Monday, July 11, 2011

Politics and flying potatoes

Day 2.

OK first thing I learned, the second you push the publish button you are going to find 3 typos no matter how many time you proof your post:-(  Oh yeah, that and I am not a good blog writer yet, I am lacking flow in this short a medium.  Well, it was always going to take practice.

Second thing I learned, telling the world what you are going to write about the next day is probably a bad idea given it will probably turn away more people than it will draw to the next days post.  Can you see someone saying, "hey Chet, check it out this guy is going to write about potatoes tomorrow", hmm, seems unlikely.  More likely the reader says, ugh, politics, I hate politics and never comes back to my blog again.  Oh yeah that and I just really am not interested in writing the post I had on my mind last night but now I feel committed.  Yeah funny huh, committed to all my readers which totals, let me check the stats, 0, if you take out my two visits.  So no more foreshadowing tomorrows topic today...

When I was 5 I think, or maybe 6, I experienced my first family political argument.  My grandpa Chuck and my Uncle Johnny were talking about resources VS the environment.  Wait, we had hit the oil crisis so I just turned 8.
This picture pretty much embodies the whole event for me, long waits for gas.  I was 8, sitting in the car when I should have been playing.

The family is at dinner, and this is when we got the whole family together, so there are like 15 of us ages 3 to 63 or something like that.  My grandpa at the time is arguing we have to drill Mount Rainier to get independent of those foreigners and my parents, aunts and uncles are saying we have to protect the environment and just move to more fuel efficient cars.  This conversation goes on for sometime and gets very heated, I do not remember the fine points or really any of the points of the debate.  Somewhere along the way food gets served and the debate continues.  First thing my Grandpa says is pass the potatoes and Uncle John grabs one hot potato and whips it across the table at grandpa's head.  While Chuck casually slides his head to one side like he is in the Matrix or something, after the bludgeoning, burning hazard moves past the danger zone that is when it all breaks loose.
Grandpa gets up, and shaking in anger says, "you are all commie bastards" and walks out on Thanksgiving dinner.  Of course us kids just started giggling and whispering to each other not knowing what a commie was, we just heard a bad word, bastard, and that was funny.

I bring this story up because over the course of my life the various adults involved in this story have changed political affiliation at least 3 times each, probably more, I just could not be bothered with paying attention in my self absorbed years from 0 - 35.  Each time they changed positions the affiliations in the family changed and yet the polarization remained.  This is the way we like American politics, black and white, good vs evil, one aisle you rarely have to reach across.  This is what we get from a 2 party system, polarization.  Statistically one party always has the majority as a result that party is trying to band together its constituents to keep their wining voting bloc whole.  Of course we do this by defining our position as different from the other party and we have to do so in an extreme enough way we do not loose the folks way out on the end of our voting bloc.
If we continue on this polarized path we are going to stagnate as a country.  The party in power has no incentives to change the system and the minority party cannot change the system.  We the people have to change the system.

I know there are lots of things we can change with the political system but first and foremost is the 2 party system.  We have to have 3 or more.  We want politicians to have to reach across the aisles to pass any and every bill.  While this may seem like deadlock but in fact loyalties will break down immediately and politicians are going to have to figure out what their constituents want because an affiliation will not win many states within a few elections.  Only serving your constituents will win elections.

How do we get the politicians to carry this hot potato?  What do we have to do to effect this change?  Only one thing, campaign finance reform.  Did you know the government gives money to the incumbents to help them maintain their seats?  Did you know challengers do not get funds unless a very strict set of requirements are met which includes strong performance by the candidate or party in the last election?  This is disturbingly close to dictatorship, using the spoils of power to maintain your position of power.  Now to be fair back in the day, the expense of running a campaign was high because communication was hard, today with the advent of the Internet that is no longer true.  All candidates have the same access to the voters if they are willing to put in the time and effort via the Internet.  Once we enact campaign finance reform:
  • by eliminating matching funds
  • by limiting campaign spending to reasonable limits any candidate could achieve via fundraising
  • by eliminating donations of more than $1000
then the playing field is level again.  At that point anyone can run for any position assuming pass the requirements.  Even better any candidate can win if they base their campaign on the needs and desires of their constituency.

Literally that is it.

Remember all politicians hate this topic, if done correctly it takes away any advantage of the incumbent other than performance for their people, and we all know listening to all us crybaby voters is the last thing these folks want to do.  All the wealthy hate this topic, if done correctly it will take away their advantages over the common man.  As a result, we the people have to rise up in rebellion and demand campaign finance reform, we have to grab that hot potato and throw it right at their heads.

Before my last stop

I have been telling myself for years I wanted to write a book called Last Stop this side of the River Stix.  I am not sure why I wanted to write a book, I suspect something about being a writter sounded cool, cooler than me.  Over the course of 25 years I did nothing to further this dream and started to assume it was not my dream but one of those dreams foisted on me by society.  Then I found James Altucher ( and started reading.  Reading James it dawned on me I just did not understand why I wanted to write and so was locked into writing a book.  2 simple reasons I wanted to write, impact other people in a positive way and tell a great story.  Turns out all the BS associated with writing a book the old fashioned way, perhaps I should reconsider the new way, would not much contribute to either.  As a result today I started my blog, Last Stop this Side of the River Styx.  This is sort of my version of a bucket list.  But its not about things I want to do, its about conversations I want to have, things I want to say, questions I want to ask before I cross the River.  My hope is that you will find my posts interesting, thought provoking, inspiring, and maybe somehow my words will change the world in some small but meaningful way.  If that does not happen well then at least I will have tried writing as I said I had always wanted to and thereby die happier than had I just sat on my couch and played xBox.

No that is not me or my kids but it could have been had I not started writing this blog today?  I do not have the cool polar bear though...

Hi, my name is Todd Haugen.  On the surface I should be one of the most boring damn people you would ever meet, middle aged, white, male, working at Microsoft, 3 kids, all boys, second marriage, my wife is a flight attendant, living in upper middle class bellevue, etc, etc, etc.  As with life though, too easy to judge a book by its cover and miss all that juicy goodness inside (mmm, slurp)

Looking from another perspective

Stanford Hospital & Clinics
Born in Stanford Hospital,
I was an unwanted child.  Yep that is right I was put up for adoption, snatched from my mother’s arms at birth.  I was adopted by the doctor who birthed me, I was the youngest of 7, my mother was blind, and my name was Scott.  I was with the family for 2 weeks but fortunately my grandmother was having nothing doing.  She stormed into the house where I lived with my new family grabbed me and said her lawyers would be in touch.  Whew, narrow miss.  My life only got more interesting from there, as evidenced by the places I have lived.  I have lived:
  • in every state west of the Rockies except Utah (oh yeah, and Wyoming)
  • in a tee pee at 11,000ft (ask me about the bathroom in the dead of winter)
  • in a Zen commune (ask me about the bathroom)
  • in 5 foreign countries (ask me about the bathroom)
  • in a van down by the river (no seriously, oh yeah, and ask me about the bathroom)
Yes it is true, after a lifetime of poor bathroom conditions I see the bathroom as the most important room in the house.

Tomorrow I will be writing about republicans, democrats and flying potatoes.