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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dealing With Failure

Seth Godin posted something on his blog recently about dealing with failure, called "After you've done your best". In it, he states:
"...we're encouraged to avoid failure, and one way we do that is by building up a set of emotions around failure, emotions we try to avoid, and emotions that we associate with the effort of people who fail. It turns out that this is precisely the opposite of the approach of people who end up succeeding."
And later:
"Successful people analytically figure out what didn't work and redefine what their best work will be in the future. And then they get back to work."
Seth is primarily talking about careers and the workplace environment, but the advice is very sound, and something we all need to be aware of in all aspects of life. Very recently, someone close to me felt like they were failing at something and had an extremely emotional reaction to it. One that ended up hurting a lot of people. It would definitely have been more productive for this person to analyze their situation and, as Seth pointed out, "redefine" what they needed to do. But emotions took control of them and that didn't happen. I was quite angry at first, and still am to a lesser extent, but we have to understand that once emotions take full control of a person, we are almost powerless to stop the onslaught they cause.

But the story doesn't quite end there, because I also felt like I failed this person by not putting together the clues in time to warn them or, even better, help them. I also had an emotional response to my own failure, one of extreme guilt. I honestly can't say that it's gone away or I've gotten over it, but I can see that it would have been better for me to learn from this instead, to learn what I could have done better, to learn what I will do better in the future.

We all live and learn, but some things are just too traumatic and difficult to learn by experience alone. That's why we have to think things out, plan ahead and take other situations and people into consideration, and above all...help each other.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Hypocrisy of Playing the Race Card

Racism is a precarious accusation to level at someone, because you can't ever truly know what's on their mind and in their heart. You can only make assumptions based on their actions and, barring extreme cases, those assumptions could very well be incorrect. That's why I find it so irresponsible that some liberals so willingly throw out that term, especially in a blanket fashion intended to cover all Republicans and/or conservatives (and yes, I understand that liberals aren't the only group to be irresponsible with playing the race card, but for the purposes of this post that's all I intend to focus on).


Lately, it seems that it is completely acceptable to just assume all Republicans are racists. Even the Tea Party got roped into this, I mean after all, a lot of Republicans like them so that must mean they are racists, too. This idea gained a lot of momentum during the 2008 presidential campaign, when the accusations were made that anyone not supporting Barack Obama was not doing so simply because he was black. That's preposterous. For example, I don't consider myself a Republican, but I personally do not support Obama's policies as president. However, it has nothing to do with the fact that he's black. In fact, that's one of the things I admire about him. I think it was about time this country elected a minority president, and whether I voted for him or not, I was proud to be alive to see it happen. It was a historic occasion, without a doubt. But I don't like most of his policies. I don't have to hate the man to disagree with his policies; he seems likable enough person. And I won't presume to think that he is carrying out detrimental policies (in my opinion) because he has bad intentions. I can't know what he's thinking, so I won't assume that I can. All I know is I disagree with the policies, it's as simple as that.


After the last 3 years of many in the public, and most of the media, accepting the assumption that all Republicans are racist an interesting thing happened. Along came Herman Cain. Then, to confuse matters even more, he shot up to become a frontrunner in the polls.


So what would the pundits do now, after they had established themselves as credible experts about all Republicans being racist? Why, create more spin, that's what! Their tactic now is to, somehow, claim that even the Republicans supporting Herman Cain are racist. And as if that wasn't enough, some are even claiming Herman Cain himself is a racist.


For example, on September 29, 2011 Herman Cain made the statement that he believed many African-Americans were "brainwashed" into voting for Democrats. He then went on to say that he believed he could get about one-third of the African-American vote, but added that he was basing that not on any poll data but on anecdotal evidence. The next night, Cornell Belcher, a Democratic strategist, accused Cain of being racist because of those comments. Anderson Cooper from CNN actually called him out on it and asked if those statements were truly racist. Belcher replied with his definition of racism, "What is the definition of...of...of racism or bigotry? It is, in fact, putting a blanket statement on a whole group of people". No Mr. Belcher, that is the definition of "stereotyping", not racism. Which is lucky for you, because if your definition was the correct one, it would mean all Democrats were racist for making the "blanket statement" that all Republicans are racists. This is pure hypocrisy, plain and simple. "I can make blanket statements about my opponents, but it's racism when they do it" is hardly a productive and useful philosophy to live by. Nor is it a particularly effective strategy.

