Thursday, September 30, 2004

Easy Pickings for Kerry

Well, I didn't see the whole debate because I had other responsibilities, but the little I saw reminded me of when I worked at Home Depot--more on that analogy in a bit.

It is an axiom of life that it is way easier to criticize than it is to do something yourself (if it isn't an axiom, it should be).

John Kerry will probably be said to have won this debate handily and that is at least partly owed to the truth of my little axiom. You see, Kerry had the advantage of being able to slam everything Bush has done as President--slamming is easy since it's something we all learn in junior high.

The reason this reminds me of Home Depot is because whenever somebody takes over a department they have a field day ripping everything the previous supervisor did. The old boss could have been God himself and there would still be disparaging remarks about the way He ran things.

How often at your place of employment have you heard these statements from the new guy on the job: "I don't know what so-and-so was thinking, I have to clean up his mess before I can accomplish anything here," or "Things are going to be different. I can't believe what was going on here before I arrived."

Kerry is the potential new guy and had the opportunity tonight to do the same thing anybody does when he wants to make himself look good--make fun of the other guy. I am not saying that we should discount Kerry's effort because of this, I just thought it is much easier to win a debate when you are the one who is making promises rather than the one who is defending reality.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Issues Smissues... They Really Don't Matter

I love how bloggers and regular folk across the political spectrum play the same old game in order to discredit their political enemies, politics in general, or to make themselves seem so very noble. I wanted to come up with a catchy name for this game, but I'm not feelin' it. Let's just call it, Wishing for the Issues.

Here is how it is played:

You've seen it played when they complain about attack ads, shaking their heads and mumbling, "I just wish they would focus on the issues."

You've heard it played when their candidate is caught in a big lie, shrugging, "Well, I wish everybody would just focus on the issues."

You've witnessed it when they can't think of any good comeback while talking politics and they declare, "Well, what really matters is the issues and I just wish we could get back to them."

On and on the game goes. It is played just as well by Democrats as it is by Republicans. It is the game that is played when there is nothing left to say and one wants to be seen as "above" the larger game of politics. Politics is an ugly, dirty business, so in order to feel cleansed, people like to play the game. It makes them feel better.

But it is a lie. The game is a false front, empty words spoken when all else fails to ensure a soft escape from the unpleasantness of politics. Most people don't intentionally lie, in fact, they probably have no idea that by playing the game they are deceiving themselves as well as the ones they use it on.

If you really think about it, nobody cares about the issues. Like, what, Joe Conservative is going to change his mind about Bush if the Kerry folks would just talk about the issues? Are gung-ho Bush-hating bloggers going to consider voting Republican if somebody just breaks down and talks about policy? Will there be peace and understanding in Whoville? Heck no!

Except for the possibly non-existent "undecided" voter, everybody has made up their minds and an old-fashioned issues revival is nothing but a delusional exercise that has no chance of changing anything. Whether talking about issues or slinging mud in commercials, politicians and their handlers always do the same thing: lie to make themselves look good.

The only truth to be found in the process is with the parties. Within pretty definable parameters, we know what the parties stand for--no talk by anybody about anything is going to change that in the short term.

So anybody who plays the Wishing for the Issues game is deluding themselves because in the end they will vote the same regardless.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Why Unions are a Bad Idea

There is a fundamental problem with labor unions that cannot be ignored: a person can't answer to two masters; somebody has to be in charge.

Just think of all the inane junk that happens because of labor unions. Consider that people are paid outrageous amounts of money to perform non-skilled tasks--often just grunt work--and the resultant price increase is borne by all. You can't tell me that it makes sense for a company to pay somebody 14 bucks an hour in 1984 to put cans on a grocery shelf. That's what I was paid back then.

Or how about the way labor is divided? I know a friend who wasn't allowed to pick something up and carry it from one part of the warehouse to another because it was the job of a union employee. Never mind what works best for the company who pays the bills; "protecting jobs" for the unions is the only thing that matters.

And the situation in our schools is a joke too. Administrators who are paid to make sure students achieve have little power to do anything to make sure that happens. I can give you many examples of the whining, silly demands that teachers have that run counterproductive to helping students.

The rebellion of the people against the owners of a company or against authority is as old as Adam and Eve--it was wrong then and it is wrong now.

