2015 Predictions -Review

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Every year I create my predictions for the year ahead. Before I post this, I try to do my most thorough analysis of the previous year’s predictions.  Here is my analysis.

  1. Hilary Clinton will announce her candidacy for President, probably in late summer through the end of November. There will be a strong and active lead-up to this. They will also attempt to hide Bill as much as possible, at least until Summer.
    – On March 1, the Wall Street Journal announced that Hilary would announce in April.
    – She announced in a video to “supporters” on April 13th. Although, I am surprised no one noticed that she announced on the thirteenth of the month, I think the Ides of March would be more appropriate
    – Bill Clinton was noticeably quiet for almost the entire year.  At the very end of the year, he started talking again, which was really pounced on by rivals. +4 pts
  2. Republicans will announce throughout 2015. It will be a large group. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Rand Paul will all be really active in 2015. You’ll hear from them a lot. They will all likely run.
    – Rand Paul announced his bid for President on April 6th.
    – Ben Carson was on May 3rd.
    -Carly Fiorina was on May 4th.
    -There are a total of 17 Republicans who were in the race at one time, although 5 have since dropped out. +4 pts
  3. Who won’t run? Elizabeth Warren, and in a break with tradition…Joe Biden won’t jump in either.
    – I’m pretty proud of that one.  I was 100%. +4 pts
  4. Obama will veto lots and lots of legislation. The Democrat’s story will still be “the do-nothing Congress, that won’t work bipartisanly.” Interestingly, many Dems will vote on measures like the Keystone pipeline, but won’t vote to override the veto. Because of that, it will be surprising how few times there will even be post-veto votes. This is Democrat strategy so that the Dems can claim to have voted for issues that they never supported.
    – This is a pretty mixed bag.  Obama used 5 vetoes in 2015.  This is actually not a huge amount for a president.  However, most of Obama’s vetoes have been in 2015.  I did envisions more than that. They did vote on the Keystone Pipeline, which Obama vetoed, and Congress did not  override.  He also vetoed the Defense Authorization bill, which many Democrats voted for, but will not vote to override. Overall, the picture is more cloudy than I though it would be.  I give myself 50% on that one. +2 pts
  5. A Supreme Court vacancy will come up. Ruth Ginsburgh is looking likely to me. This will likely be tied to health-related issues. When it happens, it will happen fast.  
    – I was wrong on this one.  We’ll see what happens next year.  Maybe I was just a year off.  Either way, +0 pts.
  6. The Conservatives will get a big court win on either Benghazi, IRS bad behavior, Obamacare, Executive actions, and/or Obama’s immigration action.
    – Of course, the courts ruled very much against any logic on Obamacare, and are currently planning to hear his Executive action on immigration reform.  However, lower courts have all ruled against Obama and it is not sure that the Supreme Court will weigh in on the issue at all.  My intent was that one of these issues would go against Obama.  Because the courts have ruled favorably on Obama’s Executive actions so far (though it is not settled), I’m giving myself +2 pts.
  7. More gay marriage court action legalizing gay marriage. The Supreme Court will rule favorably to gay marriage, maybe steering clear of a sweeping legalization. Gay marriage states will increase.
    – Anyone who has not been under a rock in 2015 knows how this turned out.  Very very sadly +4 pts.
  8. Radio Shack bankrupt—and gone. ***I wrote this one down 5 days prior to the news on January 15th that Radio Shack would likely file for Chapter 11 in the first week of February. I’m not saying that it was a long shot then, but there had been no announcement.  – The previous was written as an update early in the year.  +4 pts
  9. At some point this year the Fed will increase the interest rate.
    – Squeeked this one out at the last minute, but I still get the +4 pts.
  10. The “Internet of things” will really visibly increase. This will also be due to the falling prices of Internet-connective things.
    – This one has been talked about throughout 2015 (although now referred to as IoT).  From Barbie dolls to cars, the story actually morphed throughout the year in “the hackable IoT.” + 4 pts
  11. There will be news of companies doing wacky viral-esque stunts. Some of these will be really cool (look for socially conscious stuff) and some will be massively embarrassing failures.
    -Starbucks decided to help heal the racial divide with #racetogether.  It failed miserably!  However, I think mostly because of the fact that this was so highly criticized, other companies did not follow suit.  I strongly think that if the experiment had been highly praised, there would have been a lot of this.  I give myself +2 pts.
  12. There will be a big number of attempted terrorist attacks in Europe and America. Some of these might be successful. The attacks this year in Paris are only the beginning. Europe will be the new front for a lot of Muslim violence.
    – Remember, when I was writing this in January of 2015, I was talking about different terrorist attacks than we now think of as “the Paris terrorist attacks.”  Two massive terrorist attacks in the US and Europe, as well as those in Turkey and throughout Africa and the Middle East, give me +4 pts on this.  However, let me be clear, that I take no joy in that.  Real people died, and that is a tragedy.  My predictions for the year are a game of sorts, terrorism is not a game.
  13. Iran will not follow through with its nuclear deal with the US
    – The main stream media has largely swept this under the table, but they have not followed the agreement, nor did they ever intend to.  This is what happens when you put a fool in charge of the western world. +4 pts
  14. Russia will have more military actions, possibly in Ukraine and maybe including Belarus.
    – I did not know it would be Syria, but I was undeniably correct. +4 pts
  15. A-la cart TV on the Internet will finally come to fruition, and not just with a couple of channels like HBO. Some channels will do this through their websites and some will partner with existing providers like Netfilx and Amazon.
    HBO announced on April 8th that they were offering untethered service directly to consumers.
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    – One of the even bigger moves was that Showtime, Starz, and more than a dozen others became accessible via Amazon Prime. +4 pts
  16. There will be much more talk from the Left on “income inequality,” minimum wage, the rich getting richer, especially in the first half of the year.
    – Does having a whole candidate for President count?   This is the whole presidential platform of the Democrats. If you don’t believe me, look at Hillary’s own website, but please don’t.  She’ll count you as one of the billions in America who will be voting for her. +4 pts
  17. You’ll start hearing the term “Fast-Laning,” This will be one of the words of the year. There will be a rise in no-wait services and products—many through company apps.
    – This did happen quite a bit in ’15, but you did not hear the term “fast laning,” unless you worked in the industry.  Starbucks, Subway Sandwiches, McDonalds, all have fast-laning options.  This is mostly through company apps.  Basically, all fast food restaurants have this now.  This has saved Americans minutes in the drive thru [sic] lane.  Because the term “fast-laning” did not take off, I’m only giving myself +3 pts.
  18. There will be a consumer backlash against product false claims. Companies will be held more accountable to what they say they can do.
    – I did not see this happen in 2015 in any noticeable way. +0 pts
  19. Early in the year expect a North Korean nuclear test, followed by belligerence, followed by an announced deal. All of this will take place before mid-summer.
    – At the end of Feb/ beginning of March, the US had military exercises and NK fired some missiles in response, coupled with belligerent rhetoric.  However, there was no nuclear test at all.  The North Koreans did talk about nuclear war with the West and threaten such action numerous times.  But, that happens every year. +1 pt
  20. Facebook will further monetize. Look for possible corporate deals. They will possibly develop in-Facebook shopping and/or “pay with Facebook” e-wallet technology.
    – This did not happen in 2015.  I am surprised.  I might just be a year or so off.  We’ll see.  +0 pts

