Archive for July, 2010

One of the hard facts of life is that your well considered plans can be undone by something disturbingly simple. It’s the unanticipated consequences of life that affect change in ways unknown.  For example, the recent leak of “Classified” documents about the war in Afghanistan appear to be because of the actions of some faceless Private (First Class).  Well, a used-to-be-faceless Pfc.

I use the term “Classified” loosely because a lot of institutions are prone to slapping the term classified on everything, right down to the luncheon menu in the executive dining room.  Of course, a lot of stuff that is considered to be classified, secret, secure, eyes-only and such is just embarrassing and nothing more.

The Afghanistan leak is yet another example of how some low level employee can wreak mayhem on very expensive plans.  Consider a recent experience at a local restaurant.

My friend Bill and I have been eating lunch together for decades.  We’re famous, in our own little way, and more than a few restaurants know us and like us for a number of reasons.  We do leave tips, not extravagant ones, but we do recognize the great value of service.  We’re frequent fliers, which is to say that once we find a restaurant that we like, we come there frequently.  We talk; which is to say, we tell others of good restaurants.  And, we’re a quick table turn.  We get in, order promptly, eat promptly without being in a hurry, pay our tab and get out.  This frees up a table for other diners, which restaurant owners and servers like a great deal.

Over the years, there have been a lot of good lunches, some very good lunches, a few great ones and a few bad ones.  The normal bell-shaped curve and all that.  We both get misty eyed at the mention of the late, great restaurant on West Peachtree called A Taste of New Orleans.  Don’t get me started, it’s too early in the day to be crying.  Suffice it to say, we loved Taste and they loved us.  Right up to that suspicious fire one evening, and then they went away.  Other restaurants have since filled the gap, but we always speak with reverence about A Taste of New Orleans.  Of course, it was the one-year sitcom called “Frank’s Place” about a restaurant in New Orleans that gave me one of my favorite sayings: “A restaurant is a fragile thing.”

Consider a recent experience that Bill and I had at a local eatery that had previously been the site of a restaurant chain outlet.  The food at that restaurant had been good, and it was one of those places where you ordered and paid up front, found a table and the food found you.  We ate there regularly until one day when it appeared that there had been some sort of plumbing accident.  Whatever clean up that had been done was performed with a sour mop, and the place stank.  When we came back a week later, the place still had that same smell, and it was time for us to move on.  Of course, the restaurant was circling the drain, and eventually the place closed and the space stayed vacant for a while.

However, hope springs eternal and a new restaurant opened in this same space.  It was promising since this was the second restaurant for a local owner.  It was Italian, which Bill & I both like.  It was convenient to work, which is nice.  And the menu looked interesting.  The place held promise.  So, we stopped by for lunch on a Friday in early July.

We pulled up to the door.  Being the early-bird types, it was 11:20 AM, a time when most restaurants are easing into operation, if not at full swing.  The doors were unlocked, the lights were on, the music was playing and the wait staff were bustling about.  Say what you will, I call that OPEN.  We were intercepted at the front of the restaurant by a cute young thing, who told us that the restaurant was not open until 11:30, ten minutes away.

Of course, this being Atlanta, we simply thanked her, turned around and drove down the street to another restaurant that was willing to seat us.  This was a startling thing though, since it would have been such a simple matter to seat us at a table, throw a couple menus at us and then go into the back room for one last ciggie before the place officially opened up.  Given the fact that I move my lips when I read, it would have taken us at least ten minutes to read the menu.

So, here you have someone’s substantial financial investment, with hours of time devoted to creating a wonderful restaurant where people will come and have a good meal and good company.  Done in by a low level minion that did not know that her job was to be hospitable.  Will we go back?  Who knows?  Is the food good?  We don’t know.  This is a hot restaurant town, with a lot of very nice places.  Will they survive?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

A restaurant may be a fragile thing, but this is a first.  An Italian restaurant run with Germanic efficiency.

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I ran into a business acquaintance yesterday and as we talked, I averred that I am not a fan of the current administration.  She owns a typical small business and just smiled.  “I know that I’m not like most business owners right now, but I’m quite happy with what they’re doing.”  I’m still mulling that over, and if I figure out what she’s thinking, I’ll let you know.  Personally, I don’t agree with her but I was so stunned at her disposition with the current administration that I just smiled and moved away as quickly as I could without running.

Put another way: If you can keep your head about you when all others around you have lost theirs….. You just haven’t heard the news yet.  Conventional wisdom is better expressed by this item about the American middle-class being wiped out:

What do most Americans have to offer in the marketplace other than their labor? Not much. The truth is that most Americans are absolutely dependent on someone else giving them a job. But today, U.S. workers are “less attractive” than ever. Compared to the rest of the world, American workers are extremely expensive, and the government keeps passing more rules and regulations seemingly on a monthly basis that makes it even more difficult to conduct business in the United States.

So corporations are moving operations out of the U.S. at breathtaking speed. Since the U.S. government does not penalize them for doing so, there really is no incentive for them to stay.

