Thursday, October 30, 2008

“NI**ER PLEASE! It’s called the White House!”

I saw this quote on a T-shirt on the Internet.

Mimesis was defined to me as the act of a group of people "picking on" or "bullying" the least of the group. Think of the football team chastising the geek. Think of the rally team sneering at the fat girl.

It's not pleasant, especially if it happens to you. It means you're out – you don't belong.

But it means more than that. It means that there are people who are willing to act as a group to make themselves more than someone else.

Our social psychology is complex. Mimesis has to start somewhere. And then others follow. There's safety in following because it means you're not the one singled out. You get to be part of the "in crowd".

We learn this behavior as kids, probably by watching adults. It's so prevalent in our society that we have a term for those who follow; we call them Lemmings. You can see it in a current TV ad for Fed Ex, where the followers crawl out of the leadership class.

We can't afford to be lemmings. We can't afford to follow stupid bumper stickers or racist T-shirts.

Michael Arnold

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Political Communication in the 21st Century and How We Get Duped

Here's the good news. The American political system is designed on a system of checks and balances. It depends on what the founders called "an informed citizenry." The bad news; it's becoming her and harder to find an informed citizenry! The question is, why?

Anthropologist Desmond Morris wrote in his book The Naked Ape that mankind's society began to deteriorate when the societal unit, the neighborhood, became so large that we no longer knew our neighbors. There were extenuating circumstances of course, the two main early ones being, according to Morris, the invent of the internal combustion engine and the loss of the front porch. The reason the internal combustion engine is to blame, said Morris, is that it allowed people to travel further to work, that is, the work place was removed from the neighborhood as well.

Neighborhoods are important, including the workplace, which is a subset neighborhood. I don't remember the statistic but a huge number of people find their mates where they work or worship. I include in this statistic people who are introduced to their mates through a friend with whom they work. So neighborhoods are huge in our social structure.

During the beginning of our country, neighborhoods were composed mostly of peoples from the same immigrant homelands. Irish with Irish, Germans with Germans, Danes with Danes, and yes, even slaves with slaves. What self respecting plantation owner would allow slaves to mingle with his family, after all! We didn't do away with segregation until the 60's and racism and bigotry are still with us today, at least in varying degrees, throughout America.

In historic America (I would use the term ancient, but that seems reserved for places other than America) tribe members held no property. Tools, food, hides and the like were used by the tribe for the good of the tribe. Ownership is a European invention. Things were used and replaced because that was the responsibility to the social network. Chief Sealth said, "The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth." People got along, or died, because living was so hard that, to use Hillary Clinton's term, "It Takes a Village." Going it alone meant death, at least an early death.

But people are smart. So we constructed societies because there is not only safety in numbers, but a better chance for survival as a species in numbers. Kind of like fish or geese or elk, I guess (LOL).

All of the other social norms have been built on these simple principles. Today we're pretty complex. In historic times the leaders were the best hunters, or at least the best at something; survival of the fittest. Even wolves and elk understand all of that. And there was a natural balance of things.

Yet, it was the loss of the front porch and the invent of the internal combustion engine that has steered they way to the current "modern society," of the separate yet united American people. A people that no longer talks to its neighbor or even knows who she is, except by looks.

Even in farming communities, where neighbors could live miles apart, they knew each other. They helped each other of necessity. Harvest parties, roofing parties, raising parties (building a barn or a house) and worshipping together. I think of granges and the societies built around them.

Even in towns and cities, people knew each other. There were fewer distractions and communities still looked out for each other. I'm only 57 years old, yet when I was a kid of three I wandered all around my neighborhood with impunity. We looked out for each other. It wasn't uncommon in the neighborhood that was my village for someone else's parent to discipline another's child. Not corporeally of course, but you knew when you were in trouble – and you knew your parents would soon hear about it as well.

So, what's happened in our society to make things so bad? Of my own neighbors today, I know the names of perhaps 10 percent and even less about what they do. I know the names of my immediate neighbors, and a couple up the street, but that's about all. And I'm a pretty friendly guy. So what's happened? America has lost it glue, that's what's happened.