This gives me 58 out of a possible 80 points, or 72.5%.  Getting a C is not bad for a pre-test. -Ryan

Insensitivity

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I worked in management for Sears throughout college.  It was a good job that treated me well and gave me a great opportunity to build a business management resume that has benefited me throughout my whole adult life.  But that was a very different Sears that I have seen over the last 10 years.

Last week, I was on lunch and decided to pull up a YouTube video of Chris Tomlin (a Christian worship music artist) singing a song I’d hurt at church the weekend prior.  As most of us know, YouTube regularly plays videos of sponsored content (a.k.a ads) before your chosen video.  It is part of the monetization that Google brings to all of its products.  When a company pays for an ad to run, they specify all of the criteria that will determine who sees the video.  This includes thing like the geographic location of the watcher, the viewer’s history, and the specific thing searched for, as well as everything in between.  I’m simplifying the process, but it is nearly infinitely customizable, ensuring that the only people who see your video are the exact people you want to see it.

So, I search for Chris Tomlin and the title of the worship song (I don’t remember right now exactly which song it was) and I click on the video.  Before my video starts to play, this is the ad I see (feel free not to watch the whole thing):

I skipped the ad when it gave me a chance and watched my worship video, but the more I thought about it the more upset I became.  I can’t think of a YouTube history on my account that would have been pertinent or anything else that makes sense…unless either they were putting that out to everyone, or they were specifically targeting people watching worship videos.

So, I took to Twitter, incredulous that Sears would be so insensitive.  The screenshot from my Tweet, and Sears’ response not long after, are below.

Sears Tweet

It is 2014,  know.  I am not surprised by a company supporting homosexual marriage.  I don’t like it, but I know it happens.  I don’t support the homosexual mafia attacking companies like Chik-fil-a simply because their CEO said that he believes a marriage is between a man and a woman.  But most of all, I can’t support the incredible rudeness of a company deliberately attacking the morality of Christians in this way.  Whether their Tweet to me was an automatic response to mine or not, it doesn’t matter.

I’m not one to start a boycott and get worked up over anything secular.  I think that secular complies not guided by Christians will not act Christian.  However, companies that deliberately attack Christians is another story altogether.

You know why they do it?  They do it because they know that they will insult us and treat us disrespectfully in whatever ways they choose, and we will buy their products just the same.  We might post a Facebook complaint and feel like we accomplished something, but as soon as the next sale comes along, we will open up our wallets again.

For me, it stops here.  I have drawn a line in the sand.  I have a lot of Craftsman tools and a Sears credit card.  I’m canceling the card and have bought my last tool from them.

—-

Incidentally, if you want the story behind the video (which I actually haven’t seen in its entirety), Sears sponsored a float in the recent Chicago homosexual parade.  On that float they had 4 homosexual couples getting “married” and this video was celebrating that.

Next time you buy a Sears product, know that is where some of your money is going.  If you support that, then great.  If you don’t, you are supporting it anyway with your money.

