Political Ads Still the Same

It’s a little disappointing, but I’m not all that surprised. The political ads over here in sunny Phoenix, Ariz., are pretty much the same as what we had in steamy New Orleans. Bad.

Maybe it’s the same everywhere. “(Insert name here) will lower taxes, protect your family, create jobs, fight against (insert opposing party here).”

Either politicians are so naïve as to believe that they, as an individual, can just make that happen, or they don’t want to share the truth with the people that elect them.

I long for the politician that creates real, honest political ads. Ones that talk about compromise and negotiation and the fact that, sometimes (and hopefully rarely) the elected one may have to sell out to get something accomplished.

Or just keep counting on people not really caring all that much about their politicians, since they seem to keep letting us down.

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Politics Are Not for the Savvy

It mustn’t be, given some of the less than brilliant stuff that came out just this week.

First case in point: a politician from Tennessee, facing a difficult time in the November election, because of the large African-American population in his district, thought it would be a smart move to pass a resolution that apologizes, yet again, for slavery. Really? That’s the best you can do? Picking at a scab that’s been trying to heal for over 100 years.

If you truly want to show your support for the African-American community, do something that works to build that community. Invest in their health, family services, education. Do something more than apologize.

Second case in point: McCain’s newest commercial compares Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Sour grapes and jealousy should never be the driving force behind a promotional concept. If that’s the best he can do or the most he can say, he’s desperate. Of course, I guess it’s better than him just coming right out and saying “Vote for me! I’m just like most of middle America. I’m white, old, and I have no clue about Mid-East geography.”

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You Still Have to Earn It

I’m finally starting to catch up on some of my magazine reading. I have the May 2008 issue of The Atlantic right now. In it is a piece titled “This Is How We Lost to the White Man”. It’s about Bill Cosby’s quasi-crusade to change the attitudes and behaviors of many of the nation’s African Americans. In doing so, he is preaching accountability and self-reliance, earning the trust and respect of those around you.

I applaud his efforts. Not simply because he is speaking directly to African Americans, but because it is a lesson we must all understand. No matter who you are, how you were raised, what education or skill or talent you have, in the end, you still have to earn people’s respect and trust. If you are fortunate to enter a situation where that respect and trust for you already exists, you must demonstrate repeatedly that it is warranted.

This reminds of a class my freshman year of college. We were in Dr. Marcus Smith’s Modern Epic Literature class, and the discussion turned toward equality. I don’t quite remember how we got off on that tangent, but Dr. Smith asked one of the female students what it is she really wanted. She started talking about being given equal pay and equality in the workplace. Admirable and which I heavily support. His comment back to her, though, carried more weight than I would have realized.

He said, simply, “Who the f*** is going to give it to you?” She had no answer for that other than the infamous “they”. His point, though, was that no one is going to just give it (OK maybe some will, but they are few and far between). She had to earn it.

What are you doing to earn trust and respect? What are you doing that is destroying it? What can you do better? What are the things that you can and cannot control?

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You Said It

Last week, the big news on the campaign trail was Jesse Jackson’s remarks on The O’Reilly Factor. Well, the remarks were during a commercial break when he though the microphones were off. Oh, and he didn’t really mean them. And he certainly didn’t want to bring any harm to the campaign.

And we’re all supposed to accept that.

I’m sorry Reverend Jackson, but you said, quite clearly, that you wanted to “cut his nuts off.” Is there some meaning in there that the rest of us just don’t get? I’m pretty good with context and giving people the benefit of the doubt when things may be out of context.

Wanting to cut someone’s nuts off is pretty clear. And it would be a stretch to come up with something, anything, that might be positive or even neutral in some way.

Good luck with that.

I wonder how many more votes Sen. Obama will get because of it.

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Misguided Crusaders

This week, a coworker received calls from some of our customers concerned about a report they had seen on the news. Apparently, according to the report, certain products posed a moderate hazard. So, I did some investigating.

What I found frustrated, annoyed, and generally sickened me.

You see, a non-profit agency proposing to protect our children from harmful chemicals uses that platform for their own crusade, no matter how misguided it may be. They rail against the FDA for not imposing strict enough regulations, and issue black marks against companies that use products that the U.S. government fails to regulate. The reasoning behind this is that other countries, most notably Japan and the European Union do regulate these types of ingredients.

The problem is that this group has created several databases to deal with these ingredients individually, without respect for how they are used or the testing behind the final product. In other words, products approved for use in the EU, because they are safe, are disregarded in this study. Why? Because they don’t match up with the intended purpose. They need a reason to exist. So instead of being responsible in their analysis, they decide to take a more common, politically motivated route that focuses on fear.

Oddly, this particular organization felt it fine to attack numerous groups for their regulatory failings, while avoiding those governmental agencies dealing with crackpots spouting inaccuracies about any number of issues.

Here’s what most organizations relying on this type of tactic don’t realize: at some point it’s useless. No matter how loud you yell, people will stop listening because they are tired of hearing your dire warnings with no consequences.

Kind of like the boy who cried wolf. Instead, deal with the real issues we are facing. Not just the ones that fit into your database.

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Oh How Quaint

So they have moved passed just saying it, and Barack and Hillary have proven they are playing nice in the sandbox. For their first appearance together since Sen. Obama became the presumptive nominee, they have chosen the tiny town of Unity, N.H., where they split the Democratic primary vote right down the middle 107-107.

Oh. How. Quaint. Or is it trite?

