In Defense of the Underdog

Underdog-cartoon-DVD

Underdog, voiced by the great Wally Cox.

It’s only July of 2015 and already I’m disillusioned about the general election next November. I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the idea of President Hillary. Though you could do a lot worse, it’s not my first choice.

Watching the Republican field implode used to be so much sport. Now it’s just pathetic. Really pathetic. I blame Donald Trump who is turning what in my opinion ought to be a reasoned, intellectual process into a circus sideshow best documented in the entertainment section rather than the political section of the news.

Mind you, I am not a low information voter. Neither am I any sort of expert in the art and science of elections. Plus, it’s early in the race, so I haven’t done a ton of homework on too many of the potential nominees in any party. So I reserve the right to modify my position based on new information I may or may not acquire in the course of the next sixteen months or so. Hell, I may just stay stupid just to see what it’s like.

Back in this post, I made the case for the candidate who would get my vote in the upcoming elections. I stand by that list which I will recreate here for those of you too busy (lazy) to read the original. For those of you who are neither, I’ll wait for you right here.

All done? Cool! Now that you’re back, you can skip the following bulleted list. (It’s for the sick, lame and lazy in my readership. You know who you are.)

  1. Possesses at least SOME charisma.
  2. Is willing to change her mind or position when presented with new facts. (See what I did there?)
  3. Has government or corporate executive experience. Check that. Has SUCCESSFUL government or corporate executive experience.
  4. Demonstrates willingness and ability to build consensus.
  5. Is reasonable.
  6. Treats other candidates with respect. Bonus points if it actually compliments its competitors. (It rubs the lotion on its Super PAC.)
  7. Puts Nation over party.

No one candidate in any party has made enough of an impression on me to satisfy my criteria. In their collective defense, it’s going to be extremely difficult for any candidate to rise above the current level of noise, particularly for any candidate who dares to be reasonable. But I’m still watching in my own semi-informed, but critical thinking way. For the moment, I’m going to jump ahead to the general election and make the case for at least my third criterion above.

CM_optics-pic2

THIS is optics, bitches!

And I’m also going to consider the optics of the presidency. <shudder> I hate the word “optics.” Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. But these days, optics in the political sense of the word matter greatly

I do think it’s time for a woman president. I just don’t think it ought to be Secretary Clinton. If (when) Clinton wins the nomination and the general, it will in my opinion usher in yet another eight years of politics and business as usual in DC. Secretary Clinton is well established in the Washington bureaucracy and I believe it unlikely that she will, because of experience, temperament and training conduct the Office of the Presidency with any innovation, any sense of urgency or any desire to really change the course of our nation. She’s too well entrenched in the existing systems of government. Washington today is what she knows and we all gravitate to that which we know best.

Now, the experience she brings is formidable and part of #3 is “SUCCESSFUL government or corporate executive experience.” I think successful government experience is one of the necessary tools that a candidate should have. And Secretary Clinton meets that standard.

But a potential President needs more than just an understanding of the federal bureaucracy. But how about the corporate angle?

Howzabout we form an administration that has both successful corporate and government experience? No one candidate is likely to do that, so that’s why I’m jumping to the general to propose that the Republicans nominate a Fiorina/Kasich ticket.

carly-johnNow before you dismiss me out of hand go read my opening few paragraphs again. You can’t possibly be too lazy to do that. Seriously.  You just can’t.

Carly Fiorina is an extraordinarily successful business woman having run tech giant Hewlett-Packard. From Wikipedia (granted not a bastion of absolute fact):

“Starting in 1980, Fiorina rose through the ranks to become an executive at AT&T and its equipment and technology spinoff, Lucent. As chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard (HP) from 1999 to 2005, she was the first woman to lead one of the top twenty U.S. companies.

In 2002, Fiorina undertook the biggest high-tech merger in history with rival computer company Compaq, which made HP the world’s largest personal computer manufacturer. HP gained market share following the merger and subsequently laid off 30,000 American workers. By the end of 2005, the merged company had more employees worldwide than they had separately before the merger.”

Optics? Check – First woman President. Successful business leader? Check. Job creator? Check. Consensus builder? Check. Government experience?

<crickets>

This is where current Ohio Governor John Kasich comes in.

Again from my old pal Wikipedia:

In 1982, Kasich ran for Congress in Ohio’s 12th District, based in Columbus, Ohio. He won the Republican primary with 83% of the vote, and defeated [the] incumbent Democrat … in the general election by a margin of 50%–47%. Kasich was re-elected eight times after 1982, winning at least 64% of the vote each time.