 

Fractured

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the seriesFractured

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I’ve been watching and reading the news with a different eye recently. It really started a couple weeks ago during the Texas State Republican Convention, at which I was again a delegate this year. During the convention, I sat through caucuses and meetings as well as the proceedings on the convention floor.

A convention is an exciting and busy event, and there is always positioning and debating. That is the point of the whole thing. When delegates from a whole state get together to pick one document that will guide all of what their collective will is going to be concentrated on over the next 2 years, there should be considerable debate.

After the convention each night, I would go home and absorb the day’s news. I consistently heard throughout the weekend about how the split Republican Party was arguing over issues of homosexuality, marijuana, and immigration. There were Republicans protesting, and the organization was undoing itself.

I consistently wondered if perhaps the news media were accidentally at a different convention, or if possibly I was the one attending a different convention entirely. I checked. I was definitely at the right place.   None of what the news was reporting was happening at all.

While platform positions regarding homosexuality-related issues were debated in the committee meetings I’m sure, the body of delegates didn’t discuss it even one time. Let me rephrase that in case you missed it: we didn’t talk about homosexuality even once…not one time…not even in passing…it wasn’t an issue. Yes, the platform does address “reparative therapy.” Anyone who has paid attention to the news knows this is only addressing the push for making it illegal to offer counseling available to those who do not wish to live as practicing homosexuals. This has happened in California already. The platform position only addresses this situation. This part of the platform was not discussed at all, or even voted on separately (lest you think I’m cheating in my prior statements).

Outside of the building on the first night were somewhere between 8 and 12 people with pro-homosexual marriage signs. They were not members of the convention. They were exceedingly kind, and it seemed everyone was kind to them. I firmly support anyone’s right to protest in this way. They were on the evening news and on radio. They must have had great pre-protest press releases for a dozen people to get so much media coverage.

Marijuana was discussed, and any pro-legalization efforts were soundly defeated by the body. There was no mass demonstration. There were however, a lot of pro-pot people who only showed up as delegates prior to that vote and then left shortly afterward. Four of them were in my row. I had never seen them before. One of them leaned over to his friend during the vote and said, “That just shows how dumb these Republicans are.” They were clearly not Republicans, and they were only there to try and create chaos. They failed. But they did have their NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) car out front, made to look like a cop car, but with big pot leaves on it. I have always found it amusing that the organization to legalize pot uses an acronym that proposes an alternate spelling of “normal.”

I took this picture right outside the Convention Center
I took this picture right outside the Convention Center

Immigration was slightly contentious, for about 45 minutes or so. But in reality, there was little difference in the ideas of the two vying groups. In fact, the only real discrepancy was that the more Conservative of the groups thought that if securing the border was allowed to be in the same legislative package as other immigration matters it would end up never being enacted. Other than that, almost everyone was in agreement. In the end, a compromise was made, smashing the two plans into one. Everyone left unified. There were no mean words, and no fighting.

But this is the opposite of everything we’ve read, isn’t it? Not in the “Liberal spin on reality” way, but just complete lies. -Ryan

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Election Blue – part 2

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the seriesElection Blue

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If Christians together with Republicans are to stand as this “last best hope of freedom in the world,” then we must do some reformulating.  Some might suggest that we moderate our message and make compromises in order to have party be more palatable to more people.  Politics is indeed an art of compromise.  But there are very fundamental things that we can never compromise without forsaking the yoke of our character, those values that we pledge our lives to.

But, if we cannot change that which is essential to our identity, and necessary for the survival of the republic, then are we to do nothing but huddle and pray?  Are we to build large bunkers, or think as I was about which country to run to?  The answer is no.  But, there are a few realities that we must face, those that the Democrats know and believe to be forever in their favor.

1. America is not a Christian nation.  Sure, there is a plurality that still attends church, but all the numbers indicate that both church attendance and Christian identification are massively atrophying.  But more importantly than that, is the fact that the influence of the Bible and faith in Christ in even those regularly attending church has become largely an afterthought.  Unfortunately, most Christians’ are functionally biblically illiterate.

It has baffled many Republicans that large segments of our society who claim Christian affiliation vote completely contrary to their religious principles, at least on social issues.  This is partly because voting is often seen as independent of the exercise of religion, the idea that the Democrats have the edge in issues of economic “justice,” and also because of ignorance of politics beyond a cultural dogma of voter affiliation.

2. Racial division in our society has rapidly become the biggest elephant in the room.  Though it may not be true, Republicans hate women and minorities.  Perception is reality.  One of the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing is that truth doesn’t matter at all; perceived truth matters a great deal.  For the moment we have lost that battle.  Correcting and owning this narrative will determine any future for our party.

3. Socialists, Progressively, Liberals, (pick your poison) own all areas of cultural input in our society.  The media is completely covered by Liberalism, except for Fox, which though it has massive viewership, is maligned by everyone else.  Hollywood…I don’t need to say more.  Academia, Philosophy, the music industry are monopolized, and on and on it goes.  The only area that is not covered by them is religion.  That is why it is a battleground, and why Conservative religious leaders are repeatedly pressured to keep their mouths shut.  Liberal religious leaders are freely allowed to spout their political directives to their congregations.

