Why do we like demeaning jokes and stories?

Several years ago, I wrote a blog on how most jokes are mean. I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that said:

Help Requested: A friend of mine has two tickets for the 2020 Super bowl.

A friend of mine has two tickets for the 2020 Super bowl. They are box seats plus airfares and hotel accommodations. He didn’t realize when he bought them that this is the same day as his wedding – so he can’t go. If you’re interested and want to go instead of him, it’s at St. Peter’s Church in New York City at 5 PM. Her name is Donna. She will be the one in the white dress.

The technical term for this kind of joke is a paraprosdokian, where the punch line is totally opposite from what is expected. And, I have to admit, I laughed because of the juxtaposition. And then, I had to ask why did I laugh? If we stop to give this any thought whatsoever, there is nothing remotely funny about this scenario, especially for a relationship therapist!

There is almost no one that would put another, someone we supposedly love, in this situation. And we certainly would not want this done to us by someone who supposedly loves us! So why would I laugh at this meme?

Typically, when another person is trying to be funny, we join in the laughter. This could be the amateur “class clown” or the professional comedian. As I wrote before, when they direct most of their “jokes” at themselves, we take this as witty self-deprecation. We also laugh when the subject of their “humor” is directed at someone; however, if that someone happens to be us, we tend not to like the resulting humiliation and do not find the joke to be funny in the least!

We also laugh when something untoward happens to another person, such as stepping off a curb into a deep mud puddle. This type of occurrence is textbook schadenfreude; we feel both superior to the other since we are not the one humiliated, and also a bit guilty because we would not like to be in that situation. Again, the critical position is, we do not want to experience what we just found funny.

I know this can all be said to just being human, but why? Maybe I am obsessing over the topic of this mean joke, but why do our egos so desperately need to feel superior to another? Why are our egos so unloving that we take pleasure in someone else’s humiliation? Especially when we hate being humiliated, I have not done any research on this, just musing on the subject.

I give a communications talk were I list shaming and humiliation as a leftover negative tool to control first children, and then adults. Shame and embarrassment deeply hurt; unfortunately, their use can then lead some, especially teens, to commit suicide.

A half century later, we are still a long way from the plea in a 60’s song:

Come on people now
Smile on your bother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now.
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Regulation States

For those of you who do not know me, I was born and raised in Texas but moved away for 15 years, returning in 2012. Man, did I miss the music scene and good Tex-Mex! I thoroughly enjoyed my time in New Mexico, Oregon, and Florida; while I never expected to move back to Texas, it has been an interesting experience. Along with the previous states, I have also spent some time in Louisiana, albeit quite a while ago when my grandfather was alive, and now own a second home in the Sierra foothills of California.

So I have experienced two bluish-purple states and two reddish-purple states, with Texas and Louisiana now having morphed into solid red states and Florida not far behind, and two solid blue states. New Mexico seemed to me to be just like Louisiana, but Spanish rather than French, but I digress. I found it constructive to assess the business climate in all the states and, until moving back, always felt Texas was very pro-individual and pro-business. That now comes with a caveat.

While I will not dispute the economic numbers that Texas has put up as compared the other states, especially the blues states, having now moved back, I find that Texas has almost as many inane regulations California and Oregon; Texas just regulates different areas of our lives!

Forget the abortion case in front of the Supreme Court; I am talking about more mundane situations. When we first moved back to Texas, the entire South was in a severe drought. We had no sooner unloaded our RV at a rental home when a fire broke out about eight miles away. As the fire advanced towards our neighborhood, we simply reloaded several boxes into the RV in case we needed to evacuate; while experiencing the disruption of an evacuation alert for several weeks, luckily we did not have to leave.

Last summer, a fire broke out in the county of our California home, this time, we were ordered to evacuate. Fortunately, the winds shifted when the fire was only a few miles away, and then it blew back on itself. Having experienced these two fires within a few years of each other, it presented a stark dichotomy.

Here in Texas, where supposedly regulations are kept to a minimum and individuality celebrated, we were told that if ordered to evacuate, we had 20 minutes to leave. Otherwise, we would have been arrested. In the short time we have owned our second home, I jokingly call the state, “the People’s Republic of California,” because of the numerous and overbearing regulations I have already encountered. Unlike Texas, when the “mandatory” evacuation was put into effect, had we wanted to, we could have stayed in our home! We could not have left the evacuation zone and then returned, but we could have stayed! Go figure!