As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Kasich was the lead architect of the 1997 balanced budget deal. This marked the first time the federal budget achieved balance since 1969 and ultimately led to a federal budget surplus. Kasich also chaired the congressional conference committee that overhauled welfare, requiring new work/training requirements into the system.

Dude knows how to win an election and balance a budget. He can also likely deliver the critical state of Ohio in the general election because:

[As Governor of the Buckeye State,] Kasich utilized a number of cost-saving reforms without raising taxes and signed the new balanced budget on June 30, 2011. The budget included the elimination of the estate tax and the continuation of a previously passed income tax cut for all Ohioans.

… As a result of Kasich’s budgeting efforts throughout his first term, Ohio’s rainy-day fund (or surplus) went from $0.89 to $1.5 billion today.

… Kasich has cut taxes in Ohio by a net total of more than $3 billion. This includes the income tax cut implemented in his first budget, the 10% income tax cut in his second budget, the 50% income tax cut for small businesses, and other tax reforms that included a quarter-percentage-point increase in the state sales tax.

During Kasich’s first term in office, 316,800 new jobs were created in the state of Ohio and the unemployment rate dropped from 9.4% to 5.1%

Successful government leader? Check – both State and Federal. Job creator? Check. Government experience? In spades. Optics?

Well, that’s where I have issues and it’s a relatively minor one. In spite of Governor Kasich’s record of success leading large government agencies, it’s my opinion that the optics (there’s that word again!) of a former Fox News anchorman as President presents a problem for me. Then again, Tony Snow went from Fox to the White House for a successful turn as Press Secretary, but that’s a different animal than the presidency itself.

So to recap: A potential Fiorina/Kasich ticket brings to a potential administration:

  • Successful corporate executive experience.
  • Successful government executive experience.
  • Ability to build consensus. (Who merges HP and Compaq without being able to do that?)
  • Possesses at least some charisma. (True. I remember Kasich from his days in the anchor chair.)
  • Optics, in this case, the inauguration of the first woman president.

Now I’m not low informed enough to think that there aren’t negatives about either Fiorina or Kasich. I know of a couple. From my perspective at this point in the election, the combination of these two success stories is worthy of consideration by a party that can’t find its collective butt with both hands and a flashlight.

My point? Kasich and Fiorina are not getting any traction. They’re two of many underdogs among the crowded Republican field. And I think that’s unfortunate because the collective experience of these two people is an attractive combination. Together on paper, they have a resume that I believe could serve this nation unusually well.

I’m not willing to say this is the only way to go and that no other candidate is worthy of my vote. I’m saying that my relatively superficial evaluation has led me here. I will probably change my mind at some point, and it’s my right to do that.

But today, right now, how about let’s have a look at the underdogs.

2014 – An Even-Numbered Year

No, I suppose that’s not the best thing I can say about 2014. But it was the first thing to come to mind when I wanted to describe the year in a nutshell.

2014-logo-stock-market-forecast-predictions-goldman-sachs-gold-europe-japan-options-trading-technical-analysis-etf-educationThis past year was actually pretty decent as years go. It had its high points and it’s low points and a lot of points in between.

Sidebar: My Dad always used to say, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” I always parodied it as “The shortest line between two distances is a straight point” or something like that.   The straight point always made the mathematician in me giggle.)

This year marked my return to the world of the employed. I wrote about my first year at Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center a while back.   In July, I unintentionally acquired the mission to coordinate a presidential visit to the Center. That turned out to be a huge shot in the arm both professionally and personally. I had not experienced any real successes for along time and successfully coordinating that visit was the kind of confidence builder that I didn’t know I really needed – but I did – much more than I’d thought. So for that opportunity, and for all of the great people at the Center and at the White House who contributed to that success, I am very, very grateful.

Emmett, biting an object that for a change isn't my arm.

Emmett, biting an object that for a change isn’t my arm.

We lost Bella and gained Emmett as our family dog. While in my mind, the jury’s still out on whether this is a good thing or not, in moments of clarity, I recognize that Emmett provides me with a little bit of calm quiet time when we go on our evening walks around the neighborhood.

Of course, when I come home from work in the evening, he’s at the top of the stairs wagging his tail like a garrison flag in a tornado, his teeth are often bared in an aggressive grimace that rivals that of a battle-readied Klingon, and he’s growling in a way that to the uninitiated would be a clear indicator for future avoidance.

Oh, he’s also licking my hand as fast as his tail is wagging. In between growls, there are squeals of either delight or constipation. But so far, he’s not pooped, so I’m going with delight.

He’s a canine nutcase. But we have a mutually beneficial relationship even though he’s bitten me on a couple of occasions. So Emmett, and you’ll only hear me say this once, I’m grateful for your presence in spite of that time you sank your teeth into my left forearm.

