Monthly Archives: July 2012

In for a penny. In for a pound.

The internets and the air waves are aflame!  But, what is that which is burning?  It’s old news that has come to light, again.  While there is a whole paper to be written on that phenomenon, we’re going to move on to a more important aspect right now.  At least in this case, the news is still relevant, and that is why there are more important aspects that we should focus on.

I previously wrote on the importance of our economic vote.  In short, where you shop does, in fact, matter.  It is a constantly updating list also.  For example, I have recently become aware that I will have to forgo my occasional late night trips to Waffle House , because of their sizable corporate contributions to Karl Rove’s superPAC, American Crossroads.  As we, as consumers, make our choices, our impact will be felt, or our apathy will be shown.  Either way, we are making our stand.

  • Bringing Chick-fil-A back to the forefront of the news this week though are several events:As Equality Matters had reported in March, I linked to in April and we have actually known for at least a decade, Chick-fil-A through their charitable foundation, WinShape has been consistently giving to anti-gay marriage groups.  However, in an interview posted July 16th, the COO, Dan Cathy, acknowledged that, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”  (We’ll accept that he’s not talking about all the various biblical definitions of marriage, and only the currently popular one man-one woman definition, since that’s the most likely definition to which he was referring….)  Snopes goes on to add other quotes that are even more damning, but that I can’t validate so I won’t include here.
  • The letter from Mayor Thomas M Menino of Boston to Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A, strongly suggesting that Chick-fil-A abandon plans to find a location within Boston.
  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the statement that Chick-fil-A’s “values are not Chicago values.”
  • San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee tweeted,  “Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.”

I have a very good friend who grew up going to the original location in Jonesboro, GA.  He maintains that these positions are not consistent with the S. Truett Cathy who founded the chain and that his grandfather introduced him to repeatedly.  Now, the original Mr. Cathy is still alive and kicking and is still, at least titularly, the Chairman and CEO at 91.  Is he actively involved in the company any more?  Who’s to say?  He has not, that I’ve seen, been quoted in the latest flaps.  Honestly, it doesn’t matter.  It is the corporate position.

This same friend has expressed that he feels torn because the 975 franchisees (in 2007) spent years building up the business and wonders if these franchisees should be held accountable for the corporate policies.  Also, he points out that while he worked there in the past, the franchisee that he worked for, hired gay employees.

There is a significant flaw in this reasoning.  It is the same flaw that so many people in American make, and it is such a fundamental flaw that when I was having the conversation with him, it didn’t strike me at first either.  It wasn’t until later that it hit me.

This is precisely the reasoning that comes from the same line as those who would demand their rights without accepting their corresponding responsibilities.

The franchisees have benefited from the marketing and the “good name” of the Chick-fil-A corporation for the last 65 years.  They have benefited from the recipes.  The name recognition.  They’ve benefited in every way possible from the positives – the rights – of being associated with the Chick-fil-A name/brand.  And, now, it’s time to fully pay the piper.

They have certainly paid the franchise fees, which have historically been ridiculously low, by industry standards, thanks to the “cult like” screening process which allowed Chick-fil-A to make sure they were filtering out all of the “undesirables”.  These processes involved literally dozens of interviews over the courses of years.  Then, instead of charging a franchise fee of $25,000, like KFC does, Chick-fil-A would only charge $5,000.  Of course, they also made up for this in other ways.  It was no accident that their franchisees were earning roughly 1/3 what other franchisees were bringing in.  They have paid for their product, of course.



A pox on both of your houses!

Fear is a powerful motivator.  It is an important evolutionary device.  It helps us, when properly understood, to avoid greater harm and damage to ourselves.  It is the emotional equivalent of pain that, for example, tells us to withdraw our hands from a fire rather than to leave it there and allow it to be burned to a crisp.

However, it is also a dangerous tool that can be used to confuse, mislead, and control people.  It has led to great harm.  In fact, it is likely the single most powerful weapon in the political arsenal, and politicians and other leaders, have been using it for as long as we have had them.  The examples are legion and varied.  Some have used fear to gain power while others used fear to hold on to that power.  Still others used fear for both purposes.

What may be unique about modern Western culture is that we have institutionalized this use of fear to the point that it is not about a particular individual, or even a cabal, gaining and holding power, but rather it is a way of life.  My study of history is not complete enough to know for certain if this is truly a unique development, or if it just another example of history repeating itself.  It could be an interesting historical study, but honestly it doesn’t matter.  It isn’t even just political.  We use this in every aspect of our lives from marketing for our cleaning supplies to teaching to politics and everything in between.