On the other hand, in California, you can buy wine and hard liquor in a grocery store or drugstore at any time of the day, seven days a week. Due to the influence of churches, in Texas, you can only purchase alcohol between 10:00 AM and 9:00 PM, Monday through Saturday! I have a cousin that owns the first liquor store just on the other side of a “dry” county, so he not only gets business from those around him but everyone in the southwest corner of the adjacent county! Not many individual rights when it comes to staying in your home or choosing to consume liquor!

Last night we went to a concert at a winery in Texas, and the myriad of rules surrounding alcohol was astounding. The winery owner stressed that if any outside alcohol was brought onto the premises, the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission could shut them down! The business is doing everything right, but an irresponsible visitor can cause them to lose their license. How is that for being pro-business?

Unfortunately, we are not actually talking about more or less regulation; just that red Texas simply chooses different areas to regulate than blue California! I like to quote Dennis Miller when he says (and I am paraphrasing), “Back in the 60s, we protested “the man” and all of “the man’s rules.” Now we have grown up to become “the man” on steroids!”

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Lies and Damn Lies!

This morning at the gym, while I was “cooling down” from exercising on a stationary bike, I happen to see a news feed going across the bottom of the television tuned to the Fox News Channel. It stated that Hollywood actors were claiming they would leave the country if Donald Trump was elected president. Wow, now that’s a huge newsflash!

I can’t remember if I actually heard this in the last two election cycles with either McCain or Romney, but I do remember hearing the same thing back when George Junior was running both times. Normally, I mock psychotherapists who “diagnose” anyone in the news without actually having had a session with that person, as it is highly unethical, so I’ll keep my comments strictly to observations; what a bunch of spoiled children. Oops, sorry, I guess I just maligned spoiled children!

Doing a quick cursory check, it seems that an actor’s education level fall into a bell curve, just like every group, if a bit lopsided. There are a few at the top end of the curve that have postgraduate degrees, and then a few more in the next statistical deviation with STEM/business bachelor degrees, followed by a large group with bachelors in drama or general studies, and then tapering off to a fair amount with a high school education. Even those with no college degree were sure to have taken a large number of acting courses.

This information isn’t to knock any actor’s ability or intelligence, it is just to point out that like everybody else that has not made a career of politics, their utterances on anything other than acting is simply their opinion. Would anyone expect that my doctorate in clinical psychology would make me an expert on economics, meteorology, diplomacy, or even acting?

I am always amazed when people quote actors on the environment, politics, or other subjects as though they are somehow brilliant in that subject due to their fame! It is just their opinion and, I have observed, usually fairly shallow and devoid of facts.

I used to think people different back in Leo Tolstoy’s day which led him to say, “Ignorance in itself is neither shameful nor harmful. Nobody can know everything. But pretending that you know what you actually do not know is both shameful and harmful.” An even better Tolstoy quote on this topic is, “There are two types of ignorance, the pure, natural ignorance into which all people are born, and the ignorance of the so-called wise. You will see that many among those who call themselves scholars do not know real life, and they despise simple people and simple things.” Nuff said!

Have you ever seen a list of what most “A” level actors require in making or promoting their movies? Their contracts spell out the number of assistants, drivers, food likes and dislikes, the size of their hotel rooms, what vehicles must transport them, and even what candy must be in their dressing room/trailer!

They are constantly complaining about the 1%, and yet they are in the 1%. They are regularly berating the rest of us on race relations, when their own industry is deemed racist. They are forever harping on women’s rights, when male actors make more than female actors. They lecture us on gun and sexual violence while appearing in movies that features, even glorifies, that very violence. And lastly, they profess to be concerned with the environment while flying private jets or riding in limousines to many of their appearances. What a bunch of hypocrites!

And now that Donald Trump might be president, they’re going to leave the country? Oh boo-hoo, and as we like to say in the South, “Don’t let the screen door hit you in the butt on your way out!” Worse, along with being hypocritical, they are liars. Funny how Robert Altman, Alec Baldwin, Elton John and others that promised to do so, didn’t leave when George W. was elected. I guess giving up all their perks and millions, built on the backs of all of us “commoners” was just too much, so they stuck around and “gutted it up” while George Junior was president.

As I have said before, quoting Don Miguel Ruiz, words are magic; we can use them for white magic or for black magic. Lies are both black magic to those who hear them as well as to those who speak them. While I might not relish a Donald Trump presidency, one upside would be to watch these prima donnas have to eat crow again.

