer than he thought to get everything working again, is his predecessor, President George W. Bush.  Apparently, virtually everything that has gone awry in the universe since the Big Bang is the fault of this misanthrope from Texas.  But let’s examine the facts for a moment – that is for those of you who think that facts matter.

Yesterday the Bureau of Labor Statistics provided the Unemployment Report for September.  It showed that from the previous month, the rate of unemployment went from 7.8% to 7.9%.  I have attached the link to this report for you to review.  No matter how we garner our information, I believe that it is essential for the intelligent individual to do her or his own research and make sure that the sources on which they are relying are honest and factual.  That is one of the reasons I seldom listen to the popular media for my news.

http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/lauhsthl.htm

There are two items on the report that leap off the page at me.  The first is then candidate Obama’s claim that he would bring unemployment down to a mere 5.2%.  There is only one state in which that is the case, Iowa which can boast the lowest unemployment rate in the country with only 5.2%.

I guess that there a lot of ways that you can spin this – and which all the President’s men will spin it – if they choose to acknowledge it at all.  But my take on this is that for those residents of 49 of the 50 states, Obama has failed to deliver on this specific promise.  Because I always like to hear alternative views, please feel free to leave a comment should you have a different interpretation.

The second item that appears obvious from this report is that under President Bush’s watch, 35 out of the 50 states enjoyed the lowest levels of unemployment since they started recording these statistics.  Check the list out for yourself to verify this statement.  And what was the average rate of unemployment in those states during those awful years while Bush was in charge?  The answer – 2.91%.  In other words, going from the years in which we enjoyed the lowest unemployment rates under President Bush to the current statistics under President Obama, we have seen a 271% rise in the rate of unemployment.

The President’s most recent kinder gentler ad suggests that his “plan” is working and we should just stick with him.  As does another ad that is narrated by Morgan Freeman that beings, “Every President inherits challenges..”.  Well, back to our old nemesis President Bush.

There is no question that President Bush’s policies gave rise to a substantial increase in the National Debt.  Part of that was financing wars which he deemed in our “national interest” and part of that was accompanying those with tax reductions, best known as the “Bush tax cuts”.  Every householder knows that if you reduce your income and spend more than you take in, eventually you’ll run out of money.  And we have.

Sadly, President Bush was a mere novice in delivering a message of under-earning and overspending which is why under President Obama we have seen an increase in the official National Debt of $6 Trillion, a 60% increase in a mere four years to a record $16 Trillion.  Part of that increase is certainly due to the tax cuts that were put in place in 2001/2003 and which are set to expire on December 31st of this year.

Did you notice the dates when those decreases were enacted?  They became effective eleven years ago.  Mitt Romney has argued in favor of continuing them as they currently stand on the books – at least until such the time that the economy really begins humming.  This is his plan to “benefit the rich by slashing their taxes $200,000 per year” of which he is accused in almost every Obama ad.  We have been living with this plan for over a decade – so I hardly think that Gov. Romney deserves either credit or opprobrium for thinking it up.

But there is a further point that I would like to make.  Those who have been employed during the past decade, as a result of the Bush tax cuts, received an average additional amount of take home income of about $50 per week.

The first time your paycheck reflected this increase, do you recall either saying yourself or hearing a co-worker say, “You know, I’m kind of worried.  If we keep spending more than we’re taking in, we might run into trouble six or seven years down the road.”  Or did you happily accept the increase, take your wife out for a nice dinner, buy a couple of new electronic gizmos and trade up to a newer model car?

“Give the people what they want.”  It’s an old political saying.  And Americans want and believe we’re entitled to a lot – perhaps more than we truly deserve.  It’s really a pity that when it comes to electing people who are going either to run the country or run it into the ground, we have expectations that are far lower.

And I guess that if I have to point a finger at anyone, (sorry Mom) it would be at those of us who think this is an acceptable way to run a country – or anything else.

DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS

What really is in Mitt Romney’s years of tax returns that he has not released for public gawking?  Apparently only he, his wife, their accountants, the IRS and Sen. Harry Reid really know.

You may recall that about a month ago the good Majority Leader of the Senate made the declamation that “he had proof” that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid any taxes for ten years.  Having laid that unsubstantiated bombshell on the public, there has been nothing further forthcoming from Sen. Reid on the subject.

Frankly, neither I nor the intelligent segment of the American public really cares whether that is true – other than to point to the incredible stupidity of our massive tax code which no one can understand – including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who failed to pay his own taxes correctly.  The Tax Code should be overhauled so that it is not only equitable but understandable to the average Jane Citizen.