Farming communities that once relied upon each other have been replaced with corporate farms who don't need or want outside assistance from pestering neighbors. Farmers could not compete with the corporate farms and were forced to sell out, so these famers have moved to the cities to get jobs, selling farms that had been in families for hundreds of years and several generations. Not all have sold out, but surely more than 98%.

With the invent of the internal combustion engine people are able to travel further in order to seek employment, be entertained, visit family and the like. That means that neighborhoods are less needed for participating in social things than ever. Our society has become fragmented and is becoming more fragmented daily, hourly, and the minute and second! We live further away from family members. Our support systems are no longer there.

The loss of the front porch also signifies the death of another neighborhood social strata. Time was, and I'm sure you've seen this in old movies, when people would visit on their porches and visit. Porches used to be large and many had outside furniture like chairs and even the front porch swing. I can't remember the last time I saw a front porch swing. But the point is, neighbors used to visit neighbors. They knew each other and invested in each other because it was important to the society.

Not so much now.

Starting in the 1950's, things got worse for the neighborhood. Television was invented. At least with the invention of the radio, people came together to listen to great events. It was the same with early television. I remember visiting with the friend of a friend in order to watch the first moon landing in the 1960's. They brought their television outside in order to accommodate the small gathering that came to watch.

The funny thing about television, it doesn't require a thing from the viewer, except eyes and a brain. Whatever happens on the screen is seen and deciphered in the context and ability of the viewer alone..

But something else happened with television. Psychologists and linguists and anthropologists and sociologist and political scientists all began to realize something that Advertising Agencies had found out. You can affect the way people think and act by the message you portray in modern advertising as shown on television. That is to say, politicians can frame a message in a thirty second "spot" in such a way as to create a specific perception by the viewer and get a desired reaction (action) from that specific type of viewer.

That's why polling is so important in today's political climate. Sure, politicians want to know who were voting for, but that's only the half of it. They also want to know if they create a message in a certain way will that message create a specific reaction from the viewer. To find that out they create "focus groups".

Focus groups are groups of people with a commonality, for example, all Republicans, all Democrats, for business, against business, urban, rural, liberal, conservative, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, mechanics, independents, likely voters, women, men, between certain ages and on and on. The folks are brought together and then asked questions. But that's not all, even the type of question is important. There are aided questions, un-aided questions, push questions, pull questions, fill in the blank questions and if that's not enough they watch video and are asked to rate what they've watched. And somewhere in all of these focus groups, you are represented. They know YOU.

It's all very scientific and it's all designed to find out what kind of reaction will the politician get if they do 'A', 'B' or 'C'.

Get the picture? In other words, today's politician knows what will happen before they do it. To coin a phrase from Tom Clancy's, Hunt for Red Oktober, "The average Ruski, son, doesn't take a dump without a plan." Neither does today's modern politician! Our modern candidates, and today that means Barack Obama and John McCain, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, believe they know in advance, based on polling and focus group research, what kind of response they will get before they make a speech or run an ad.

Remember "vetting"? Vetting means taking polls, using focus groups and researching a topic or a person and their past financial, medical and legal records. Not to mention published works or recorded speeches and the like.

Why go through all the trouble and vast expense? Mostly for two reasons; cost and power. It costs money to acquire power. Political parties, candidates and groups are after the power they need in order to achieve the goals they have established for themselves. That's why we have political parties. Groups of similar minded individuals want to achieve specific results for themselves and those they represent.

It is so unfortunate, but that is what our political system has come down to. Each part must play this game or lose the right to represent the electorate. Thank God we still get to vote! And if we're lucky (about once or twice in a life-time) current events will be so bad that the American people will actually look beyond the modern television campaign and get involved enough to know when we're being advertised into a vote and when we're deciding on who to vote for.

I'm a retired navy man. I'm fortunate enough to have in my neighborhood a man who is also retired navy. What makes it so fortunate is that we served on the same ship together. We fought in the Gulf War together and were deployed to the Gulf twice. We got to know each other a bit more than most folks before they become neighbors. I liked him then, and I like him today because he is a standup guy. He's honest, hardworking, loves his family and cares about his community. He's a Republican. I'm a Democrat. That only matters when we're in our voting booths.