You can see the Cornell Belcher video here:



But this isn't the only example of this kind of behavior. On October 28, 2011, Martin Bashir, another Democrat strategist, and Karen Finney, an MSNBC analyst were discussing Cain. Finney stated the following:
"One of the things about Herman Cain is, I think that he makes that white Republican base of the party feel okay, feel like they are not racist because they can like this guy," Finney said. "I think he giving that base a free pass. And I think they like him because they think he's a black man who knows his place. I know that's harsh, but that's how it sure seems to me."
Bashir agree with her and added, "Thank you for spelling that out."
Note how Finney words her statements, using phrases like "...feel like they are not racist...". There is an underlying assumption on her part that there is no doubt all Republicans are racist; it's not even up for question or debate. This kind of thinking is despicable.
You can see the video here:


Then there's Elijah Cummings (D-MD) who claims that Tea Party members only support Herman Cain as a way to try and prove they aren't racist. Again, note the assumption that all Tea Party members must be racist. It's not even taken into consideration that they may not be racist.


That video can be viewed here (it uses Flash; I apologize to the iOS users):







This same kind of sentiment is also spouted by the likes of comedienne Janeane Garafalo. In a statement very similar to Eliha Cummings's, she told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann that Herman Cain is only popular because he "hides the racist element" of the Republican party.You can see her video by going here.
This kind of rhetoric is hypocritical at best, and inflammatory at worst. Racism is bad, in part, because it makes broad generalizations about an entire population. These types of statements do the exact same thing about conservatives, Republicans, and even some independents. Once people lose sight of an individual person's point of view and instead focus on a single "groupthink", all logic and reason goes out the door. And without that, no significant progress can be made.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tax Plans Everywhere....But For What?

Watching the presidential campaign, everyone seems to be coming out with their own plan for tax reform. Either that, or they're coming out guns blazing to criticize someone else's tax plan - Democrats and Republicans alike. But here's the question I have: what is the exact problem they're trying to solve? Nobody really says, except for vague generalities so they don't get pigeonholed into actually taking a stand on something. But this is the critical question, isn't it? Because the solution will be different depending on what they're trying to accomplish.

Let's take one common complaint, that everyone should pay their "fair share" of taxes. There are complaints that the rich don't pay enough, corporations don't pay enough, or whatever. So what does "fair share" really mean? If it means everyone pays exactly the same amount, which is what "fair" used to mean back in kindergarten, then we'd just have a flat fee that everyone pays every year, say $5000 for each of us. But nobody is really advocating for that sort of plan. So maybe "fair" means we all pay in proportion to our income level? In that case, we should all pay the same percentage, which is just another way of saying a flat tax. This is what Rick Perry is proposing, but most people that are in favor of everyone paying their "fair share" don't like Rick Perry's plan. Why is that? Because they want to rich to be penalized, to pay more than their proportional amount. That's called a progressive tax rate, and it's what we already have today, if you ignore exemptions and write-offs. But they're not happy with that, either, because they want it to be even more "progressive". Some are even under the misguided delusion that making the rich pay more will somehow put more money in the pockets of everyone else. So maybe they just want the exemptions eliminated? Nope, Democrats and Republicans both put up a strong resistance to this idea.

Another complaint is that there is a gap between what the rich and the poor pay. Do they mean gap in percentage or gap in actual dollars? Of course, they never clarify. But either way, the problem with this argument is that the poor really don't pay taxes in any significant amount, so correcting the gap would necessitate raising taxes on the poor, unless we all just happen to decide that nobody should pay taxes. Usually what people mean by this argument, though, is that there's a gap in the percentage the rich pay vs. the percentage that some people in the middle class pay. The rich, though in a higher tax bracket, usually lower their tax burden through exemptions and write-offs. Many of these avenues are also available to the middle class, it's just that most of them aren't educated about them or aren't willing to go through the extra effort to take advantage of them. The way to reduce this gap is to create a flat tax with no exemptions allowed. But again, the people complaining about this don't like that solution. Mainly because it actually makes everything even, and they feel the rich should be somehow punished.