A few days ago Sen. Reid was “involved” in a six car collision here in Las Vegas.  Not only was his vehicle damaged but two that were being driven by Capitol Police and two Metro Police cars, all four of which were “escorting” him were involved.  Now I do not know if the Senator was at fault in causing this accident since the media coverage conspicuously avoided describing the circumstances surrounding it.  But if the Senator’s driving skills are as compelling as his ability to bringing a budget to the floor of the Senate, I think that is a good possibility.

I’m not sure who the occupant of the last car was, but you can be pretty certain he was a Republican who had not yet participated in early voting.

Throughout this campaign, President Obama’s ads have leveled charges that Mr. Romney isn’t “paying his fair share” – or more accurately – “his fair percentage.”  This makes for good sound bytes and gets people riled up and angry – which has been a hallmark of the achievements of the Obama campaign.

People who couldn’t, with or without the use of a calculator, tell you what percentage 87/299 is,are totally stoked by this inequity.  The fact that Mr. Romney and his wife paid $3 Million or so compared to their $10,000 doesn’t seem to impress those who buy into this rhetoric as being “fair”.  Again, you can hardly lay the blame at Mr. Romney’s feet when it deserves to be leveled against those who wrote the code under which he made his contribution to the welfare of the nation.

Frankly, if I had been an advisor to Mr. Romney, I would have simply said, “Show them the returns and let them have fun with them.”  I would also have used that as an opportunity to address the fact that we need, not to revise, but to re-do the tax code.

Just think about all the jobs we could eliminate at the IRS, and H & R Block and public accounting firms if we had a flat tax.  We would no longer need those handy dandy tax software preparation programs nor would the firms that provide them need software developers.  And the amount of paper that we would save!  We could cut back on the number of loggers and employees at paper manufacturers as well, even as we were saving some of our remaining trees and forests.  And let us not forget that with the reduction in advertising all these tax preparation services, we could slash quite a few jobs in the media as well.

Earlier today I put up a post, “What’s Sauce For The Goose Is Sauce For The Gander”.  And given all the criticism which has been leveled at Mitt Romney and his tax returns, I thought it was only fair to turn the tables and look at some “dirty little secrets” that President Obama is keeping from us.  Specifically, I refer to his college transcripts.

Let me begin by saying that when it comes to the subject of Donald Trump, the most complimentary thing I can say is that he must be suffering from a perennial “bad hair day”.  I watched one episode of “The Apprentice” and was mildly horrified at the glee with which he pronounced the fatal words, “You’re Fired”.  I don’t care for the gentleman – but his offer to contribute $5 Million to a charity of President Obama’s choosing if he reveals his college record does underscore a point.

If the President has nothing to hide, why is this such a deep, dark secret?  For exactly the same reason that I believe Romney should have just given us his tax returns to diffuse the subject, the President could put to rest all the innuendos regarding himself by revealing the contents of his academic background.

It troubles me when unsubstantiated statements are made about anyone – including President Obama.  If those statements are intentionally fabricated with the intent to do harm to another, they are called liable and slander.  No one should be subject to that sort of calumny – and when those assertions lie about the shoulders of the person who is the leader of the free world, it does him and all Americans a tremendous injustice.

I have read several pieces which claim that when the President was at Occidental College, he attended as a “foreign student” from Indonesia under the name he used at the time, Barry Sotero.  Further, these reports indicate that he received grants to attend as a foreigner.  I do not know, nor does anyone other than the President and the Registrar at Occidental College whether this is true.  But if it is then it is certainly disturbing.  And I believe that the American people have the right, and the President has the responsibility, to put these matters to rest.

I try to keep my own counsel and share those things about myself with friends whom I trust when there is a reason for them to know.  I think that is good advice for most of us to follow.

But if you’re a public figure, there is a slightly different set of rules.  We should have the confidence that those in public office are telling us the truth about their personal life experience and conduct so that we can fully get behind them and support their efforts on behalf of the country.  Anything less is both unproductive and unpatriotic.

I find being on the same side of an issue with Mr. Trump to be a little disquieting.  But I must admit that he does throw down an interesting gauntlet.  I hope that President Obama takes it up, collects the $5 Million for his favorite charity, and puts to rest the suspicion and ends the talk about his “Dirty Little Secrets”.