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Ginsburg’s teaching moment to the United States

Yes, she penned her tribute to her fellow Justice, Antonin Scalia, but I hope that every citizen of the United States reads and really ponders what she wrote; doing so would go a long way in healing this nation. I have been amazed how, over the years, the public rhetoric has diverged, many words on harmony, cooperation, and inclusiveness accompanied by many words and actions of scorn, vindictiveness, and down right hate.

Justice Ginsburg starts her tribute with, “Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: ‘We are different, we are one,’ different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve. To bad our current politicians cannot emulate this. This is respect; this is true friendship, to disagree so vehemently at times, but always with deference.

Ginsburg continued, “…when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots—the ‘applesauce’ and ‘argle bargle’—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion.” Wow, what a concept, reverential, dutiful, and civil disagreement in which we support and even assist while diverging. Yet we live in a culture that revels in name calling, put downs, and libelous and fallacious accusations.

Several years ago I read the transcript of the Kennedy-Nixon debate and was amazed. I remember Nixon as brilliant and an astonishing forward thinking (although I disagreed with many of his policies), but also as mean spirited and vindictive. Imagine my wonder to see him praise JFK, calling him “my esteemed colleague,” “my friend.” That is not what I hear from our representatives and senators today. Many people were shocked to hear then vice president Chaney tell Senator Leahy to “F-off” when Leahy tried to exchange pleasantries with him. Now, I do not condone what Cheney did, but considering what Leahy had said about Chaney, his former fellow Senator, on the Senate floor no less, I can understand why Chaney reacted this way.

We cannot live a double standard and, as I always teach, words have meanings and consequences. For many years, I have read and heard that the Republicans are the party of hate. And yet, when I read the postings of my many Democrat and Republican friends on Facebook, they see to be the flip side of the same hate coin; I am saddened that we as a nation no longer embrace what Justices Ginsburg and Scalia practiced daily; and for over thirty years!

I read several years ago how many young people would never even date someone from the other political party, how narrow-minded and intolerant. Kudos to Mary Matalin and James Carville who are showing how spouses can both love and disagree and to even Dick and Mary Cheney, a parent loving and respecting his daughter although they are so politically divided.

Bravo Justices Ginsburg and Scalia! Thank you for showing us how we can live with one another, even those with whom we disagree. One of my all-time favorite, sorely missed, opinion writers (although I disagree with her many times) was Molly Ivins; I am somewhat relieved she did not live to see the extent to which this nation has devolved. In 1995 she presaged our current condition when she stated: “When politicians start talking about large groups of their fellow Americans as ‘enemies,’ it’s time for a quiet stir of alertness. Polarizing people is a good way to win an election, and also a good way to wreck a country.”

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A Ten-Year Reunion

Mid-month, July 2015, I attended my ten-year reunion for my master’s program in Spiritual Psychology. Around the first of the year when it began to be planned, I already had been musing over my time there, especially the second year when we prepared our master’s project; many psychology graduate schools no longer have their students write a thesis, but do a project that reflects their studies.

In mid January, we were traveling from our home north of Houston to Colorado Springs to share in the birth of my granddaughter and our route took us through the Texas panhandle to Raton. From there, as we took I-25 north to the Springs, several things came to me while driving.

First, it was a bit snowy, luckily only slowing us down on certain stretches. However, although I had been in New Mexico since moving away, it has not been in the winter nor entailed driving through snow; the combination brought back memories of ten years ago, driving from Taos to Denver each month for a project support meeting. I could travel two different ways the winter of 2004-05, depending on the forecast. The quickest was north through Alamosa, to Walsenburg and I-25 or, if that pass was closed, east through Cimarron to south of Raton and then north. So coming into Raton mimicked a portion of that latter drive and brought back many memories.

Since the University of Santa Monica is a one weekend a month on-campus graduate school, they had the second year students form project support teams; this allowed for both encouragement between classes and to insure a student didn’t fall too far behind with their project while completing all the other coursework. Being the only student in New Mexico, I needed to join a group in an adjoining state; I cannot remember why I ended up choosing the Colorado group, we called ourselves the Rocky Mountain High team. Looking back, I was being watched over.

There was also an Arizona group, with the travel time being approximately the same, and, although I have kept in contact with one person from that team and, back then, was great friends with another, I am grateful for joining the RMH group for several reasons, the biggest having to do with relationship.

The great friend in the other group did her best to get us to become more than friends and, with my divorce all but final by that March, another member would have been very tempting for me to date. I know, because even not being in their team, it was all I could do to remain just friends with the one and, although we did a few excursions together, I specifically named them as non-dates with the other.