A third complaint is that the government simply needs more revenue. This is an entirely different problem and really can't be solved by simply raising the taxes on the rich. Even if we taxed the top 1% of the population (the rich) for 100% of their income, it really wouldn't make a significant difference in federal revenues. Even if we confiscated 100% of the accumulated wealth of the rich, it would be a minimal impact to the federal revenue. Plus, that's the sort of thing that can happen only once, because once you do it they have no more wealth to confiscate. The real way to solve this problem is to have a national sales tax. Why would this work? Because it would immediately force people that don't normally pay taxes to start paying - illegal immigrants, drug dealers and other criminals, foreign dignitaries, and even tourists. Such a vast increase in the tax base would have a tremendous impact on government revenue. Not only that, but it would reduce government spending by virtually eliminating the IRS and all enforcement that goes along with it. These reductions would spread to corporate America, both small and large businesses, and even to our court systems. If done correctly, it could also leave almost every American with more money in their pockets.

A fourth potential problem is the sheer complexity of the current tax system. Some people just want something simpler, fairness be damned. Most of the proposed tax plans are considerably simpler than our current tax code. The problem is, the proponents of those plans feel the need to defend against accusations of unfairness (because they're not clear what problem they're trying to actually solve) and thus start muddying the waters by introducing waivers for the poor, waivers for the elderly, and who knows what else. If they continue down that road long enough, they will eventually succeed in recreating our current tax plan. Great job, guys.


So which problem are we trying to solve exactly? Do we want everyone to pay the same, fair amount? Then let's first agree on the definition of "fair" and then most likely go with something like a flat tax, similar to what Rick Perry is proposing. But let's also understand that we'd achieve fairness by raising taxes on the poor and without significantly increasing federal revenue.



Do we want to increase government revenue, while also leaving more money in the pockets of most Americans? Then let's go with something like the Fair Tax, which is strongly advocated by people like Neal Boortz. But let's do so with the understanding that the transition to such a system might be difficult, especially for people near retirement age, and that not everyone will be paying the same amount of tax, though it could still be considered fair in that people would pay proportional to what they spend.


Or maybe we want a little of both approaches? In that case, something closer to the 9-9-9 Plan proposed by Herman Cain might be a better bet. This would minimize the risks and potential negatives of both a flat tax and a national sales tax. Of course, it would also reduce the benefits of both, so we'd have to ask ourselves if it's really worth it? Maybe, maybe not....what's our goal again??


Or perhaps the goal is to simply punish the rich for the act of being rich? Then we should just raise taxes on the rich like some Democrats want and call it a day, but with the clear understanding that we wouldn't have accomplished anything substantial except making some people feel good. That, and ensuring those Democrats get re-elected, of course.

The point is that most of these people aren't trying to solve any problem at all, except the problem of how they get elected or re-elected. The few that are trying to solve a problem aren't making that clear and standing out from the crowd, and everyone else is being foolishly led to argue over meaningless ideas that will never solve the problems they're truly concerned about.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Do You Speak English?

For you English speakers out there, this is a big annoyance for me. For non-English speakers, just come back another day because this won't make sense to you (then again, you probably didn't understand this sentence either, so do what you will).

People don't read enough. You can really tell people that don't read a lot from the ones that do. It shows up in how they speak and how they write. The ones that don't read base their usage and spelling on what they thought something sounds like, because that's how they heard it a party (while in a haf-drunk state, most likely....no I'm just kidding....about the "half"), on TV, or wherever. The people that read a lot tend to visualize how they saw it written, and tend to get it correct more often. Here are some of the most common ones. Or maybe not, but they are the ones that annoy me the most:

People write and say: should of, could of, would of
People should write and say: should've, could've, would've
This one only takes common sense, people! Just think about what the words mean - "should of" doesn't make any logical sense. Any while we're at it, pronounce the contractions with a "v" sound, not an "f". 'Cause that's what's there.