Liberals know an important rule of sales, the person who asks the questions owns the conversation.  The entertainment industry questions the society, just as the media asks questions of the people they are interviewing.  Also, it goes almost without saying that the people with the cameras and microphones will have the loudest voices.

Conservatives have really sought to own the blogosphere, and they pretty well do.  But the only people who are reading Conservatives blogs are the people who already agree.  Other areas of the internet are even more hostile to Republicanism.  But the internet is a niceh media.  Anyone can put up a blog, and likewise is accessed primarily by like-minded people.  Further, George Soros and his machine have invested many millions in taking over these areas of communication.  It is a very public and fully funded goal of Liberals to completely take over all media.

This is possibly the greatest loss for Republicans, and the greatest opportunity for growth.  The good news is that we have virtually no ground to lose.  This is our Inchon landing moment.  We must be just as strategic and bold  as the Liberals.  We must place Republicans in these areas of the media piece by piece.  We must take over the conversation, not by fighting or by creating alternative media forms, but by moving into important roles in the media.  This will not happen overnight, just as the battle wasn’t lost overnight.

4.  American education in almost all areas, but specifically in areas of civics, has crumbled.  This is not a problem for Republicans, or Democrats.  It is a problem for the future of this country, Red and Blue.  Liberals wouldn’t like to admit this, but poor education does benefit their cause.  While the loudest voices for increased funding of our public education system emanates from the Liberal side, this does not equate to making fixing our education problem a priority.

If this were true, they would be proponents of programs like school vouchers, single sex education, and homeschooling, all of which have consistently been proven to out perform our current models.  But, they do not support these programs.  Instead, they support more tax money for the current programs, which makes the teachers’ unions happy.

Of course, no one really wants people to stay ignorant, at least I would hope not.  However, the least educated and the highest levels of education are both the biggest Liberal voting blocks, for entirely different reasons.  Those who are well educated without Liberal indoctrination, especially in areas of history and civics have a much more Republican voting record.

In Part 3 of this series, I’d like to address some of my ideas for how to address these issues. -Ryan

Election Blue – part 1

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the seriesElection Blue

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I’ve been licking my wounds from Tuesday night’s election.  I worked professionally on two campaigns this season, and volunteered walking and working the polls on another.  All of these went the wrong way.  One was expected.  One was an incredibly close and shocking loss, and one was a surprise blowout.

The sense of loss I felt on election night I can’t describe.  The most painful for me was of course, the presidential election.  Like many others, I fasted and prayed leading up to Tuesday.  At the polls I prayed between approaching voters, as my Democrat rivals laughed and joked about how the Republicans were in their final days of idiocy.

As we refreshed web pages and watched the TV in the command center, our hearts sank.  I’ve talked to many who feel the same as I do.  Our country has been going in a direction that is an offense to God.  We have a lot to repent of.  As Abraham Lincoln once said, “I know God is always on the side of the right.  It is my constant prayer and anxiety that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.”  That is the farthest place from where this nation has been, and this election was not a step in the right direction.

Further, it feels like quite a hopeless place.  First, this election (even more than the last) highlights a massive racial divide.  Only 39% of white people voted for Obama, yet over 95% of black people did.  The Red State/Blue State divide is bigger than ever.  Christians voted even more for Romney than they did for McCain.  The fact is that young and minority groups are voting in larger numbers than they ever have, and overwhelmingly for Democrats, and if something doesn’t change, Republicans will be the permanent underclass.

Like many I’ve talked to, I’ve felt like I am in a daze.  I’ve even thought about what country I could move to that wouldn’t murder as many babies and hold up choices that God says are sins to be virtuous.  But tonight during my bath, something in my brain clicked.  We are supposed to be “salt and light.”  Many…no most, of the people in the Bible were called to stand for God in places and cultures that were hostile to Him in ways that we can’t fathom.  Sure, being against homosexual marriage might get your business boycotted.  But when was the last time that I was thrown in a pit full of lions for praying to God?  When was the last time that people stoned us for talking about Jesus?   Were you chained to prison guards because you preached the name of Christ.

The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed the word of God to his generation his entire ministry, and no one ever listened.  The people were just as hostile to the things of the Lord when he died, as they were when he started.  We aren’t called to change the world.  We are called to proclaim the truth of God in love.  Sometimes we will reap a harvest in revival, and sometimes the people will throw rocks.  Jesus even said that many will hate us for being His followers, and in John chapter 3, He said that people would reject Him because they love darkness more than light.

The second thing that my mind went to, as I sat in the tub pondering the election, is that Jesus took a group of about 120 followers that were dedicated to Him (with 12 main leaders) and changed the face of the world.  So on Friday, the leader of this strange heresy was put to death on a cross and his followers scattered in fear.  The plotters of the status quo were victorious.  But by Monday, these same scattered losers were rallying around their risen Christ, willing to give their lives to spread His good news throughout the entire world…and they did both.

I know that Republicanism doesn’t equal Christianity (or vice versa).  But no one who truly understands both politics and orthodox Christianity can believe that the Democratic Party is any friend to God.  Remember, they removed Him from their platform this year…although it was merely a formality after removing any reference to His teachings from the same.