Oh, and spare me the balony about unions being needed to ensure workers are not taken advantage of.

Somebody is taken advantage of if management is in charge and somebody else is taken advantage of if the union is in charge. The person who has right of ownership and who is held accountable should be the one with the right to take advantage of the other party.

Now of course we have laws in this country that won't allow the owners to take advantage of the workers, but none that keep the workers from taking advantage of the owners. Isn't that kind of backwards?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Fired for a Bumper Sticker? Why Not?

Surely most people will insist that the boss who fired his employee for having a Kerry bumper sticker should be hit with a big lawsuit, but not me.

Oh yeah, the way our laws stand now, he is in big-time trouble. The Kerry-hating boss' bellow, "I own this place!" doesn't mean a thing in a country where the government decides who we can and can't fire.

But where does my right of ownership disappear and the laws controlling who I choose to associate with take over? I may invite (or un-invite) whoever I choose into the home that I own, but I don't have the same power in my business?

I can let anyone I please borrow my car and then change my mind on a whim simply because it is my car--not nice, but not illegal. Why can I do what I like with my other stuff, but not the business?

Now, giving somebody the ol' heave-ho because you don't like their bumper sticker kinda stinks, but when liberty collides with manners, I think liberty should win. I should be able to fire someone for whatever frivolous reason I want if I own the business. I mean, what part of "OWNER" do we not understand in America?

When you disagree with this (as Mrs. Ugly Naked Guy does) ask yourself this question: Why is it that people say "you can't legislate morality," but they still want to tell people who to hire and who not to hire?

Monday, September 13, 2004

Could Michael Moore be Right?

Mr. Moore has been quoted as saying that Americans are “possibly the dumbest people on the planet,” and after my experience “playing juror” on a focus group I am tempted to say that he is right. Here is why:

I was one of 12 jurors hired to participate in a mock trial that lawyers were going to use to see if they should proceed with a real trial. To say that I was surprised by my fellow jurors would be an understatement—I was floored by their gullibility.

The case was simple enough: A college student was driving down a country road when she encountered a dust cloud caused by an almond harvester (very common in the area). She pulled to the shoulder to wait for the visibiliey to improve, but then decided to turn around and go back. Tragically, her ensuing U-turn put her right into the path of an oncoming big rig and she was killed instantly.

These facts I have mentioned are not in dispute. The California Highway Patrol, the defense lawyer, the lawyer for the girls’ family, and an eyewitness all concur. What is in dispute is who deserves the blame for this girl’s death.

Only the solemnity of event being discussed kept me from guffawing as the lawyer tried to explain that it was not the girl’s fault. Here are a few of the doosies he tried to win us over with:

• The girl made this dangerous turn because she feared she would have a severe asthma attack had she stayed near the dust much longer.

• The evil trucking company only paid the driver by the load so he was running up and down that road all day without regard to anything except how much money he could make.

• A device on the truck that kept it from going over 55 had been tampered with (though it wasn’t a legal requirement and he was going slower than that).

Amazingly, when we voted at the end of the trial, I was the only person who thought the girl was the “main cause of the accident.” Until I pointed it out to them, nobody even considered how silly the claim about the asthma was. Nobody knows what the girl was thinking to cause her to make that turn because she died, but my fellow jurors didn’t quite notice that nifty ploy by her lawyer.

And I can’t believe that they fell for the “evil corporation” baloney. That lawyer had these knuckleheads believing everyone from the driver, to the leasing company, to the almond processor were so greedy that the poor girl was just another gnat on their way to riches. What a typical attitude, and one that America buys all the time!

To me the clincher was what they had to say about the lawyer for the defense. They actually described him as slimy and untrustworthy! All he did was go over the official police report that found the girl at fault and draw pictures on the board of how it occurred!

He certainly didn’t defame the names of everybody associated with the truck, assigning all matter of evil to their actions that day. He certainly didn’t make up out of thin air a reason that the girl did what she did! Slimy is the very adjective I would use to describe the family’s lawyer! Talk about having a skewed view of things!

I don’t know, maybe I am the stupid one. I mean, why blame the person who turned into the path of a truck for turning into the path of a truck!