The former was too much of an “A,” like my mother, sister, and ex and, even though that relationship would have been easy, it would not have lasted. Easy because she was a known quantity, so I knew what would have pleased her, but I was becoming too knowledgeable to have ever allowed myself to get trapped again. I’m thankful because I would not have wanted to hurt my friend, but in being true to my needs, an end to the relationship would have come at some point.

As it turned out, a relationship with the letter would have been great for me/us, but I was just too confused about relationships at that point. I was mistaking the fireworks of a challenge relationship (“A” personality types) with happy relationships and dismissing no fireworks as meaning a dull relationship. In truth, what I thought dull turned out to be peaceful, gentle, and loving! This second friend may have resulted in a wonderful relationship, but then I would have never married my wife, who I met through another USM classmate’s project, and we are an absolutely perfect match!

My team just didn’t present those same temptations, but not because my female teammates were not beautiful, sexy, and brilliant. One was married, another seemingly was looking for someone other than me, the third was too young, and the fourth probably fell into the “dull relationship” scenario, but without all the shared experienced the AZ team member and I had, both being from Texas. So I was able to enjoy my CO team member as wonderful friends, without additional entanglements; hopefully I was a good friend back.

Driving up to Denver, I remember the anguish over the team name, Rocky Mountain High, due to the drug reference, but it seemingly worked as we were high on achievement. I remember one blizzard I drove through, the weather report was very wrong! I also remember the loving support I received on my master’s project and the love I gave back. I remember time spent both working at the Denver team member’s home and then working and playing at another’s out west of Denver.

I remember being called out by one member on sighing while she presented and I remember not being aware enough to use my emotions to look inside, but dropped into a defense. Luckily, I was just aware enough to listen to myself and did acknowledge to this friend later that she was right, I did sigh a lot! I remember encouragements, challenges, skepticisms, and love flowing to me and from me. I also remember thinking we’d never drift apart.

Wow, what a difference ten years makes. As our ten-year reunion illustrated, the journey we all began in October 2003 is still continuing. The person I had become at graduation that July a decade ago, while ten times the person I was when I started USM, had not even reached the “adolescence stage,” as compared to the more authentic person I am now. Thanks to the Colorado group for not only being a part of that journey, but for including this outlier, both geographically and by gender, into their group.

I figured I might only see only one of my team members this weekend, and I was correct; I also hoped I was wrong (although I heard back from all of them!). But I carried each of them in my heart and missed them deeply while enjoying my other USM classmates. I am also mindful of my classmate and friend Chuck, whose birthday was the day before the reunion, I miss him terribly. Susan and two other classmates have also transitioned, Love and Light to you all. I also miss being with all my teammates twice a month. Thinking back on all the fun times and sorrows, tears of gratitude and sorrow abound.

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Preferential Abuse

I saw one of those postcard postings on Facebook the other day and while I agree with it, I am also wondering why it is so exclusive and the sentiment so pervasive. It is a quote by President Jimmy Carter that stated: “The abuse of women and girls is the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on earth.”

First of all, I have not checked to see if this quote is actually real. The Internet, for all its wonderful ability to disseminate information, can also be used to disseminate untruths. Whether true or false, the quote will be fodder for this blog! This quote is one of those interesting dichotomies, a statement that is true and false at the same time. It is also a dichotomy squared as the former president also speaks both the truth and falsehoods, sometimes in the same breath. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is intentional on his part, we all, to some extent, are closed systems, therefore we see things through the prism of our thoughts and beliefs.

As to the former, women and girls are most definitely abused, but I would offer for the President’s consideration that some men and almost as many young boys are too. Children are very vulnerable and it really does take a community to insure that we protect them. I found it disheartening that there was so much media and social attention to the 200 young girls that were recently kidnapped in Nigeria and virtually no mention of the 29 boys that had been shot or burned to death just weeks before. Where was the #saveourboys social media blitz?

Are young girls more special than young boys or is it just the number killed/kidnapped? If so, at what number over 30 does the killing/kidnapping of children in Nigeria become relevant? Is it killed/kidnapped at one time? Twenty school children are killed in Newtown and it dominates the news for weeks, but throughout 2010, 66 school-aged children were killed in Chicago and nothing much was reported. Are killings in school more important that killing children out of school? Even worse, could it be that white children killed in Connecticut and Colorado are more important and worthy of reporting than black and brown children in Illinois?

What I find even more disheartening is after a couple of weeks, all the #saveourgirls had disappeared just like the girls themselves. I do not doubt that there are some still working behind the scenes to help the girls and their families reunite, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to the news.

