Monday, February 4, 2013

The Essence of Politics

My kids like to watch youtube videos—never unsupervised, of course. Sometimes we watch videos of cats doing funny things, for the younger kids. Sometimes we watch videos of Barry Sanders or Walter Payton. Fortunately, youtube is not without opportunities for education. The best videos are educational and funny. This is one of those.

She likes Obama just because she got a phone. Some people! I mean, these welfare types are out of control, right? But whoever this woman is, she did an amazing thing, despite the condescending tone of the guy behind the camera. In twenty-five seconds she exposes the foundation of our whole political process, and that's something that most people who claim to be knowledgeable about politics couldn't accurately describe if you gave them an hour to do it. Thanks to this brief youtube video my kids know it.

The thing that caught my attention was her honesty. Obama gives me stuff, so I like him. Simple. And that's really what politics is all about. A politician tells one group of people that he will take the property of another group to give to the first group. This is how he (or she, to be fair) wins. You can't prove otherwise unless you use Ron Paul as an example. HL Mencken put it this way: "The state, or, to make matters more concrete, the government, consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting "A" to satisfy "B". In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advanced auction on stolen goods." So this woman in Cleveland is simply more honest than, well, probably you. Most people think they're voting for an ideology, or for someone who will Do The Right Thing, or maybe even for the Lesser Of Two Evils, but probably they're just voting for the guy who says he will get more of the things he and people like him think are right, and the people who are wrong will get less, and also pay for the things that are right. Although, of course, we must all Do Our Part and Pay Our Fair Share. There's really no getting around that.

After a few views I noticed something else. Her critique of Romney was hilarious and also accurate, but it was also typical of most political dialogue. "He sucks—bad!" That sums it up from both sides. Because no one could come right out and be honest about their motivations—we like the warfare state! We like the welfare state!—the whole world was stuck with two years of vapid, vacuous, verbosity that got us nowhere but the same place as always. For two years there were endless speeches about who would spend the most money in the worst way, or about who would invade which countries, or whose nonexistent plan was better, or who spent more on a haircut, or who bullied someone back in the day, or who didn't have the requisite experience to do any of the above mentioned things. And then everyone took sides, but didn't really know why. Here's this lady who says Obama gave her a phone and Romney sucks, and you think you can do better? Do you really think that voting for Romney because "He's a Mormon!" or "He's a conservative!" or "He's a good businessman!" is better? Guess what, you're on Cleveland Lady's level. Those aren't arguments or rational thoughts, those are emotions, and that's all you had, because Romney never had a plan for anything. Tell me what it was. Yeah, that's what I thought. No plan, just saying the right words, tailored just for you, the target audience. He never had anything better than "Obama sucks—bad!" and neither did you.

The only real sway any politician has comes from what he has promised to take from someone else to give to you, whether it's a phone or a fleet of new (yet nearly obsolete) airplanes and bombs to go with them, or maybe a whole stack of new debt to fund the "cleanup project" you're "working" on, or maybe even those green jobs we've been hearing so much about for so long. You might as well be honest and get a new phone.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Deadliest Pool

Sometime last winter I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I ended up as the general manager of the private pool we belong to. That part of the story isn't really the point here.

Skip forward to the summer of 2012. Teenage lifeguards, on break from public schools where the main objective is to teach children to dutifully submit to state-approved authority, are surprised by a visit from the local Environmental Health Technician* (this title should have your Orwell sensors lighting up). According to the list written up by the inspector, the pool was just barely on the safe side of being shut down. The list included lethal items such as missing skimmer covers (we didn't have any missing, by the way) and no separate filter shut off thingy for the small pool (the reason for that is because the water in the big pool and the water in the small pool is the same water. Very observant, Inspector Clouseau!). A former manager informed me that the list was just a list of recommendations, and there was no threat of the pool being shut down, despite the inspector's notice that the items should be fixed within 24 hours or else. For the remainder of the summer we suffered exactly zero drownings, zero illnesses from contaminated water, zero limbs amputated by missing skimmer covers, and zero injuries unrelated to the idiocy of the injured person.

The other day I got a letter from the county health department concerning the pool. My pool, a private pool for members of the pool on private property, run by members of the pool privately for their own private use, and also not open to the public under any circumstances. I'm quoting now: "This letter is a follow up on the routine inspections of the above referenced facility's pool performed during the 2012 season." I'm flattered! Continuing: "During these inspections the following item was discussed and must be corrected to maintain compliance with WAC 246-260 prior to opening your facility in 2013." Egads, bold letters! The words "must" and "compliance" were used, this must be seriously official! But it gets better, and then it gets even better after that. The item to be corrected is the obtaining of a chlorine test kit, which can be found by any blind moron in the pump room of the above referenced pool. We have a test kit, which is how the lifeguards tested the water multiple times everyday for the entire summer. But it seems that our beloved inspector deemed our kit inadequate. Whatever shall we do?

Here's the even better part. Quoting the, uh, technician again: "Please note this item is a central component of a safe and healthy facility. It is your responsibility to ensure that your facility remains as safe as possible. It is important to fix this item prior to opening in 2013, as failure will result in closure of your facility until corrections have been implemented." This small group of sentences really made my day. There's so much there. Failure will result in closure. We must recognize the stringent standards set forth by the state. Failure is not an option. These people run a tight ship, and there is no room for sloppy or inaccurate water testing. Yes, the state demands success, no failure allowed. Those with a bad attitude toward authority might point out that the state itself is the source of more failure than any other single source, and that the state fails at everything it ever attempts to do, aside from fleecing the general population and creating an endless and metastasizing labyrinth of bureaucracies. But I'll refrain from that. The other thing I noticed was the very clear assignment of responsibility. "It is your responsibility…" Well, if it's my responsibility, then why have I been sent a letter about this problem? Why not mind your own business, county health department? By your own admission, it is none of your business, because it's my responsibility. Wherefore do you concern yourself with my pool, Inspector/Technician? It is not your responsibility, after all.

At this point some may be wondering what purpose the county health department serves at all, what with no responsibility whatsoever to oversee the correct testing of pool water. Well, plenty of purposes, that's what. It even says it on the letterhead: "Always working [sic] for a safer and healthier community." See? That's gotta be a purpose, right? So while they're out working [sic] to save the community from the community's own dumb non-self-preservational self, I'll be responsible for the safe operation of the pool, even though I didn't need them to tell me I needed to do that in the first place. Maybe the department will be in your kitchen next, testing your knives to make sure they're clean before you cut vegetables with them, or maybe making sure there are no dangerous tree branches in your back yard. And did you flush the toilet? Inspector, where are you when we need you? Community safety first!

So I'll close with some words from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, an invitation to the technicians and inspectors down at the county health department, and personal pledge to never deserve what happened afterward: "And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward."

*This guy could be different from the actual field inspector. I don't know, but does it really matter?