So, it is time for our Resurrection Sunday type of moment (once again—not equating the two).  Yes, all that our country stands for may indeed be lost.  But it doesn’t matter.  We are called to stand for Christ and His principles regardless.  But it is time to rise from the ashes of defeat, and face this with the steely resolve of people who are not afraid, because they cannot lose. -Ryan

An Interesting Look at North Korean News and Policy

Here is an article from today’s North Korean News.  I think that this story is a clear view into the thinking of this government, its propaganda, and dysfunction.  This is officially from the North Korean government, but the English version is published to the web from Japan.  The highlights are added by me.  And yes, I do read the North Korean News…nerdy I know, but true.  We’ll discuss after the clip.

First of all, the title-what government in the world would officially call the leader of its rival country “rat-like”?  Further, the title threatens the South with annihilation.  This is not a new thing, by the way.  North Korea does this on a regular basis.  You notice that it says “Lee Myung Bak Group.”  The North will not refer to the South as a separate country.  It likewise does not call itself North Korea.  Its official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).  Like many Communist countries, this is funny because the country is neither democratic, nor of the people, nor a Republic.  They got the Korea part correct, at least.  In DPRK indoctrination, South Korea is actually a rebel group that broke off from the DPRK, and therefore, they are traitors to their country.

The next paragraph is classic North Korean propaganda.  The first sentence contains a grammar error, and much of the paragraph is run-on, near garden-path sentences.  They adore words like “provocative” and “sycophant”.  My favorite part of the piece is the “…made by an old man more dead than alive.”  They love to throw in these like sentence prefixes and suffixes that have no justification in the piece, as if by simply saying them, the statements become true.  This Orwellian idea of double-speak is a mainstay of N. Korean news.

Two more paragraphs in, it threatens the South with destruction, that everyone should take seriously because of their recent “striking demonstration” of power.  By this, they must mean the failed missile launch a week ago.  North (and South) Korea are prime examples of the Asian obsession with face.  They will do anything to prevent themselves from being publicly embarrassed.  Their failed missile launch was intended to threaten the world and display their prowess around their Day of the Sun celebrations.

The embarrassment they see on the world stage will be reacted to in two ways by North Korea: First, like an abusive spouse, they will find a bad guy to focus their anger on.  Reading this article makes it seem like the South were the ones embarrassing and provoking them.  If you knew nothing about the events of that launch, you would think that the North had succeeded, but the South had mocked them despite their triumph.

Their second reaction will be to double down on their rhetoric and provoke further.  This article threatens the South in even more harsh language than usual.  They will also test another nuclear device in the next few weeks.  They might even fire a few rockets, or shoot at a South Korean ship.  It is all intended to deflect from their embarrassment.

A great question the world needs to ask itself, is if it can afford  a country with nuclear weapons, that will use them simply to avoid their own embarrassment.

Below, I have linked a video that explains their Day of the Sun celebrations.

Why Communist Countries Don’t Play Professional Sports

sportsI must, right off the bat, admit that I am a sports nut.  No, I’m not the kind of guy who knows every free-throw percentage of every player in the NBA, but I do know the ’86 Mets won the World Series after the famous Bill Buckner incident.  That is especially powerful in my mind, because earlier in that year I went to my first Major League game, where the Mets defeated the Giants.  The Miracle Mets pulled it off, working late into the night.  I was hooked.

Now, I will watch almost any sport I see on TV or in person.  And being a sports guy I see a lot of things in the world through the lens of sports.  The tension of the Cold War: it’s just like the Red Sox and the Yankees.  A looming budget showdown: Tim Tebow with a minute left, and down by 3.

One thing I’ve always noticed is the way sports are played out on the international stage between countries.  Particularly of note is the fact that countries like China and the Soviet Union always did amazingly well in the Olympics, but were without any professional sports teams.  Communist countries always seem to excel in sports, but the most obvious expression of that, being  publicly played professional sports, is entirely absent.  And why is that?  Well, the answer sheds a lot of light on why societies function the way they do.

Cuba

When Castro took over Cuba in its communist revolution, he simultaneously banned professional sports, and required amateur sports be played by all.  He mandated exercises start for children even before they could walk, and made physical fitness an important part of each school day.  Cubans were also forbidden from being paid to play any sport.

What happened was that Cubans became excellent at sports.  They have done very well in international competition, despite having only a little more than 11 million people.  But, whenever their teams visit other countries, their players run away.

Their baseball players all want to play in America.  Their soccer players escape to South and Central America, and their distance swimmers are always turning up soggy in Florida.  And Cuba is the most successful communist country in the world of sports.*

North Korean Baseball

The reason for this is that professional sports are one of the most pure forms of capitalism there is.  If a baseball player can run fast, throw well, and hit home runs, he will make it to the Major Leagues.  It doesn’t matter if he’s fat, if his father was an alcoholic, or what his political beliefs are.  If he can play and his attitude is right, he will be drafted.