Well, my fake jury “awarded” the girl’s family 13 million dollars (even though they all said, “You can’t put a price on human life”). A few weeks later, a real jury awarded 2 million and assigned only partial blame for the accident on the girl.

America, what a country!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Words you Love to Hear

I was thinking today of words that are especially wonderful to hear and I can't think of anything much better than the ubiquitous, "Have a great Weekend!"

Unlike the equally automatic, "How are you's?" or "Nice to meet you's," this pleasantry matters so much more because even though it may be insincere, it doesn't matter because you indeed HAVE THE WEEKEND OFF--Woo hoo!

What do you think, anybody out there have any particularly favorite "Words you Love to Hear?"

Friday, September 10, 2004 Students get an F, but teachers get an A?

Before I started teaching I would have been outraged at what some schools were doing in their self-evaluation reports to the government. Not now.

What non-teachers fail to understand about these test scores is that a large number of students couldn't care less about the results. They breeze through these tests, ignoring all advice on good test-taking procedures. Most do not ever go back over and check their answers no matter how early they finish and how often the teacher suggests they do so.

Teachers and administrators try every angle to prepare them and convince them that there really is a reason to do well, but they seldom believe it.

And if you are a student or parent reading this now who knows for a fact that you or your child does care, take a look at what you are doing right now--your engaged in an academic-like pursuit!

The vast majority of people in this country would never look twice a story about the state of our schools; they don't read, they don't think, and it is their kids who are making the few and the proud look so bad!

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Morally and Ethically Wrong!

As if the monthly payroll deduction irritation wasn’t enough, now this…

I got my “Exclusively for Mr. Ugly Naked Guy” 8x10 glossy of John Kerry and John Edwards in the mail today and was told to display it in a “prominent location” (insert your own joke here). I just might do that.

As the Democratic National Committee went on to thank me for helping to secure victory in November, I was reminded yet again of the loss of freedom my new profession has given me as one of its “benefits.”

You see, I have never contributed one penny to ANY political campaign --WILLINGLY-- but my friends at the California Teachers Association and the National Educators Association are so kind to do that for me whether I ask them to or not.

That is just wrong.

Friday, September 03, 2004

All I Really Need to Know I Learned at Home Depot

If you are paying attention, it is amazing how much you can learn about life and human nature while working for the World's Number One Home Improvement Retailer (I still own stock so I have to talk 'em up). I know, you don't normally hold those wide (but often blocked) concrete aisles in the same esteem as some revered halls of higher learning, but nonetheless, I learned more working at Home Depot for 13 years than I ever learned in 7 years of college.

For instance, the first thing I learned was if you want to be the boss, you need to act like the boss.

Sounds simple, I know. But it always amazed me the transformation a person made when he was promoted to any supervisory position. I often found myself at some point saying to myself, "Hey, that person was just a regular employee a few weeks ago and now they seem so different." It was as if I couldn't even remember that they were someone else, and all of a sudden I had a flashback, but still couldn't fathom the change.

Well, I finally figured out how people make that jump from worker bee, to wanna be to queen bee: ACTING.

Yes, acting. One of the essential differences between someone who "is not" and some one who "is" (whatever is is), well, turns out it's just acting. Now this is not to demean Home Depot training or any kind of training or anybody's qualifications, it's just that before we come into our own we have to pretend that we have already arrived and just fake it.

That's right, there is no magic that happens to someone after they pass the pee test and sign their new wage sheet--they are exactly the same person! They already had the required knowledge and ability, but until they got the title they didn't assume the requisite attitude. Taking the opportunity you are given means taking the role and embracing it.

I tell my students this and I tell my own kids this when they try to tell me, "I can't." One might not be a good student, but one of the steps toward becoming one is acting like one. (Reminds me of those old commercials, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV.")

I guess a popular corollary to this principle is the ever-present mantra, "Attitude is Everything." It is certainly not everything, but it is a great deal of things that you can't do without. If someone is not good at talking in front of class, I might tell them to pretend that they are. When I began teaching, I was terrified to actually get up and teach real students, but I wasn't a "teacher" until I did it and I certainly couldn't "do it" until I first did my best imitation!

Ever since I realized at Home Depot University that a good acting job was the difference between an old worker and a new supervisor, I have accomplished a lot of things that I would not even have tried. Now I am trying to impart the same plan for success to my students and my offspring.