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Clio's Temple

Blog

Is this real life? Is this just fantasy?

Posted on November 10, 2018 at 10:34 AM Comments comments (1)
In the early days when he was managing the "Amazon' Mets," Casey Stengel reportedly said, "Can't anybody here play this game?" Looking at the avoidable problems which have surfaced with the midterm elections, that frustrated outburst makes sense to me.

Take my native state of Florida. In 2000, a poorly designed ballot may have been the straw the broke the electoral camel's back and helped place George W. Bush in the White House. The outcome, you will recall, was decided by the Supreme Court. Even taking that as an acceptable outcome, one would think that the elected leadership in the Sunshine State would have pushed through reforms to ensure that future elections didn't become needless fiascos. Apparently, not so. The ongoing joust over vote counting in the races for Senator and Governor makes it clear that it was a missed opportunity. In effect, the state has allowed each county to run elections in a semi-autonomous fashion. For statewide positions, this may not be a wise policy.

In the wake of 2000, Republican spokesmen reminded us that the Electoral College, not the popular vote, elects the President. Yet in a democratic republic, divergences between the EC and the popular vote should be rare exceptions. Consider 2004: John Kerry failed to carry Ohio by about 115,000 votes (if memory serves). If he had, he would've gotten the Buckeye State's electoral votes and would have become President, despite losing the popular vote by a much larger margin than George W. Bush did in 2000.

I haven't even gotten to Georgia, where five generations of my ancestors are buried. It is unacceptable for an elected official to (as Brian Kemp did) stay in a position where he could directly influence the rigor and honesty with which the election for governor was conducted. I don't know who the people of Georgia picked to lead their state over the next four years. I do know that this is not how it should be done.

In my years at the Savannah River Site, we operated under a management system known as "Conduct of Operations." One of the basic principles of "Conduct" is "Don't accept the unacceptable." In a deeply divided nation, the least we can do is to make certain that our conduct of elections does not accept the unacceptable.

That's my two cents' worth.

Swimming in history, or drowning?

Posted on June 16, 2016 at 5:19 PM Comments comments (23)
Mark Twain once said, "History doesn't repeat, but it rhymes." Looking at the shape of American politics this year, I think he was onto something important. Namely, that the hopes (fears) with which we invest our candidates are cyclical, except that we often don't recognize what's happening.

What do I mean? Just this: there is very little about Donald Trump that's surprising. Anyone who looks at the less-than-golden past of our elections can pick up echoes of things Huey Long might have said, or Father Coughlin, or George Wallace. By contrast to this strain of "populism," Ross Perot looks positively quaint.

This is not to let Hillary Clinton off the hook. The strength of her appeal is, I think, that we can replay the economic glories of the '90s, but extend their reach to segments of the American population who have traditionally been left out. She's already hinted that her First Dude will take on that challenge as part of his responsibilities.

Now seriously, folks, are we that stupid? Do we really think our leaders have the alchemy to override the powerful counter-currents which are part of our world: international economic queasiness; fears of terrorism; distrust among nations who have traditionally acted as though they had interests in common?

We'd better fasten our seat belts and hang on for a rough ride. To my jaundiced eyes, 2016 looks more like 1968 than anything that's happened since.