It has gotten far out of hand.  I have touched on this topic before.  It has grown worse over the years, and now instead of being a tool that is used by desperate men, or a tool of last resort, it is commonly used and is a tool of choice by many no matter what their political persuasion, or even their intent.

The events of this week bring this to light again.  Immediately, literally within hours, both sides of the gun control issue were screaming their points into the ether.  Both sides wanted to use the deaths of 12 people, the wounding of 59 others, and the fear (legitimate and otherwise) to build support for their cause.  To those who would use this tragedy to further their political aims, I say, a pox on both of your houses!  I have my opinions on the issue of gun control and the 2nd amendment, and those opinions may surprise some of you.  However, I will expound on that at another time.  It is not germane to this discussion, and I will not engage in that at this time.

This is what actually matters right now regarding this shooting incident, 12 people were killed, 59 were injured, and 1 other is so deranged that he thought this was an acceptable or even right thing to do.  We do not at this point know why he did what he did.  I will not speculate as some have done as to the specifics.  I have seen some try to tie him to the Tea Party and others try to tie him to the Occupy Wall Street movement.  In the absence of fact, people will attempt to assign him to that group that they dislike the most at the moment, as usual.  I will say this though.  I believe that when his motive comes out, we will find that it boils down to fear.

We allowed fear to let the PATRIOT act to be passed after 9/11, which was one of the greatest encroachments on our rights in modern history.  We have allowed fear to justify sending our soldiers around the world to kill innocent men, women and children in other countries in supposed searches for supposed terrorists.  We have allowed fear to justify illegal actions by other countries in killing innocent men, women and children too many times to count.  These are the larger items.

On the smaller scale we allow fear to control our every day lives in so many ways.  Everything from being afraid to look for new, better jobs, to fear of rejection in approaching new people that might be new friends or potential mates.  We have become so controlled by fear that we don’t know how to step up and be confident.  We are afraid of failure.  And, this too is a part of being conservative.  Part of the, “I’ll stick with the tried and true.”  Don’t be afraid to move forward and try new things.  If we fail, at least we tried!

After an emotional event, do not be tempted to allow a greater encroachment on rights than you would otherwise allow with a more rational mind. 

What are you doing NEXT Summer?

Two week’s ago I started to outline some of the fundamental problems with the education system in America.  I could go on for at least another week or two in this space detailing more of the problems, for we have many.  Some of those have to be left to lower levels to be addressed, but some of those are systemic, foundational, and fundamental.

It is these larger issues that we need to focus on.  If you read that column, then you had a bit of a preview and certainly this should come as no surprise to you.

There are cultural changes which we as parents have to start making.  One of the overarching themes of this column, has been personal responsibility.  We have to take responsibility for ourselves and our children.  This includes in the education of our children.  For example, when I was a child, if I used a word that I didn’t know, and my father caught me, I had to get out the dictionary, look it up, write out the definition, and use it in proper sentences to demonstrate that I was now capable of using it correctly.  When I had children of my own, I repeated this with them.  It works.  My eldest now enjoys playing Scrabble® with his friends and regularly demolishes them because he knows the language.  Neither my father nor I relied solely on the schools to educate our children.  This culture of responsibility is something which has been eroding throughout many aspects of our society, and I will hold my tongue as to my thoughts on why, for now.  However, the relevant point in this context is that it has infected the parental involvement.  If we cannot reverse that trend then whatever other changes we make will be, at best, less effective than they would otherwise be.

That being said, we still must make other changes because we cannot afford not to!

The very first change is to move to a true year round school system.  (Yes, I can hear the combined screaming of the kiddies, the crappier teachers, the teachers with multiple interests, the teachers nearing retirement, and a few other varieties.  I can even hear the ‘kids need to be kids crowd’.)  Some school districts around the country have toyed with various types of year round schooling.

