Things We Read Today (25), Friday

The Quantum Observer in Debate

Regarding last night’s vice presidential debate,  Dan Yorke suggested today that Republican Paul Ryan was nervous at first and that Vice President Joe Biden could have vanquished him had he been a bit less bizarre in his smirks, laughs, and general condescension.  There may have been some opportunity for that, I suppose, but one can’t hold Ryan’s performance steady, as it were, and adjust Biden’s independently.  One person’s behavior affects another.

Had Biden been better behaved, Ryan may have recovered from initial jitters earlier and managed to articulate his thinking better throughout.  David Limbaugh makes a related point in a post titled, “Ryan Shone When He Wasn’t Interrupted“:

People may think Biden won on passion and even had a slight edge on him on substance, but I am convinced it wouldn’t have been as close on substance if Biden had not been permitted to talk over Ryan as much. Biden did do a fairly good job defending an indefensible record, and Ryan acquitted himself well on substance, despite the interruptions.

My pet theory is that Biden just couldn’t get this hilarious “bad lip reading” video out of his head. I’ve been spontaneously chuckling about it for days:

When a Place Becomes a Bad Investment

Turning to less-light subjects, this news out of Greece naturally made me think of Rhode Island:

Greece’s biggest company is leaving the country, drinks bottler Coca Cola Hellenic (CCH) said on Thursday in announcing it will move to Switzerland and list its shares in London, dealing a blow to the debt-crippled Greek economy.

As with the bad economic tidbits to which Rhode Islanders have become accustomed, there’s plenty of mitigating context that can be layered on — significantly, the fact that the company’s plants in Greece will not be moved.  Still, there’s more than symbolism here.

A large company with existential weight on its decisions finds Greece to be too risky a location in which to be housed.  Even after years of bailouts and supposed austerity. That ought to disconcert not only the Greeks, but also anybody who’s concerned that their government has a similar political philosophy.

The ease of excuses ought to be worrying, not comforting.

The Fruits of Corporate Bailouts

As a Tea Party type who’s decided to be done with GM, despite some thousands of GM points racked up on a GMAC credit card, this doesn’t surprise me:

… pollster Scott Rasmussen finds that most consumers are more likely to buy a Ford because the blue oval firm didn’t ask Washington for a bailout.

“A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 57% of American Adults say the fact that Ford did not take bailout money makes them more likely to buy a Ford car,” Rasmussen said earlier this week.

“Only eight percent (8%) say that makes them less likely to buy Ford, while 32% say the bailout has no impact on their buying decisions,” the pollster said.

The article goes on to describe some consequences of entanglement with government.  My personal decision is based more on principle:  The marketplace works best when failure has consequences.  Saving a company when its management decisions and union workforce drive it off a cliff merely perpetuates an inefficient system and/or players.  That inevitably costs somebody else jobs and income down the line.

The Politics of Eternity

Maybe it’s cheating, but I’m going to end with a joke (perhaps more of a fable) that arrived in my email today, partly because of the symmetry that it provides for this article.  I’ve modified it a bit:

While walking down the street one day, a corrupt U.S. Senator was hit by a car and died. His soul arrived in Heaven, where St. Peter met him at the entrance.

“Well, Senator,” said the saint, “you shouldn’t be surprised that we can’t just let you in. But because politicians walk a fine line between principle and representation, we’ll have you spend one day in Hell and one on the path to Heaven’s back door. Then you can choose the eternity that best suits you.”

“Really? But I’m a good man, and I already know that I want to be in Heaven,” said the Senator.

“Well, it’s just two days, and we want you to make the right decision,” replied St. Peter, who then escorted him to the elevator, which brought him down, down, down to Hell.

When the doors opened, he found himself at the first hole of an emerald-green golf course. Awaiting him by the tees were all of the government insiders and other politicians who had predeceased him.

Everyone appeared very happy and dressed in the height of fashion and comfort. They ran to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times and material comforts they had shared while serving the masses.

They played a friendly game of golf and then dined on lobster, caviar, and the finest champagne. Managing the festivities was the Devil, a friendly gent who perfectly understood the complexities of their existences on Earth and who kept them all in good spirits and good humor.

Before the Senator had recalled the weight of his pending decision, the day was done.  With a hearty farewell, everyone waved and smiled him into the elevator, with promises of the grand times they would have if he returned.

The elevator went up… but it stopped before half the trip was done. St. Peter was waiting for him when the door opened in a dark cave.  A path wove upwards for a great distance.  And at the top, a welcoming light shown, with a warmth that he could feel even though so far away.

The Senator spent the day strolling along the path and, every few feet, coming to something in his way that reminded him of a wrong that he had done in life.  None blocked him entirely, and he knew he could continue, but there was no way to move forward without seeing each one.

So disorienting was this experience that he felt as if he’d hardly moved when St. Peter appeared before him and said, “Well then, you’ve spent a day in Hell and another on the path to Heaven. Choose your eternity.”

The Senator reflected for a minute and answered: “Well, I would never have thought it possible, I mean the distant light of Heaven has been singing to me like nothing I’ve ever heard. But to be honest, and I know you’ll value honest above everything, I think I would be better off in Hell.”

St. Peter escorted him back to the elevator, and down he went — farther, it seemed, than he’d gone before. The doors opened, and before him was a barren land covered with waste and garbage. All of his friends, dressed in rags, were picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as even more fell to the ground.

The Devil stepped forward and shook his hand heartily.

“I don’t understand,” stammered the Senator. “Yesterday I was here, and there was a golf course and a clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar and drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now everybody looks miserable. What happened?”

The devil smiled at him and said, “Yesterday we were campaigning, Today, you voted.”

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