MITT ROMNEY’S LOST OPPORTUNITY

The town hall forum for the second Presidential debate proved far more energetic, on both sides this time, than the first one.  I half expected a referee to suddenly appear on the stage and offer both the combatants boxing gloves so they could spar off.

The President had some energy and appeared far more involved than in round one.  I suspect he received a stern lecture from his election staff about the performance he turned in the first time.

Romney was as energetic as the first time – perhaps a little too much so.  He seemed unwilling to relinquish the floor even though asked to do so by the moderator.  That annoyed me.

But his refusal to stop talking annoyed me more because there was one question which provided him the opportunity to do so and put the President on the defensive.  That question was posed by a gentleman who had prepared it together with some of his co-workers.

“Who in the Administration was responsible for ignoring the Libyan embassy’s request for more security?”

That question was addressed to President Obama.  Instead of answering it, he talked about attending the funerals of the four Americans murdered and the grief he felt at their loss.  He talked about how he had been responsible for the death of Osama bin Laden.  He talked about ending the war in Iraq.  He did everything to use his time other than even peripherally answer that question.

If I had been Mr. Romney, when it came my turn to speak, I would have stepped back, addressed that fact and “ceded” a minute of my time back to the President so that he could answer the questioner.

Of course hindsight is 20/20 and as I reflect on some debates in which I have been involved I realized that I might have better responded in a particular situation.  Normally that happens about two minutes after the debate has ended and I have for all time lost the opportunity.

But this debate will not be over until the final ballot is counted in three weeks.  And, I am sure, like the gentleman who asked the question, I would still like to get an answer from the President.

THE COUNTDOWN

It is now, at least in Nevada, only five days until the deadline for registering to vote will have come and gone. In Nevada the process is fairly simple and can be accomplished by anyone with either a NV Driver’s license or state issued ID card online in just a few minutes.

I realize that there are many who do not have internet access or find it too intimidating, so for those folks I have noticed that team Obama has had some of their camp out soliciting people to register doing it the old-fashioned way – with paper and pencil.  I encountered one of these the other day.

Gracie, the goldens and I had just pulled into the dog park for our 10 o’clock p.m. final romp of the day when one of those darn idiot lights illuminated on my dashboard informing me that my supply of gasoline was low.  After we got back in the car I headed for the 7-11 which offers gas at a competitive price and is on the way back home.

The kids were all sticking their heads out of the car, watching me as I started filling the tank, when a young lady, I took her to be in her early twenties, came from behind my car and said, “I assume that you’re already registered to vote.”  Other than the four bumper stickers which adorn the back of the station wagon, I have no idea why she made that assumption.

But I decided to have a little fun as we were just beginning the short journey until the gas pump showed the magical $60 figure which is what it currently takes to fill the tank.  So I responded to her inquiry, “Why would you assume that?”

She looked at the rear of the station wagon and said, “Well, I just thought…” at which point I said, “You’ll forgive me but if I were doing the job you have chosen to do, I would simply phrase the question as, ‘Excuse me, are you registered to vote’.”

“I will be happy to answer your question if you will first answer two of mine.  But before asking you my simple questions about U. S. history, let me congratulate you for taking an active part in our electoral process.  Now, here are my two questions.”

Those of you have been following along for awhile will recognize these as the first two which were asked of a number of people in the You Tube video which appeared in my earlier post, “Be Afraid – Be Very Afraid’.  Although whoever recorded those interviews said that the video was not scripted, I found it shocking that people struggled with the first two questions they posed which are, in my mind, so easy and fundamental.

Those questions were, “In what year did the United States declare its independence and from what country?”

I looked at the woman for a few seconds and then, so as not to intimidate her by staring at her, I turned my head to see the progress that the pump was making toward my fill up.  I had about $35 left to go.  So I turned back to this young lady, thinking I had given her adequate time to compose her answer – only to find that she had taken herself and her clip board to another pump and another prospective new voter.

It would be presumptive to say that the reason she left without answering me was that she didn’t know the answer to these questions.  But it is equally presumptive to say the she did and simply chose not to answer.  After all, she was engaged in the business of soliciting people to register to vote and while she may have assumed that I was already registered because my bumper stickers certainly make a political statement, would it not be in her and her cause’s best interest to verify that before giving up on me?

As we approach the countdown toward voter registration cutoff, I applaud team Obama for making a concerted effort to get people involved in the political process.  Perhaps when that part of the campaign is over, they can turn their attention to some of their ads and edit them for a little more accuracy.

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