It also doesn’t matter if he was born with ridiculous talent and never had to work at it, or if he spent the last 4 years in the batting cages.  All that matters is if he can play right now.  If he can, he will be paid.  If he plays well, his team wins.  If his team wins, people watch the games.  If people go to the games, the team makes money.  If the team makes money, he gets more money.  That is pure and simple capitalism.

This rule works in one way or another in every sport.  But it is directly opposite of Communist principles.

If the game were played in North Korea, the roster would be determined by lottery.  Any citizen could play.  The players would make the same amount of money as the hot dog vendors, and would run or walk to base regardless of whether they hit the ball.  All games would end in a tie, and the players would only work hard because they know that poor performance would land their families in jail.  People would only come to the games because the government would give them free loaves of bread after everything was over.

Sound like something you’d like to be a part of?  I doubt it.

The Big Show

But communist countries often do well at the Olympics.  The reason is pretty simple.  Communist countries are under a lot of pressure to prove that their system is superior.  If their athletes win medals it shows the world that communism is prosperous.  The athletes are working hard for personal accomplishment, but they are worked hard for government glory.  Look at all of the antics with the North Korean soccer team, and this concept becomes quite apparent.

No one would want to go to a North Korean baseball game.  But people get confused about aspects of socialism that lead to the same results.  Scientists work harder when there is personal reward tied to their work.  So do miners, fishermen, and doctors.  That is natural.

In the same way that it makes no sense to take all achievement rewards out of a baseball game, it is foolish to do so in most other areas of life and work.  That is why the American forefathers believed so passionately in capitalism and freedom.  People work harder and smarter when there is an incentive to do so.  It might seem callous to say that not everyone can play for the Yankees.  But some are just too slow, or near sighted, or fragile.  That is life.  American sports have become so enjoyable because of its elite nature, and because of the money that generates.  The best get to play.  The rest, well they can find something else to do successfully.  It worked for Stephen Hawking, and I wouldn’t want to watch him pitch.

Anyway, I have to get back to watching the game. -Ryan

*I did not discuss China, and its sports system, which was changed (like much in the Chinese economy) to more of a capitalist system in the late 1990’s.  Thus, it cannot be seen as a fair example of sports in a Communist country.  While the Communist Party has a complete lock on the political system, much of China is firmly capitalist today, which accounts for their recent economic success.



A Great Explanation

This explains being a conservative so well.  I could go on and on, but I doubt I would do a better job of explaining the video than the actual video does.  So without further ado:

Absent

Absent HeaderI just read this article online.  Please take a minute to read this excerpt from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online.

Madison Law enforcement officers are searching for Democratic senators boycotting a Senate vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair plan Thursday in an attempt to bring the lawmakers to the floor to allow Republicans to act on the bill.

As Republicans denounced the move, one Democratic senator said that he believed most of the members of his caucus are in another state. However, an aide said that at least one, Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), was still in his Capitol office listening to constituents.

In a telephone interview, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) declined to give his location but acknowledged that at least one other Democrat was with him. He said that law enforcement would be able to compel him and his members to the Senate floor if they are located in Wisconsin.

“I can tell you this – we’re not all in one place,” Miller said. “This is a watershed moment unlike any that we have experienced in our political lifetimes. The people have shown that the government has gone too far . . .  We are prepared to do what is necessary to make sure that this bill gets the consideration it needs.”

Fighting Quorum

Basically, the Wisconsin legislature (under the governor’s direction) is trying to pass legislation that significantly reduces  the ability of unions in the state to hold the upper-hand in negotiating contracts with the government.  This would enable them to set salaries and benefits for state workers that are more reasonable in light of the seriousness of the government’s economic situation.

The reaction in Wisconsin has been teacher strikes, marches on the state capitol, and loud complaining by Democrats.  Though of course state workers would want to have the best bargaining positions possible, the state is facing a $3 billion shortfall in its budget over the next 2 years.  That means they are going to have to make serious cuts, or  face bankruptcy.

Democrats feel they have no choice but to resist this.  The unions are both a major source of funding and voters, although there is no chance that the union voters will abandon them even if this passes.  However, the Republicans have a majority in the Wisconsin congress, so the Democrats can’t do much to stop them.  The Dems were in a situation where they could not possibly win.

So the Democrats left.  They walked out and hid.  This would seem silly, except that it creates a problem in parliamentary procedure, the rules that govern how the legislature is run.  In order to take a valid vote, the legislature needs something called quorum.  Quorum is the number of members that must be present in order for any action to be valid, and is greater than the number it takes to pass a law.

The quorum rule was created to prevent a minority from holding a secret session, or meeting during some sort of emergency that prevented most members from attending, and passing some strange law.  But the rule of quorum was never intended to be used as a blunt instrument to prevent democracy from working when a minority didn’t like what was happening.  This kind of action is unfortunately not atypical of the kind of tactics that Democrats have played throughout the years, but it is a very bad sign for the gridlock that could be coming in many states and nationally.

What neither the state Democrats, nor anyone in the media seem to be asking is, “What is the best thing to do for the state’s $3 billion defecit?”

The Real World

America needs to wake up!  Nationally for the first time since World War 2, our country owes more money than we have in our entire budget.  The national debt is currently $14 trillion, with total obligations above $55 trillion.  But these numbers seem to be too big to really wrap one’s mind around.  So maybe an easier scale would help to make this all make more sense.