People write and say: doggy-dog world
People should write and say: dog eat dog world
Just think about the meaning. The saying means the world is tough and unfair, where dogs eat other dogs. "Doggy-dog world" means what? No clue.

People write and say: mute point
People should write and say: moot point
The point isn't silent, it is irrelevant.

People say: expresso
People should say: espresso
There is no "x" sound in the word. All s's. Try and remember that.

People say: maynaise
People should say: mayonnaise
There is an "o" in the word. That's why it's abbreviated "mayo". Sheesh.

People say: nuke-ye-lar
People should say: nuclear
Remember back to first grade, where we sounded out words letter by letter? Try that here. It works really well. It keeps you from doing stupid things like swapping the sounds of letters.

For more example of ridiculous usage of the English language, check out the "100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases in English" and the "100 Most Often Misspelled Words and Phrases in English.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Even for Freedom of Speech, Location Matters

An article today over at Newsweek.com shows an excerpt from an interview with Flemming Rose, the Danish editor that published the now infamous cartoons of the prophet Mohammed (you can read the article at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11179140/site/newsweek). In it, Flemming Rose makes a good point that I think a lot of people are glossing over: these cartoons were published in Denmark, not in any Middle Eastern or Islamic country. He even says that were he visiting a mosque, he would never show or publish any such cartoons, out of respect for where he was. This is the crux of the matter - have respect for other cultures. In fact, isn't this what most Muslims have been asking for, too? For Westerners to treat them with more respect? Well, you know what? Treat others as you wish to be treated. Sure, Islam states that there should be no depictions of Mohammed, but this only applies to followers of Islam. Not every single person on the entire planet. No reasonable person can expect everyone else in the world to follow their religious beliefs!

The other day, I heard Pat Buchannan (on the Sean Hannity radio show) saying that he thought the editor that published these cartoons was stupid for doing so. He made an analogy of going to an American Indian reservation and camping on their sacred land, even after being told that doing so would upset them. Excuse me, but Pat Buchannan is being an idiot. This analogy is faulty on two counts, though. First (as stated above) these cartoons were not published in any Islamic countries, but in Denmark. This would be like American Indians being upset that you camped on your own land because they think you should see it as sacred just like they do. Second, just as the American Indians would have a right to be outraged and feel insulted, so do the Muslims. But the expression of that outrage is what is at issue here, which is why (as I've stated before) I think the riots have nothing to do with the cartoons whatsoever, but are merely an excuse for violence.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More Justification for Racism

I just read on MSNBC (read the article here) that:
"Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Tuesday that publication of the caricatures was an Israeli conspiracy motivated by anger over the victory of the militant Hamas group in last month’s Palestinian elections."
Hmmm....interesting. I see. Israel planned and executed this "conspiracy" back in September 2005 (when the cartoons were first published in a Danish newspaper) in anticipation of Hamas winning elections in January 2006. So is this guy actually claiming that Israelis can see 4 months into the future?! Of course not. He's just making more pathetically veiled justifications for his racism. And isn't this the same Iranian government that is sponsoring a contest in their newspapers about Jewish Holocaust cartoons in response to the Danish cartoons? Never mind that Jews had nothing to do with the cartoon's publication, but isn't this a little hypocritical? Either condemn the Danish newspaper for publishing the cartoon and refrain from publishing your own in the same vein, or go ahead and publish your own but accept the right of the Danish newspaper to do the same. But the hypocritcal approach works best for him, doesn't it? After all, it allows him to blame or attack Jews on both counts! Truly, truly pathetic.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

This is Real Life, not a Cartoon!