It is a move aimed at us Democrats to reinforce their call for, you guessed it, unity. But here’s the thing. A publicity stunt is a publicity stunt no matter how you try to spin it. And sometimes the desired or intended symbolism is so trite and contrived that it loses effectiveness.

A far better move would have been a joint appearance in a large and critically important city where Sen. Clinton won handily. That would have been a much more powerful call for unity. Not in a state that much of the rest of the country considers to be a bit snobbish, and certainly not one in the northeast.

Think middle America. Think red states. Just think.

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Jockeying for Position

It’s sadly funny to watch the positioning going on between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. On the one hand, they are trying to define themselves by defending their respective decisions. At the same time, they are attacking each other on other, sometimes irrelevant or even unproven points. Which forces the other to scramble in establishing a new defensive definition.

What makes all of it worse, is that enough of what they say is utterly inconsistent with their stated policies and current voting records.

If I had to guess, the underlying reason rests on private polling results.

I’m not sure how else to say this, guys, but stand up for what you believe in, and stand firm. ‘Cause here’s the deal, when you get into office, we expect execution, even if you have to compromise. We’ve had eight straight years of incompetent lying. We don’t need any more of that.

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How Can We Trust What You Say?

I’m not the only one who will be commenting on this phenomenon, but I’ll throw my two cents in anyway. This past weekend, Senator Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign and called for all of her supporters to support Senator Barack Obama in his presidential bid, representing the Democratic Party.

This is the same person she called inexperienced. Not ready to be Commander-in-Chief. With dealings with shady people from Chicago. Unable to capture the votes of her supporters.

So if we were supposed to believe her then, why should we trust in what she says now? Well, it was a campaign, and we all say things we don’t necessarily mean. It’s just how you play the game.

Now that she has lost the nomination, she has to shift gears, because of the Hatfield-McCoy fight coming through November. The Democrats have to win. It’s time to say whatever we have to for that to happen.

And the Republicans are doing the same thing.

How do we know what the truth is, what we can trust? We really don’t and won’t until their respective actions match their words. Who’s more likely to walk the talk? That’s tough to say. But based on how Sen. Clinton ran her campaign, there is reason to have doubts.

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Adoption and Race

Last week, The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute issued a report critical of the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994. You can read the story by The New York Times here. The day following the original story, I had the opportunity to hear one of the report’s authors and someone from San Francisco, who disagreed with the report, on a radio talk show (forgive me for not knowing their names, as I started listening after the introductions were done).

Basically, the law says two things—adoption agencies cannot consider race in matching parents to children and states must do more to recruit minority parents to adopt children.

The report contends that parents willing or wanting to adopt children of a different race should undergo special training. While I agree that families that will become multiracial through adoption have special needs to address, families that adopt any child will face many of the same needs. The question shouldn’t come down just to race. It must also include the family’s support network and whether it is sufficient (or capable of being sufficient) to support all of the child’s needs.

It goes further to say that those same parents should consider raising that child within the child’s culture. The reasoning given on the radio interview was disappointing. It went something like this (I’m paraphrasing): when you black children are raised in predominantly white areas, they have more problems in their teenage years with racism. Instead, the parents should consider moving with the child into an area that is more suitable to her. This may be taking it to an extreme, but it sounds like he is saying that since racism exists, we need to keep the kids separated by race.

That’s is less of an issue of race than proximity. But if cultural sensitivity is the goal, shouldn’t we all be exposed to a broader spectrum of cultures and not be told we should grow up with our own kind?

The report also acknowledges that states must make more of an effort to recruit minority parents. And I agree with that wholeheartedly. And they may not succeed in doing so, which might be OK.

Because, at the end of the day, what are the most important things we must accomplish with, not just adoptees, but all children? Health, welfare, a good education, a solid path to adulthood? Which of the available parents are best suited to provide that for these foster children? For any adopted child?

And who is going to set the criteria for matching children and parents appropriately?

Oh yeah, and how much time, money and effort are states going to put into recruiting the right parents for these kids?

This issue goes much further than race alone.

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Make Subsidies Work

I was impressed with Sen. John McCain a couple of weeks ago when, in front of a crowd from the farm belt, he said he didn’t support farm subsidies. That got me thinking about the topic of subsidies in general. I find it hard to wrap my head around what the real intention is.

Since it was farm subsidies in particular that got me started, let’s stay with them. You would think that the first subsidies were meant to help the small independent farms protect themselves from large corporations, and even if that was the case then, it isn’t now. These days, subsidies artificially depress prices to make U.S. produce competitive with that from foreign nations. Which, in order to remain competitive, keeps those same nations from actually developing and growing in prosperity (I won’t take time to discuss all the ramifications, but think about those areas of the world with the most civil unrest).

Now, if the subsidies are keeping prices artificially low, they are not going towards improved farming methods or other innovations, which would go much farther in the long run.

Hmmm, and where does the money come from to pay for these subsidies? Why, our taxes, of course! (Sorry for the cynical tone.) But that means that we are paying for that same produce one way or another. It also means that the government, perhaps rightly so, that given the choice we would choose the less expensive produce. So they force the issue.

And the price is nothing to sneeze at. The current farm bill moving through Congress is priced at $307 billion. Which comes to about $1,000 per person. Makes that $300 economic stimulus check seem downright silly, doesn’t it?

I am all for subsidies that work to improve how we work. When they only support prices, however, we gain nothing.

Make subsidies do something.

For further reading, check out these sites:

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