Friday, October 17, 2008

Poor Cindy

Now we know why John McCain believes someone is truly wealthy only after attaining an income of $5 million or more in a single year.

Poor Cindy McCain, suffering with the rest of the middle class and trying to decide which of her seven (or is it eight?) homes to bed down in on any given night, made a motley $4.2 million last year, according to the tax returns that the McCain campaign released today.

Barack Obama has said that you are “rich” if you make more than $250,000. And if you are rich, he recently told Joe, the tax-delinquent, Bush-backing, non-union plumber, you should spread your wealth around. By Obama’s standards poor Cindy has a lot more spreading to do than the Joe’s of the world.

It’s called progressive taxation. I like to call it “greed busting.”

What we have now is REgressive taxation: The more you make, proportionally the less you pay in taxes.

Here it is well to invoke one Jesus Christ, who didn’t stop with spreading it around. (Calling all Christians! Sarah, John, are you listening?) Christ said to the Cindy McCains of his time, GIVE IT ALL AWAY!

There is one small glitch in the story of the humble life of middle-class Cindy, heiress to an Arizona beer-schlepping fortune. In 2006, according to her tax returns, she was actually “rich” by John’s very own standards. The returns show that in that year, her income was “over $6 million,” according to the New York Times.

The Times didn’t report how much over. The newspaper of record may have concluded that at some point it doesn’t much matter. A million here, a million there. Any way you look at it, Republican or Democrat, you are rich.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gender lines diverge during debate

If you were tuned in to the CNN broadcast of Wednesday’s debate, you may have been mesmerized by two horizontal lines threading along the bottom of the screen. They wove up and down and crisscrossed each other as Barack Obama and John McCain parried about taxes, abortion and some plumber named “Joe.”

The lines charted the live results of “dial polling” of a small sample of undecided voters in Ohio, an important swing state. The group was registering its real time reactions to the two candidates.

One graph line was for men; the other for women — just like rest rooms and deodorants.

Why CNN decided to divide the results by gender is beyond me. Why not by income? How were the rich reacting compared to the poor or the middle class (whoever they are)? How about blacks and whites? How about gays and straights? How about first born and others? Blue eyes versus brown eyes?

Never mind. In its unfathomable wisdom, CNN had the poll track the reactions of men versus women.

The display called for visual multi-tasking. I’m told the young are much better at this sort of thing than the rest of us. They think nothing of listening to and watching the candidates while they monitor dial polling threads racing across the bottom of the screen. If that wasn’t enough, the changing scores of six debate judges framed the whole thing.

Those of us who surrendered to the multimedia show noticed the curious interplay between the debate and the instant assessment of the Ohio dialers.

The most striking was that regardless of what was being said, women favored Obama and men favored McCain. I thought immediately of one of my favorite media literacy principles: “No two people experience a media message in the same way.”

The lines told me that gender is a significant contributor to perception when it comes to Obama and McCain.

The dialers didn’t seem to be reacting to what each candidate was saying, although certain words like “education” and “children” registered spikes on the moving graph lines. Political consultants (vis Frank Lutz) have made fortunes studying such charged words and how to manipulate them.

No, visual messages dominated perceptions. Whenever a candidate looked directly into the camera and not at the moderator, the lines rose. Viewers like their politicians to look at them directly. Of course, Obama and McCain weren’t looking at the public at all. They were staring into the impersonal camera.

My strong feeling was that the men and women reacted differently to the candidates’ “chemistry,” not their words. Men liked McCain (veteran, aggressive, impulsive, white and “hot” in a McLuhanesque way. Women clearly liked Obama (young, calm, thoughtful, black and “cool”)

The male reaction is easier to explain. McCain displays stereotypical male traits. He gets the testosterone flowing.

As a man, I have more trouble explaining why Obama appeals more to women except to say that McCain doesn’t.

And why is that? Here’s a wild guess: They don’t trust him. Probably at a visceral level.