It is almost incomprehensible that buildings are burning and people are being killed over a cartoon. I say "almost", because it really isn't as surprising as it should be. The behavior of Muslim "protesters" is completely unjustified. If they were truly protesters, in the sense of holding up signs, talking, yelling, marching, or whatever then I think they would be justified. I can see how the cartoon would be offensive to a Muslim. I think they should have the freedom to protest it, just as I think any newspaper in the world should be free to print it. But what is going on is not just mere "protesting", but "rioting" - even though most of the media is shying away from that term. Oh no, we can't have that - that makes them sound bad! Guess what? Killing people over a cartoon is bad! If you do it, that makes you bad. Plain and simple. There is no need to wash over what is essentially murder and arson by calling it a "protest".

But is that even the real reason? Is it likely that so many people in so many countries were moved to so much rage and anger over a cartoon printed 5 months ago in a Danish newspaper...really? Because it is blasphemous to their religion? I don't think so. Keep in mind that this "deep offense" at their religion being mocked is coming from the same people that refer to Jews as dogs and pigs, and publically advocate the extermination of an entire country based purely on the race and religion of its inhabitants! They refer to America as the "Great Satan" and advocate the killing of Christians and Jews alike. They teach little children in schools horrible things about Westerners - including blatant propaganda about how some Westerners are so evil, they eat their babies. They kill innocent people in restaurants, airports, at work, and any other place they can, and then congratulate and honor the murderers. And they do all this in the name of their religion and their God. One Muslim imam was quoted as saying, "It's disrespectful to our prophet to imply that he's a prophet of violence." Huh?! You mean all of those suicide bombers that kill innocents in the name of Islam are not implying that Islam's prophet is one of violence? Where were all the protests and outrage at being thought of as violent after every suicide bombing? Why weren't the homes of suicide bombers and terrorist training camps burned like the embassies are burning now? With the hypocrisy and double-standards rising to such a high level, I think they lost the right to complain about their religion being mocked long ago.

The cartoon merely provided a convenient excuse and easy justification for what a lot of these people wanted to do in the first place. The anger existed long before the cartoon, and at its very core - stripped of all the politics and spin - is due to nothing more than blatant racism. Am I saying that all Muslims are racist? Of course not. We know that's not true, and I personally know many Muslims that are not racist. But the problem is that a majority of the outspoken ones are and so are the governments of most Middle Eastern countries. A lot of the tolerant Muslims have emigrated to the West to get away from the constant violence and hatred, which is good for them but leaves only a higher concentration of racism back in their home countries.

Hatred against Jews, hatred against Christians, and hatred against all-things Western is the driving force behind the rage. Sure, there are other reasons that fuel their anger. Some of them are even valid reasons due to the behavior of the West. But none of that justifies the level of violence against innocent people seen from that part of the world in the last half century. If everything the West has done, and has been accused of doing, could be magically erased, the violence would still continue because the racism would still remain. They hate Israel because Israel is Jewish. They hate America, because America does not hate the Jews. Of course, there are many other reasons stated, but it is all smoke and mirrors to cover up the dark truth. "The friend of my enemy is my enemy" seems to be the driving philosophy in play. Even Europeans that oppose America's foreign policy are hated because - well, they're not Muslims. The racism will continnue until something makes it stop. In most Western cultures, racism has been declining due largely to education. In the Middle East, education is encouraging racism. The schools are full of lies and propaganda about how Jews and Americans are all evil, all hate Muslims and want to kill them on site, and that they commit horrible evils like eating their own babies. The problem with education has to be addressed or we will have to deal with the next generation of terrorists and violent rioters soon. But even if that could be accomplished, which it can't without changes in government and culture, it still leaves the problem of how to deal with the current generation.

History has shown that negotiation and diplomacy will not work, because no matter what is agreed to on paper, that deeply-rooted racism will eventually surface again and erupt in violence. Diplomacy is also one-sided - most, if not all, Western countries would be more than happy if diplomacy actually worked and led to lasting peace, because that is their ultimate goal - peace. But a lot of the Muslims don't share that same goal. Their ultimate goal is not peace, but the destruction of Israel and all Jews. So if diplomacy won't work, I'm not sure how many other options that really leaves...