10711081_10204501114865980_4278450657355952218_nAnd to Beth Geyer, Mistress of the Universe and Supreme Leader of All She Observes, I am grateful for you, for finding Emmett, for believing in him when I didn’t and helping me find his inner sweetness. Really, REALLY inner. And not very sweet when you get right down to it.

Oh, and thank you for taking such good care of me, Nate and Garrett. You do good work and we all love you! And you’re really, really pretty too, which is a plus!

The Prius, some years ago.  It doesn't look much different today.

The Prius, some years ago. It doesn’t look much different today.

I’m grateful for my Toyota Prius. At over 205,000 miles, it’s going strong, in good mechanical shape and still fun to drive. It’s unexpectedly comforting to have a vehicle that is reliable, comfortable and fun to drive even if the technology under the hood is ten years old. Thanks, Toyota, for making such a terrific car. (I just noticed that I was grateful for the Prius last year because I paid it off. Well, at least I’m consistent about something.)

My brother, Jefferson, and his family at a German Ikea store which looks remarkably like the ones here in the U.S.

My brother, Jefferson, and his family at a life-changing German Ikea store which looks remarkably like the ones here in the U.S.

I’m grateful to the U.S. Army for a number of reasons, but the latest isn’t even something that affects me. Thanks for sending my brother, Jefferson and his magnificent family to live in Europe for a few years. I mention this because back in 1981, the Army sent me to Europe to live and it was an overwhelmingly positive, life-changing experience that I really do cherish to this very moment. I hope that for him and his family it is at the very least an equally positive experience.

Another sidebar: I admit I am more than a tad envious. I’d always wanted to go back for another permanent change of station to Europe. So I am grateful for the opportunity to hear about their experiences over there.

Here’s a quote from last year. It’s not like my social life has changed much at all, so this really still applies:

“I’m grateful to the online community for keeping me company when I can’t get out of the house, which is pretty much always. Thank you for entertaining me, engaging me and giving me an outlet for socialization even if it is virtual in nature. I recognize that you’re all real people on the other side of my screen, and I value your friendship, your candor and your confidence. I’m extra grateful that I DO get to see many of you in person from time to time. Thank you for being so welcoming and so supportive.”

I’m pretty sure I’m grateful for a ton of other things, but at this moment, I am too sleepy to write about ’em all. So for the moment, I’ll be particularly grateful for the opportunity to count my many blessings at the end of this very eventful and positive year and say thank you to all my friends for just being.  You all matter to me.

If I had to do 2014 over again, I’d do it with more comfortable shoes. Other than that, 2014…? You go in the “win” column!

Oh, and thanks for reading the stuff I post on this blog. It’s always a pleasure to interact with you even (especially!) when we don’t agree. Let’s make 2015 the year of cogent discourse!

And chocolate. Yeah, 2015 should have more chocolate.

Playing Catch Up with the News

I’ve not written much lately. You know, life getting in the way and all that rot. I am a terribly undisciplined person writer and don’t always post here or anywhere else, for that matter. But I got this web site and I really should feed it more often. But I’m lazy.

For now, since I am far too lazy busy to write lengthy essays on topical issues and in the spirit of feeding this blog, here’s a list of winners and losers from relatively current events.

Kim Jong Un vs. Sony Pictures:

Winner by KO: Kim Jong Un. North Korea appears to have single handedly dealt a serious economic blow to a major U.S. corporation. The accepted definition of terrorism, ”the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims,” applies here. We as a Nation should respond accordingly.

the-interview

(Sidebar: I’ll bet sales of “Team America: World Police” are going to skyrocket because of this. Therefore, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the only American winners in this transaction.)

 

Mid-term Elections: Republicans vs. Democrats:

Winner: No one. We still get the same guys for the most part. I long for a viable third party.

 

Kim Kardashian vs The Internet:

Winner: The Internet. She didn’t break the Internet. Kim’s butt is the broken one – it’s got a crack in it. (Hardy har har.)

(Sidebar: If you were expecting a picture here, you will be sorely disappointed.)

 

U.S.A. vs Cuba:

Winners: Everyone. We’re now a step closer (albeit a small one) to exporting American culture, commerce and freedom to Cubans. Besides, what was in place wasn’t working and after 50 years, it’s time to try something new.

Now, let’s sell those Cubans some DirecTV dishes!

 

Marvel vs. DC:

Winner: Marvel. While “Gotham” on the Fox network is terrific, Marvel has masterfully woven its characters into a rich fabric spanning movies and television. The finale of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” delivered a magnificent situation from which the Marvel universe will blossom even more. Well done, Marvel Studios.