One version, referred to as the Single Track Year, follows the typical school year plan.  Teach for x number of days, with y number of days off (Typically 45-15, 60-20, or 45-10).  The effect is that “basic calendar does not increase the number of days in the school year.”  In other words, all they’re really doing is spreading it out.  It does not achieve anything else.  This is as much a sham as selling the proverbial bridge.  It also actually exacerbates the child care problems that were previously discussed.  It is referred to as Single Track, because all students are on the same schedule.  Another version, referred to as the Multi-Track Year, does the same thing, but divides students and teachers into tracks, and has one portion out on break at any given moment.  The only advantage of this is to ease over-crowding in schools.  In all other ways, these are the same approach and neither is a real improvement.

It does address one part of the problem which is time away from school leading to loss of retention.  However, we actually need our students these days to learn more than ever before.  I do not mean more facts and figures, though there is some truth to that also.  I mean more in terms of technology and systems.  We have reached a point in our societal development where we need a true year round school system.  One which does not just have a standard 180 day educational calendar year, regardless of how that is spread out.  More than that though, we need to move to a school system at our junior and high school levels that more closely mirrors the set up of our colleges.  A system which recognizes achievement more than simply time spent.  The days when our students can learn what they need in order to be successful in a modern global, technologically interconnected society in 180 days of school are gone.  If they ever existed.

In loco vennum

Was it a critical decision?  I’m not really certain about that in the big picture.  And, by big picture, I mean long term.  Why?  Because in the long term, everything can change.  The Citizens United v Federal Election Commission decision issued on January 21, 2010 which undid nearly a century of settled law, the ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868 which overturned the Dred Scott v Sanford decision of 1857 (probably the worst SCOTUS decision of ALL TIME), and Brown v Board of Education in 1954 had to overturn the precedent of Plessy v Ferguson from 1896, amongst others.  The doctrine of stare decisis is less and less meaningful as we become more and more politicized at every branch and level of society, and as we become less and less educated.  So, yes, though I promised to pick up on last week’s column, the SCOTUS decision on the Affordable Care Act and the ensuing madness has prompted me to deviate from that.  Next week, will see the promised second part of the education column.  However, I do see a very strong connection.  Many of the arguments that are being thrown around are being put out by people who simply have no education about the facts.  They do not have a clue what they are talking about.  They are also over-reacting.

First, let us clear up a few things.

One, I am not a big fan of the ACA.  It is better than nothing, but it barely qualifies as progress.  The first thing that must always be said about it is that every single piece of it originated from the right.  This is not in the same sense that I have been trying to drive home for a few years now and, that others have started to echo, that there is no visible left in America.  This is, if you accept what Faux News and the rest of the mainstream media defines as the left and right in American politics, every piece of the ACA originated from the right and then was adopted by the “left”.  After it was adopted by the “left”, and thus should have had “bi-partisan” support, then it was attacked by the “right”.  This is the ridiculousness of the game being played by the far right wing in this country.  This is why there are those, even on the far right, who are finally starting to admit that in the media’s attempt to be fair, they are being dishonest.  In the attempt to give each “side” equal recognition, they are committing a lie that each side is equally valid.  The individual mandate, for example, which was the focus of so much right wing ire, was the brain child of the Heritage Foundation, as so clearly explained here by Peter Ferrara who at the time was the “John M. Olin Distinguished Fellow in Political Economy” at said Foundation.  It was an answer to Clinton’s attempts to move the health care system forward, but to do it on the worker’s backs instead of at the expense of the employer.

The point is that it is not an over-reach by the left.  Not even if we let “the left” be defined by the mainstream media.  It was passed through by the Democrats, yes.  But, it is a Republican bill through and through.

Second, the damn thing is really complicated and there are some good parts in it that will benefit many Americans – allowing younger Americans to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, preventing insurance companies from refusing to insure due to pre-existing conditions, and removal of lifetime benefit caps, for example.  Being such a complicated law, it affects pretty much everyone top to bottom, and one source of reasonably accurate information is here.  Most of the law does not, however, go into effect until 2014.  By then, the infighting of the Republicans and the Democrats may have killed off parts of it, to the point where it may be pointless.  In fact, that was likely the very reason it was pushed out to 2014 in the first place.  (Much like the United States Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction and its recommendations were set far enough out so that the the sequestering would never actually take place.  The congress would have time to act and make sure of that.  It is all a dog and pony show.  Neither the ruling members of Democrats nor the Republicans are serious about keeping their promises to actually accomplish anything positive for the country.  They are both in favor of serving their highest paying contributors and staying in power.  Any appearance of serving the rest of us is only an illusion created in the interest of staying in power.)

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