Let’s say a small family (father, mother, and small child) have a yearly income of $50,000.  But by the end of this year, the family will owe over $50,000 to the credit card companies, more than their entire income for the year.  All of that would be a difficult situation, but not impossible.  The problem is that every month, even though the family gets a salary of over $4,166, they are keep spending $4,582.  So, each month they are more than $400 in debt more than the month before.  This is obviously an impossible situation.  It won’t be long before the credit card companies cut the family’s credit line and sue them.  They will go bankrupt.

Any family would have to sit down and start cutting their budget.  That might mean moving to a smaller house or apartment, selling a car, not eating out.  They would have to make these changes, no matter how much they didn’t want to.  Anything that was not necessary to keep them alive would have to be cut so that they would be able to pay off the debt.

But many in America are loath to see this happen nationally.  There have been protests over the proposed de-funding of PBS.  Recently, some lawmakers even held a press conference with characters dressed as cartoons from popular PBS series, trying to drum up support to “save these shows.”  On the radio, callers have talked about the Republicans “killing Big Bird.”

Killing Big Bird

No one wants to “kill big bird.”  These TV shows are important in American culture and life.  Many children have learned important things from these programs.  But they are just that, TV shows.  PBS can go away if need be, and America will go on, children will learn about the alphabet, and people will be forced to go to the opera instead of just watching it on television.  People will miss PBS.  Maybe the arts will be less supported and there won’t be as many educational TV shows.  Everyone would miss PBS.  No one likes to reduce spending.

The point is that things must be cut.  Some of these things will be government programs that people love, and often count on.  There will probably be few if any budget items that no one will miss, in the same way that the fictional family in the previous illustration will probably miss going to the movies and living in their 4 bedroom house.  But the truth is that there are very few, if any, government programs that don’t affect anyone in some way.  And if any do exist, they aren’t taking up that much of the budget anyway.

When the Democrats walk out of legislatures and hold press conferences with cartoon characters they send a clear message that they are unwilling to do the difficult things that must be done to save the country.  They also send a clear message that their political power and fund raising efforts are more important than the good of America.  If the country is going to pull itself out of this horrible mess, this kind of budgetary brinkmanship must be avoided at all costs. -Ryan

Leading the Story in the 21st Century

Narrative HeaderStar Wars and Narrative

I recently bought the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD.  Together, the people in my household have been watching them one by one.  Unbelievably, everyone under my roof have not seen these movies up until now, except for me.  I have had to explain how one could not truly understand American culture until a person has seen—no experienced–those movies.

Most Americans have not only seen the Star Wars movies, they have memorized them.  But I’ll even take it a step further.  Most people have in some way become a part of the Star Wars narrative.  They have bought the merchandise, dressed up as a character a time or two, had some sort of light saber battle, and/or had some sort of theater experience.

My Mom was pregnant with me when she saw the first movie.  I saw the re-releases at a giant theater in southern California at midnight, where most people were dressed up and reciting the lines with the characters onscreen.  Star Wars is a part of my story.  It’s in my blood.

The reason why this is compelling is not because 1970’s special effects are still cutting-edge, or because no movies since have come close to that level of dialogue and character development.  It is because Star Wars is great narrative, or maybe even the best narrative.  That is what compels people to see it.  But I’m not just talking about the story on screen.  The greatness of the narrative has surprisingly little to do with the plot of the movies themselves.

Yes, the actual story in the movies is great, which is part of what fueled the original success, but there is far more than that.  There are the special features-type stories of where the characters came from, how the ships were built, and even how Lucas came up with novel ideas for filming.  People knew these stories long before home movies were even around.  But beyond that there are stories of “where I first saw…” and memories of all the times that each person somehow interacted with the idea behind Star Wars.  Star Wars is not a movies series, or even a brand.  Star Wars is a story…and it is all part of our stories.  And that is what sets Star Wars apart.

Star Wars is not peculiar in this regard, it is just a great example.  There are other movies, TV shows, books, and even events.  Nor is this a new phenomenon.  What is new is how communications technologies have transformed the popular consciousness and ways of processing information to make this concept of narrative far more important than ever before.

The Revolution in Culture

But the same point about movies is true about companies, products, and political candidates.  Truly, the world is nearing the end of a revolution in communication, a revolution that has changed very fundamental parts of the way people think and act, and ultimately is very good.  But, like any revolution, those who can’t evolve and those who refuse to understand will be left far behind.

You can see the revolution all around you.  You see it when you realize that movie blockbusters get people to wait in line for hours to sit through a brief film that won’t affect their lives all that much, while no one waits in line to hear a sermon on Sunday morning.  People flock to Lady Gaga concerts, when no one would suggest that she is the best musician on the scene.  But beyond these examples, the viral videos and memes of the Internet all become part of the lingua franca of our culture.  The evening news reports of riots in Egypt have been largely replaced by youtube videos and tweets of the average people there.  Story has become not only the message, but the way that messages are communicated, and the way they are absorbed.