Granted, conventional wisdom is often wrong, but, on the other hand, sometimes things are glaringly obvious.  At this point, I’m doing everything I can to protect my family and that’s about all that I can do.  At least during the wild days of capitalism in the last two decades or so, you pretty much knew what the score was and that you were on your own.  Now, a lot of people are being deceived into complacency.  Gee, did I just write that?  Yeah, I did.  Moving on……

What I really intended to write about is about what experiences seem to make for better Presidents.  Looking back:

  • Bush the Second – Petroleum business, Governor
  • Clinton – State Attorney General, Governor
  • Bush the First – Petroleum business, House of Representatives, DCIA, Vice-President
  • Reagan – Actor, Governor
  • Carter – Farmer, Governor
  • Ford – U. S. Congress, Vice-President
  • Nixon – U. S. Congress, U. S. Senate, Vice-President
  • Johnson – U. S. Congress, U. S. Senate, Vice-President
  • Kennedy – U. S. Congress, U. S. Senate
  • Eisenhower – Military General Officer
  • Truman – County Commissioner, U. S. Senate, Vice-President
  • Roosevelt – State Senator, Ass’t Secretary of Navy, Governor
  • Hoover – Mining engineer, humanitarian, Secretary of Commerce
  • Coolidge – City politics, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, Vice-President
  • Harding – Newspaper publisher, state senate, Lieutenant Governor, U. S. Senate
  • Wilson – President Princeton, Governor
  • Taft – Attorney, State Supreme Court, U. S. Solicitor General
  • Roosevelt – Historian, numerous local, state and Federal offices, Vice-President
  • McKinley – Attorney, prosecutor, U. S Representative, Governor

So, you look at the individuals that have occupied the office of the President of the United States, and you begin to see some common threads.  A lot of them were governors of states.  Others had administrative experience; one had conducted a massive military campaign.  Many of them had ties to private enterprise.

And you look at the sum total of their individual lives that led them to that great office and you know that they had been seasoned through many years experience.  And at a time when the United States really needs it, we have an individual in that great office that talked a big game but is having trouble delivering.  And when a legislative success is delivered, it  has been at the cost of partisan conflict.

The Republic will survive because the people have been awakened to realize that elections have consequences, but our greatest danger is that by having a President who is perceived to be weak, there are a lot of third-rate dictators, terrorists and political opportunists that see opportunity.

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This is from the 2010 campaign cycle.  In 2012, Murray is again running against Jacobs now running for mayor of the City of Brookhaven.

In this case, “late hit” refers to 11th hour allegations and actions that are supposed to affect elections.  And, in DeKalb County, Georgia, politics can be rough and tumble anyway, so experiencing a late hit is not foreign territory.  Consider this from a much earlier blog about the 2002 Democratic primary, where Cynthia McKinney was trying to get renominated (and thus reelected):

In the week prior to the primary, our published telephone line had been constantly ringing with recorded messages from political candidates encouraging us to vote for them on primary day. Some of the calls were live, and a source of great amusement for me. One earnest young thing called and launched into her prearranged script. “Joe Blow is involved in a heavily contested race for Dog Catcher….” I stopped her and asked: “Who’s running against Joe Blow?” “What?” “Who’s running against Joe Blow?” “I don’t know.” But without a doubt, the real motivator came with The Phone Call.

This one featured a VERY authoritarian recorded voice saying: “Attention Republicans! It is against the law to cross over and vote in another party’s primary…. Observers will be at the polls to insure that only those qualified to vote in a party’s primary will be able to do so. Etc.” Of course, it was classic late-in-the-campaign dirty politics; by the time that the truth actually emerges, the primary election will simply be a memory. But The Phone Call caught the 4th on fire, and those who might not have planned on going to the polls suddenly were penciling in an appointment.

The media has made much of the fact that The Phone Call was directed to Republicans, but, in fact, it appears that all voters in the northern end of the District were contacted. The tone of the call was intimidating, and voter intimidation is a felony in the State of Georgia. Technology being what it is, the perpetrator of The Phone Call will eventually be discovered. In all likelihood, it originated with the McKinney campaign…..

We now move to July 19, 2010, the day before the primaries.  As in past elections, this period included a noticeable increase in robotic telephone calls urging us to vote.The big problem was that these calls were coming in on the phone line which my wife uses for her business, which began making her angry.

Not a good situation for Mr. Bear, but the calls continued on into the evening; I began fielding the calls.  For instance, I heard from Andrew Young, whom I did not know was still in Atlanta, much less still in politics.  He instructed me to vote for an individual.  This proved to be quite helpful for me; I made a mental note and voted for the other candidate.  Sorry, but I still remember “Smart Ass White Boy”, which helped to define my identity.

In any case, the highlight of the evening came with a recorded telephone call concerning the Democratic primary for the 80th Georgia State House seat.  One of the candidates for this position is one Sandy Murray, whom I have met on occasion.  This is not to say that I am a supporter, but it is my tendency to vote in the Democratic primaries because that is where the action is.  Not that I’m a Democrat or such, but I digress.

This version of The Phone Call featured a woman speaking in an agitated voice, complaining about Sandy Murray, saying that “she had found out some things about Sandy Murray, and that we should Google “Sandy Murray 2010””.  Of course, inquiring minds want to know, so we checked it out and the first Google entry pointed us to this site:

The web page was located on “sandy2010.com”, which is hosted by GoDaddy, famous for $1.99 / month websites.  What followed was one long page about Sandy Murray:

So, there you have it, your basic ad hominem political attack.

Who did this?  Being an inquiring mind, I set about to research who was responsible, since nothing was posted on the web page.  Caller ID pointed me to a telephone number that was not in service.  An Internic ID lookup turned up only the GoDaddy provider information, nothing about the website author or owner.

In short, whoever did this appears to have slipped off into the night.  So, the perpetrator of this might have been anybody, for any reason, and because of the anonymity, we are not able to assess the validity of the claims nor their intentions.

Our best legislative minds have set about to make political campaigns open and honest, but as has been noted in these pages before, for every good defense, there is a perfectly good way to get around it.  So, while you have earnest politicians standing up in front of the cameras saying “I’m Joe Blow, and I approved of this message”, you have others who seek to cause mayhem and use the weaknesses of technology to get away from it.

And, by the way, today, July 21, 2010, the sandy2010.com site looks like this:

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