Chloe Bennett as Skye

Chloe Bennett as Skye

Loser: Paramount Pictures. They still can’t get “Star Trek” right. Trek is as rich of a property as Marvel with an established fan base. Why they keep screwing it up is beyond me.

 

NASA vs. ESA:

Winner: The edge goes to ESA for landing on a comet ten YEARS after launching the damned thing. Philae’s successful landing on Comet 67P/Churymov–Gerasimenko is the culmination of a monumental undertaking by the European Space Agency. Well done!

ESA_Rosetta_Philae_CIVA_141113_1

NASA, please don’t feel left out. You only missed by a hair’s breadth. I have always loved what you do. You contributed enormously to my childhood imagination so I’m automatically prejudiced. Orion’s first flight was a remarkable accomplishment and paves the way for the return of American manned space missions. But dude, ten years? Man, that’s tough to top! (If that little explosion at Wallops hadn’t happened, you’d have had the edge. Just sayin’.)

NASA's Orion soon-to-be manned spacecraft.

NASA’s Orion soon-to-be manned spacecraft.

Random Thoughts

1.  Just because I’m having a shitty day doesn’t mean you have to.

2.  Relationships are like cell phone calls.  Sometimes the connection is clear.  Other times you just get dropped.

3.  Why are all those clams so goddamn happy in the first place?

4.  As of this moment, I’d much rather have a rhino than a rhinovirus.

5.  In just a few weeks, my Prius will have been driven enough miles to have made it 0.8373280860773272 of the way to the moon.

6.  I have new camera fever.

7.  I have new phone fever.

8.  I have a fever.  (See item 4.)

"Dammit, Spock. I forgot to charge my communicator!!!"

“Dammit, Spock. I forgot to charge my communicator!!!”

9.  How come I have to use a wire to charge my wireless devices?  That’s not REALLY wireless.  I want wireleast devices.  (Yes, I know about charging pads.)

10.  I wonder if Jim Kirk had to plug in his communicator at night to charge.

 

Ten Things I Like About Labor Day

I am not in management anymore. I have no supervisory duties whatsoever in my government job. Therefore, that makes me a worker bee. No longer a leader or manager, no siree!  I am Joe Lunchbox now.  The Average American. Worker. Laborer. Labrador (retriever).

Woof!

Before you call me out on this, I’ll have you know that I happen to be a card-carryin’, paid-up member of a real, honest-to-goodness labor union. The Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Radio and Television Artists is a LABOR union, listed as “… a proud member of the AFL-CIO,” The American Federation of LABOR and Congress of Industrial Organizations. Doesn’t get much more labor-y than the AFL-CIO.  And I got a residuals check for $1.36 this year. That means I’m laboring or at least at some point I was laboring, right?

check

Right?

C’mon y’all, as Doctor Evil once so eloquently articulated, throw me a freakin’ bone, here!

Ok, so I am not on an assembly line, or holding one of those stop/slow road signs in a highway construction zone, and my labor is at a desk with a computer in air conditioned comfort. For the purposes of this discussion, please just this once think of me as the aforementioned Mr. Lunchbox.

Anyway, in anticipation of the three-day weekend and in celebration of Labor Day and all things laborious, here are ten things I like about Labor Day.

1. Three-day weekend. (That’s a no brainer.)

2. No more wearing white.

3. Sales! Sales! Sales!

4. Kids go back to school immediately afterwards.

5. Did I mention the three-day weekend?

6. Cooler fall weather is just around the corner.

7. Today, the Friday before the Labor Day weekend, which I may have mentioned is a three-day one, there’s practically no one in the office. It’s almost like having a FOUR-day weekend!

8. It’s not the end of the lawn mowing season yet, but I can see it from here.

9. When people say “Happy Labor Day!” to you they don’t sound as ridiculous as when they say “Happy Memorial Day.” There’s absolutely nothing happy about Memorial Day. Ever.

10. I can dupe the kids into taking out the trash on Monday because “all children are required by Federal statute to engage in labor on Labor Day.”

Wishing you all a terrific Labor Day weekend, which if you didn’t already know, is a three-day weekend.

Cool Pictures That I’m In or That I Took: Part 3

I haven’t posted lately, so here’s #3 in a series of posts I’m going to make when I find some of these photographic blasts from the past.  Some will be captioned, others will not. The only criteria for posting in this series is that:

a.)  I’m in the photo or…

b.)  … I took the photo.

Now six-year-old Nathan returning from his first day of Kindergarten in September, 2013.  I hope his enthusiasm endures for all things academic.