Why is this the case?  It is because people crave the narrative.  People think in story.  A good story will draw people much better than a sermon about “3 ways to be a better dad.”  People love the narrative of Lady Gaga much more than her music.  Story motivates, enthralls, and ultimately inspires action.  And it is this concept that will either be a key to success for future leaders and motivators, or guarantee failure in the new social setting of the 21st century.

The 2008 Election

This is why people like Barak Obama and even Sarah Palin have seen success in the last few years.  The election of 2008 was a lock for Obama long before any votes were actually cast.  It had nothing to do with race, or even hatred of Bush.  It was really all due to one simple fact: Barak had a compelling narrative that people felt a part of, and McCain had none.

Remember the election?  Barak Obama stood for hope and change.  He stood for people chanting “Yes we can!”  He was the mixed-race son of an immigrant.  He talked a lot about what he believed and what we could achieve, and seldom talked about how we could do it.  What was his economic plan?  What was his health care plan?  How was he going to extricate us from Iraq and win in Afghanistan?

This isn’t to put him down.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have a plan, or even that his plan wasn’t any good.  Those issues don’t matter to his success, and didn’t matter to those voting for him in the election.  He wasn’t elected on his ideas.  He was elected on his narrative.  That is also the reason why people react to criticism of Obama with such rabid ferocity.  To attack his idea is to attack the narrative, and the narrative is not just his story, it is theirs.  That is why they wear his face on T-shirts, buy magazines and books with him on the cover, and give him Nobel Peace prizes before he’d accomplished anything.

What was McCain’s narrative?  He actually has a great one.  He’s a warrior from Vietnam who spent years being abused in a POW camp.  He is also a long time warrior with results in the Senate.  But during the election, he suppressed all of that in order to focus on the whats and hows of the issues.  When the recession hit hard, he suspended his campaign to come up with ideas to fix it.  That was very admirable, but it further removed him from the story.  Further, although the memory of Vietnam is still rather fresh for many Baby Boomers, it is not the narrative of the last 20+ years, and it certainly could not have been the central narrative of the 2008 election.

When election day came, people did one of three things.  Some voted for Sarah Palin’s narrative.  They marked McCain’s name, but it was the narrative of Sarah Palin that motivated them (look at the polling for McCain before and after her entry to the scene).  Some voted against Barak Obama, for one reason of another.  But many more than either of those two groups joined in the Obama narrative.  Barak won decisively.

Narrative in 2010

In the 2010 election, the story was reversed.  The narrative now was all about a “Tea Party.”  New leaders had arisen, talking about fiscal responsibility, and tying their stories to the story of the founding of the country.  They adopted the American story as their own, and called people back to the ideas that America was originally built on.

Speakers for the Conservative movement started talking about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Constitution.  The message was pretty simple, American exceptionalism as a kind of gospel, the Founding Fathers as apostles and martyrs, and the Tea Party leaders as evangelists of this new gospel.

Average Americans were showing up at rallies and speeches, joining the new narrative with their own.  No longer was the message about what one was being told by Rush Limbaugh.  Now people were calling Rush Limbaugh to tell what happened in their city, and they were posting photos on Facebook and hash-tagging it on Twitter.  The Mainstream media and liberal commentators were trying to stop it by using terms like “Tea-baggers,” but they were playing into the very hands of the movement.  They were simply adopting the narrative.

The Democrats had no counter.  They had no narrative.  Health care reform had passed.  They were in charge.  There was no compelling story to sell, and no story was told.  The base was barely engaged in the election.  Even Liberal veterans in states like California were afraid, and digging their claws in to hold on.

The election was a landslide.  The story was believed and it motivated people to go to the polls and vote for their favorite story that now included them.  The incredible momentum of 2 years ago now seemed like a political eternity.

He Who Tells the Story…

Narrative is now the main force in American politics.  In a way it always has been, but now the image-makers and strategists cannot ignore it.  The winners of elections and the leaders with true influence will be the ones who control the narrative, and even more importantly include the average voter in that storyline.  The money and power of elections will be not the ones who spend the most on TV ads and bumper stickers, but the ones who leverage social media, viral video, and who tell the most compelling story.

This is because these media are where the narrative is being communicated, and further where the whole tale goes viral, where it joins with the people’s own story.  Facebook for instance, will not be nearly as important as just another type of billboard or position statement, but as a way to interact, and hand the baton of the story off to the community.  Successful leaders must think conversation more than TV ad.  For when Sarah Palin puts up a message on Facebook, people hear it.  But when someone comments on the message she just put up, in a real way now they feel as though they have entered into the conversation with Sarah Palin, and their friends are all now included.

This is not to say that money on print and TV ads will not be important.  On the contrary, those who don’t get their story told to the biggest possible audiences will have no ability to control the narrative or include others in it.  Nor does the focus on social media mean that money can simply be thrown into these technologies in the same way that they are thrown into TV and print.

The real center of power, and money-making potential will be in crafting the narrative and handling the exchange between one way communication and conversation.  The challenge will be in making the message  become a story, and making the candidate’s story become the people’s story.  And the ability to control and manage that narrative will be the difference between the future John McCains and the Barak Obamas. -Ryan

For further research on this, watch this incredible lecture by Simon Senek on Ted.com