Monday, 4 June 2012

The Trouble with Letters

It's not a story that will appear in the national press or 60 Minutes or on the Today Show.....but up in Wisconsin over the past week or two.....there's this new trend which troubles folks.  With the recall in full turbo at this point....someone thought it'd be neat to take the state database of folks who vote/don't vote, and wretch the mess up another notch.

You can imagine this scene.  Sitting at your front porch....the mail man comes by and delivers the mail.  You walk out and find this one envelop in the box.  It's from some big fancy foundation and has a fancy logo on the front of the envelop.

You open this to find a friendly reminder about voting in this week's election.  No big deal.

But then, there's this listing of folks who live around you.....folks you know on a first-name basis.

There's Claude, the Vietnam vet who keeps his lawn squared away and in five-star condition.  He drinks a good bit after each mowing episode, and he will tell you minute-by-minute descriptions about some firefight in 1967, and how he wiped out an entire patrol of "Charley".

There's Uncle Frank, the guy who wears $90 hats all the time, and has never stepped foot in Wal-Mart in his entire life.

There's Mr and Mrs Buck.....who are Catholic but everyone generally looks the other way and accepts them almost like regular people.

Then, there's Miss Tuback, who says that she's originally from Gulfport, but she has a funny accent, and some folks think she's actually Russian.  She likes to wear one-piece bathing suits while mowing her grass, and always has five guys stopping by to ask her best method of mowing.

So these people are listed, with their addresses, and the letter basically says that none of them have voted in the past two elections.  What the foundation wants you to do.....is work on their behalf and talk to your neighbors about voting.  In a way, you are supposed to shame your best friends and neighbors....into voting.

I sat and read this Wisconsin story, which will never make it into the national press.  It's a sad event in someways that we've become so smart at database work.....that we sit there and use the end-product.....to twist the arms of folks into voting.  Did I really need to know that Uncle Frank hasn't voted in two elections?  Next month....will I receive a note that Uncle Frank has five parking tickets in Memphis, Tennessee at a sleazy hotel district over the past five years?  Or maybe I get some letter telling me that Miss Tuback is one of fifty Russian mafia folks relocated to Wisconsin?  Maybe I'll get a letter from some foundation telling me that Claude is a registered Republican, and that Mr Buck is a Tea Party member.

There's some point where data base results really ought to be just nifty to know, and not much else.  When you start using stuff like this for mailing out.....you are begging for trouble.  You might accidentally discover that your neighbors don't care much for either party, and start to encourage you not to vote.  Then you might actually a bigger mess on your hands, where 100k voters show up out of five million residents, and decide your election for you.

The Four Billion

It's an odd statistic.  Out of the forty-odd million folks who utilize federal food stamps....there's $4 billion used to buy sodas.  (Center for Science in the Public Interest)

You could sit there and ponder on this for a while.  That's a positive in helping Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Tab, Wal-Mart generic brands, Sierra Mist, etc.  I'm sure they appreciate the sales.

Somewhere in the back of your mind....you just start thinking about these welfare cases and the fact that you just can't deny someone their drink of choice. It ain't fair.  Then you argue with yourself...some family buying around three gallons a week of some sugary drink that has no nutritional value.  That's four billion bucks out of your pocket, for some family that needs some support, and the best they can do with the money.....is drink up a fair amount of sugar.

If you ask me....there is something wrong here.  The four million would be better suited for tomato juice, prune juice, etc.  But we just don't have the guts to stand up and say that.

That Itchy Jimmy Carter Feeling

You know that odd feeling....especially after cutting grass in the front yard....you scratch a bit on your arm...your neck....maybe your ankles?  Or maybe it's that odd feeling after just walking through an open field?  Or maybe it's that feeling you get after sitting your neighbor's chair that his dog usually sits in?

I'm reaching a point where I kinda have that funny itch...over President Obama.  It's an itch that relates to Jimmy Carter.

Most folks in 1976 had this strong urge to clean up the government, and this wonderful puritan of a saint strolled in....with charisma and charm that folks hadn't seen in two decades.  Jimmy had the religious angle. Jimmy was a heartland guy.  Jimmy was a governor.  Jimmy did wonderful interviews and you just couldn't find any national news guy who'd say anything against him.  He was pure goodness for America.

Somewhere along the end of twelve months of the Presidency....if you were looking for some great achievement to pin on him.....you'd be kind of limited.  He did preach an awful lot on conservation of gas, and urged folks to keep the heat low and the AC high.  At some point, we had the Olympics selected as something that the US could retaliate on the Russians because of the Afghanistan invasion.  And Jimmy's idea of national health care....got tangled up in a major war-front with Ted Kennedy (Ted hated Jimmy with a passion, and wouldn't allow this to ever go forward).

By the fourth year, I suspect that well over half the voting population had this itchy feeling....like Jimmy Carter's day as President were going to come to a close.  The general population vote gave him some support, but the Electoral College was a wipe-out.

This weekend, I finally had that itchy feeling.  It really didn't matter what Jimmy Carter did for the final six months of the Presidency....he just couldn't flip the perception in the heartland of things gone wrong.  I suspect now, that folks are having that same feeling....of things gone wrong.

My humble guess is that Hillary Clinton probably isn't going to accept the VP situation in the end.  Maybe the President knows that by now.    The short list to replace Joe Biden?  They might have to add another five names.  I'm thinking that guys are thinking about 2016 and the possibility of opting out of this VP opportunity.

As for the union guys?  Maybe the Wisconsin thing was ill-conceived for a take-down....but tons of money has been flushed down the toilet in a comical recall effort.  Across the nation....the union guys are down a notch now.

If I were the President....I'd focus on what I have accomplished, and really hope that Mitt stumbles on several big speeches.  I might also think about what happens after the Presidency.  Jimmy Carter spent time building houses for homeless.  Maybe the President can crank up an operation like that.

At the end of the day.....there's just not a good itch cream for this kinda itch.