We want the same things, my neighbor and I. We want to live in a place safe from harm (LIFE). We want to be able to make a decent living, equivalent to our means (LIBRTY). We want our families to be able to do whatever they are capable of doing without restraint (THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS). We want the same things!

We believe, my neighbor and me, that there are different ways of getting the things we want (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) and that's why we belong to different political parties. That's a great thing about being an American.

But we're in danger of losing those things we hold dearest because those in power in our political parties, our leaders, have lost their way. They believe that today the end justifies the means. These leaders have shown a willingness to travel a different road, a darker road, to achieve the ends they desire. And in doing so they have shown America that they are no longer interested in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – they are simply interested in power for the sake of power. They have shown that they are willing to divide the country into as many pieces as it takes in order to get what they want regardless of what the American people want.

We cannot afford to follow them there no matter how many TV ads they buy. In our hearts, we know the truth. And the truth takes longer than 30 seconds to learn.



















Monday, October 27, 2008

Where Does Gregoire Budget Deficit Come From?

I've been listening to Dino Rossi bad mouthing Governor Christine Gregoire concerning the state budget and what he says we will be in the hole because of the Governor's spending. Yet, in all his facts he has conveniently omitted the fact that Washington will be paying about 15 Billion dollars to cover the cost of the illegal war in Iraq – a war that Rossi and Republican GOPs support. Rossi is still looking for victory in a war noted as being "unwinnable". History will be the final arbiter on that debate, however, the costs are here now and remain mysteriously missing from GOP estimates of the costs Washingtonians will address in coming budgets and local economies.

According to Washingtonians will pay $14.9 billion for Iraq war spending approved to date. For the same amount of money, we could have one of the following for one year:

  • 2,363,490 People with Health Care OR
  • 13,272,193 Homes with Renewable Electricity OR
  • 276,928 Public Safety Officers OR
  • 240,012 Music and Arts Teachers OR
  • 2,489,346 Scholarships for University Students OR
  • 82,314 Affordable Housing Units OR
  • 6,008,959 Children with Health Care OR
  • 1,679,488 Head Start Places for Children OR
  • 243,642 Elementary School Teachers OR
  • 199,681 Port Container Inspectors


It's time Washingtonians realized that we're going to be paying enough for Republican leadership without adding to the problem election one more GOP mistake by electing Rossi.

We owe it to ourselves and our children to re-elect Gregoire.


Friday, October 17, 2008

We Must Do Better!

I'm always amazed to read the comments on the newspaper blogs. I don't know why I even read them. It's virtually all crap being said about our candidates. No one give specifics - it's all generalizations, lies, distraction, and rubbish. How can anyone engage in a debate with "nothing"?

I'm talking both sides of the arguments. I say 'If you can't back up your comments with fact and reason (not hype and BS) then you should do the world a favor and keep your mouth shut.'

No one wants to read lies, garbage and badly thought out arguments with no substantiation. What's happened to America? Where is our ability to think?

Politics isn't about making each other angry. It's supposed to be about reasoning the best solutions to our common problems. Instead our political parties are teaching us to hit negatives and attack character. And where there is no connection with allegations, then the trick is to make one up.

Real debate requires facts, not just repeating political talking points. Most of what we hear and see is trivial dribble of personal opinion and/or blind attacks about candidates we neither know nor want to know.

I don't care about what a candidate says about another candidate. I want to know what she has to say about the issues. Does what she say ring true? Are her propositions reasonable? Did she think through the issue and bring a solution to the table that will work not just sound good? What is her education? What kind of track record does she have? Does she inspire me and make me want to be a better citizen? Has she been involved in her community and if so, how?

As long as we engage in this kind of politics we are going to keep getting the same sick, lame and lazy results. Real politics takes work and its time we rolled up our sleeves!

Thursday, October 16, 2008



The other day I went downtown to run a few errands.  I went into the local coffee shop for a snack. I was only there for about  5 minutes, and when I came out, there was this cop writing out a parking  ticket.      

I said to him, 'Come on man, how about giving a retired person a break'?  He ignored me and continued writing the ticket. His insensitivity annoyed me, so I called him a   'Nazi.'

He glared at me  and then wrote out another ticket for having worn  tires. So I proceeded to  call him 'doughnut eating Gestapo.' He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first.