Even more wild speculation: It has to do with his elevation of a woman so ill equipped to be president. Rather than honoring women with his choice, he has betrayed them.

Sarah Palin was the ghost haunting the Hofstra University gymnasium on Wednesday night. Obama tip-toed around her, saying that he would leave it to the voters to judge her. McCain, against all reason and evidence, draped her with garlands and plastered her with gold stars. It was a very masculine thing to do. It was also a sham that women immediately picked up on — and resented.

The lines on the screen told the tale.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How about a Freighliner bailout?

Gee, since the government is on such a tear printing and spreading money around to banks and Wall Street, why not send some this way to bail out Portland’s Freightliner?

Yesterday Daimler, the German owner of the company, announced that it’s pulling the plug on the Swan Island Freightliner plant and its 900 workers. That’s a real body blow to our local economy.

If smearing taxpayer money around is good for Wall Street, it might work for Swan Island, where the heavy-duty rigs are assembled.

But any government investment in Freightliner shouldn’t promote business as usual.

Retool the Portland operation to make long-haul, efficient ELECTRIC trucks.

Truckers, hard hit by rising fuel costs, would beat a path to our door.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

When the last day isn't the last day ...

Today is the last day to register to vote in Oregon.

It’s a deadline that still comes with concerns about a fuzzy registration process. After I last wrote about my own confusion as a volunteer registrar, I ran into others and checked their understanding.

I put my test case to them.

“Let’s suppose I have an Oregon Driver’s License, but I forgot to bring it with me?” I queried the nice lady registering voters in the Hillsdale Branch Library’s lobby. “I can’t remember the number, so I can’t fill in that part on the form asking for it.”

“No problem,” she said reassuringly. “Just fill in the last four-digits of your Social Security number.”


I was less blunt than that.

"Well, I know from my own experience, and mistakes, that I can't do that."

I told her that the elections office would have to track down anyone who has an Oregon Driver’s license but doesn’t use the number on the form. The Social Security number is ONLY for those without an Oregon Drivers License number or a DMV issued ID.


I asked the same question of a high school student who was registering voters. She gave the same wrong response.

This must be happening all over the state, and a lot of folks may, repeat MAY, only find out about the problem when they get a ballot that prohibits them from voting for president, U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives. (The Multnomah Elections office says it is sending out a mailing alerting those who were incorrectly registered and asking them for the missing license information. But if you think you have a problem, don't wait for the notification.)

The good news is that even if the information is wrong, you can correct it right up to 8 p.m. on election day — though admittedly that would be cutting it a little close.

So if you believe you may have filled out the form incorrectly, go to the Secretary of State’s web site to make certain you are registered. Then wait to receive your complete ballot. The ballots will be mailed this Friday.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Greed-free management needed

As long as CEOs and Wall Street moguls are motivated by stratospheric personal aggrandizement (otherwise known as "greed"), the economy and financial system of this country are going to be in deep trouble.

When greed motivates decision-makers, decisions are, by definition, corrupt and immoral, and the powerless will lose.

Any execution of the new federal bailout plan that doesn’t adequately address exorbitant executive and boardroom compensation is bound to fail.

Nor should “reform” tie executive compensation to stock performance or profitability. Instead the measure of management success should be the welfare of workers and customers.

For starters, no executive should be compensated at a rate greater that eight times that of the lowest paid worker affected by that executive’s management decisions.

Appallingly, the current ratio is on the order of 350 to 1.

Do the math. If the lowest paid worker makes $30,000, the average CEO’s compensation (including stock options and retirement packages) is $10.5 million a year.

Think of it: The boss arrogantly manages a system that places an executive's “worth” at 350 times that of the worker on whom the corporation depends.

Such an attitude should be grounds not for reward but for dismissal and public shame.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

A perfect day for bell peppers (and pies and apples and ...)

The Hillsdale Farmers' Market always offers a feast for palate and eye. The visual banquet today was a stunner.