Now six-year-old Nathan returning from his first day of Kindergarten in September, 2013. I hope his enthusiasm endures for all things academic.

Wolfe_Downs

Me and Mike Downs at the Grand Canyon of Saudi Arabia, circa 2001. Mike was the G-1 and I was the PAO of Army Forces Central Command – Saudi Arabia, a unit which no longer exists, to the best of my knowledge.

Left to right:  Shawn Woodbridge, Jeff Keane, Yours Truly, and Jeff's wife, Ethel Keane.  We were celebrating something or other at the Ritz Carlton's Suinday brunch in 2003.

Left to right: Shawn Woodbridge, Jeff Keane, Yours Truly, and Jeff’s wife, Ethel Keane. We were celebrating something or other (probably Jeff’s promotion to colonel) at the Ritz Carlton’s Sunday brunch in 2003. Shawn was a major at the time but was recently promoted to colonel as well. So it turns out that there’s three of ’em in this photo after all is said and done.

Nate's sixth birthday in 2013.  We were at Nate's choice of restaurant, Red Lobster, and Nate wanted to share something privately with his Mom, Beth.

Nate’s sixth birthday in 2013. We were at Nate’s choice of restaurant, Red Lobster, and Nate wanted to share something privately with his Mom, Beth.

 

I’ve Done Things I’m Not Proud Of

Six-year-old Nate cued up “The Simpsons Movie” in the DVR the other day before departing on spring break for Ohio and it got me to thinking about all things Simpson. I remembered the earliest shorts on “The Tracey Ullman Show” on through the later episodes. Some were genuinely hilarious and at the beginning, it was cutting-edge, subervise television. The writing never ceased to be clever, intelligent and tight.

HomerOne episode I remembered that really got my attention and made me laugh was “Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge.”  Right before he goes to bed, Homer tells Marge, “I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life: boxer, mascot, astronaut, baby proofer, imitation Krusty, duck driver, hippie, plow driver, food critic, conceptual artist, grease salesman, carny, mayor, grifter, body guard for the mayor, country western manager, garbage commissioner, mountain climber, farmer, inventor, Smithers, Poochie, celebrity assistant, power plant worker, fortune cookie writer, beer baron, Kwik-E-Mart jerk, homophobe, and missionary, but protecting people, that gives me the best feeling of all.”  It’s a very funny little bit and stops you dead in your tracks if you’re watching the episode.  For me, it’s always been one of the more memorable scenes from a really great show.

This was the final episode of season 13 and they’re up to season 25 or some such thing. Imagine how many other jobs he’s had by now!

Anyway, I was wondering what my list would sound like.  So here’s my list.  I’m including the stuff I did for free, but that were still significant enough to say “It was my job.” There are some repeats because I did some jobs a few times.

Read it with Homer’s voice in your head. It’ll be a lot more interesting that way.

Musician
Stock boy
Sales clerk
Summer camp counselor
High school and college teacher
Fast-food cook
Fast-food sales clerk
Consumer electronic salesman
College deejay
ROTC cadet
Deejay
Assistant News Director
Radio TV Officer
Deejay
TV news anchor
Community theater actor
Platoon Leader
Radio and TV Station Manager
High school instrumental music teacher and conductor
Assistant Conductor of a military band
Commercial deejay again
Telecommunications officer
Company commander
Professional Actor
Community theater actor
Voiceover artist
Commercial deejay again
Electronic Media Officer
Public Affairs Officer
Security guard
TV master control operator
Instructor in computer subjects
Unit commander
TV network master control operator
Computer subjects instructor
Radio and TV Station Manager
Video tape operator
Public Affairs Officer
TV network master control operator
Computer subjects instructor
Supervisor, TV Network operations E!
Plans Officer, Army Public Affairs
Chief, Army senior leader support team
Chief of Staff
Staff Officer
Chief of Staff again
Deputy Commander
Retiree
Program Manager
Marketing Communications Specialist

Ten Things I Learned During My First Week at Work

1.) How to spell “FHWA” correctly.

2.) How highly automated hiring a new federal employee is. (Good thing I’m a computer nerd, otherwise who knows where I’d have wound up.)

3.) Commuters in Northern Virginia have neither changed nor improved in two years.

4.) HOV lanes + Prius = relatively pain free commuting.

5.) The difference between RD&T and R&T.

6.) Where the gym is.

7.) That the pop machines in the break area take credit cards.

8.) What I used to call a CAC card is now a PIV card.

9.) All bureaucracies have much in common.

10.) Dry erase markers bleed through a notepad’s next two sheets below the one on which I’m scribbling.