Then he wrote a third ticket when I called him a moron in blue.

This went on for about 20 minutes. The more I talked back to him the more tickets he wrote.

Personally, I didn't really care. I came downtown on the bus because gas prices are so high  and the car that he was putting the tickets on had one of those bumper  stickers  that said 'McCain in 08'.

I try to have a little fun each day now that I'm retired.  The doctor tells me that it's important to my health. 

Concerning the Kitsap Commissioner Race for District 2

The Kitsap Commissioner's race for District 2 parallels state and national GOP for dirty tricks. For Republicans these races are about power and promoting Republican ideology.

Local GOP campaign techniques are now modeled on Karl Rove and George Bush's bag of dirty tricks. We expected the GOP scandalous Dirty Tricks would eventually trickle down to the lowest common denominators, just not so soon.

In the face of national GOP failures, local Republicans like Tim Matthes want us to believe they have the answers, that they're different. They're not!

Using a letter writing campaign, Matthes', minions have very little truth to say. The GOP distracts, distorts, and destroys enemies with lies and deceptions. Republican sympathizers like Richard Brown demonstrated in his letter to the Port Orchard Independent (10/15/08) that he has mastered these techniques.

Brown said Garrido caused the economy to dive and businesses to leave, apparently in droves, during her time as Commissioner (1997 – 2000). Yet, with these incompetent and false claims he did not give a single source.

In truth, during Garrido's term Kitsapians experienced an average income increase of almost $5,000.00, (2000 Census, US Census Bureau), and unemployment dropped from 6.8 to 5.0 percent. ( Hmmmmmmm.

We need that kind of performance. We need Charlotte Garrido, a proven leader who gets things done.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Whoever controls the message controls the perceived reality. And perception is everything!

Virtually nothing happens in a political campaign except that it is designed to happen.

Straight Talk Express and Maverick, are efforts by John McCain's campaign to control his message and create a desired perception that he is the kind of politician who can be trusted to speak the truth about everything regardless of the consequence to his future political fortunes. In other words, McCain has and will have the best interests of all the people as his guiding principles at all times.

McCain has used his example as a former P.O.W. to create the perception that he will do what is right for the military, the service members, the veterans and national Defense policies because "he has been there and done that". It is an emotional issue and McCain's handlers are masters at manipulating emotions to form perceptions. Unfortunately, McCain's voting record and actions have shown that he does not perform as advertised. In an effort to control the perception that McCain is not pro military, veteran and service members, McCain repeatedly says over and over that he supports them. Repetition has been proven an effective tool in forming perception as shown by polls concerning McCain's stance on these issues.

Negative ads work when there is little time to compare the ad with the truth. But given too much time, the negative begins to pale because the shock has worn off (its old news) and people have continued on. But a little of the negative emotion remains in the subconscious. Therefore it is necessary to repeat the negative in new and fresh ways to maintain the negative emotion and heighten the negative which was left from before. And it may be necessary to add more negative ads to complete the task of perception change.

Going negative in defining the opponent is another way McCain tries to change the Obama perception. McCain has been spending so much time and money to connect Obama with Re. Wright and Ayers that he has wasted that time and money because most people have moved beyond Wright and Ayers. In McCain is spending resources going negative, he loses that time and money for other things.

That's why McCain isn't speaking to the issues of the day. That's why McCain isn't talking about the Financial Melt-Down of Wall Street, or the Wall Street Bail Out, or the affect this will have on middle class Americans on Main Street USA. He has spent that time and money trying to define how we perceive Obama. While wasting time and money in this effort, McCain has managed to change his own Brand, and that is the risk of perception manipulation.

Because McCain was so busy trying to define Obama, he did not spend enough time defining himself as a leader who can get a handle on the melt-down and save the economy and America. Meanwhile, his lackluster performance defined himself as someone out of touch with the issues and the people. McCain defined himself as unable to lead while Obama, in spite of the McCain efforts to paint him as otherwise, showed that he was not only capable of handling the issues, but that he also has the interest of the people at heart. McCain defined himself as someone who would do anything, say anything to win a campaign.

McCain's gamble has cost him dearly, and may cost him the election.