One of my favorite quotes is by Erik Erikson and chokes me up every time I read or say it. He was a psychologist that is most well known for his psychosexual developmental stages. “Someday, maybe, there will exist a well informed, well intentioned group of individuals, that consider the mutilation of a child’s spirit to be the greatest of all sins.” Certainly, women and girls are abused more than men, but do we need to be more concerned about one type of abuse over another? To Erikson’s quote, I would add the mutilation of any person, anywhere, in anyway, of any gender, color, age, or religion!

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Media Mush!

Is it me, or has the media in the country gone to mush? What prompted this question is mainly reading the Houston Chronicle (and a specific editorial cartoon which I will discuss further in this blog), but also seeing other written and visual reports from various outlets.

I am not a news junkie like I was back in my thirties and forties, so my sampling is certainly not extensive, but I find that I am reading and seeing what amounts to news reporting pabulum. This is true whether we are talking the equivalent of front-page news, be it world or local, business, and, even, sports. I cannot figure out if it is apathy or ignorance driving this poor reporting.

I once read that most articles are written at the fifth grade level, but that does not explain the drop in coherent content. When a larger national school bought the graduate school where I was pursuing my doctorate, I was required to retake my third year due to graduation requirements; this entailed taking three on-line courses that were at the Master level.

For those that have not ever taken on-line courses, the students not only posts their own work, but also must read and comment on several other classmate’s work. I was appalled! Maybe that is a bit of an overstatement, but not much. It was not the technical aspects of writing a graduate level paper; many had just entered graduate school (I am sometimes ashamed when re-reading some of my early papers!). Unfortunately, the content, cohesiveness of making a logical argument, and even the grammar would have gotten me an “F” in my undergraduate classes back in the early 70s.

I find these same flaws in most of the articles I read in the Chronicle, and they employ editors to supposedly oversee their reporter’s writing! However, an even worse problem for me is trying to create a problem out of normal practices, which brings us to the editorial cartoon by Walt Handelsman I saw on Friday, 26 February.

The cartoon was titled, “Pick The Most Accurate Portrait of Governor Jindal…” and showed a framed picture of what appeared to be a young Jindal, a second framed picture from a few years ago, and then a third with just the frame, no photograph, and a note saying “Away at campaign event… Good luck at home! –Bobby.” For those of you that may not know, Bobby Jindal is the Republican governor of Louisiana.

Oh, the shock of it all!!! Really, I have never, never I tell you, seen a current governor, national senator or congressional representative spend time away from their job attending presidential campaign events! I cannot even believe that Mr. Handelsman thinks this is news.

And why is this cartoon even in the Houston paper? How does the campaigning of a neighboring state’s governor even have relevance? Further, in researching Mr. Handelsman, I found this cartoon appeared in the New Orleans’s paper on the sixth of February and the Chronicle thought it so funny and so significant that is waited three weeks to run it?

It is bad enough that those of us that still read newspapers have to put up with nothing news, but we also have to stomach these cartoonist’s, reporter’s, and editor’s sophomoric hypocrisy. While I could not find anything from so far back, I wonder if Mr. Handelsman considered a similar cartoon on Massachusetts’s governor Michael Dukakis and New Mexico’s governor Bill Richardson when they ran for president in 1988 and 2008? Granted, neither was from Louisiana, but I wonder if it is just because Mr. Jindal is Republican?

Worst, from seeing a collection of Mr. Handelsman’s cartoon on Mr. Jindal, his hypocrisy is even more flagrant in that he should be happy that Gov. Jindal is out of state where, in Mr. Handelsman’s political universe, Mr. Jindal cannot do any harm to his fellow Louisianans! Oh, the scintillating arguments from Democrats that President Bush spent too many vacations at his ranch and from Republicans that President Obama plays too much golf! Give me a break. Please!

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Religion and Politics Fifty Years Later

I want to take on another peeve I am still witnessing in the national arena. I am old enough now that this has happened several times in my life and I wonder if others don’t have a functioning memory, are so stupid as to not see history repeating itself, or are simply so egotistical that they don’t think a nonsensical judgement can happen to them. As is usually the case in life, I suspect all three are in play to some extent. The last time this déjà vu happened in politics, it was about four years ago and Mitt Romney was running for president on the Republican side. I am certainly no fan and would not vote for the man, but what struck me as totally asinine were people wondering if he should be elected because he is Mormon? Is the voting public still so bigoted and paranoid about someone who is “different” from them? I thought this argument, at least in the realm of politics, was laid to rest half a century ago.

The presidential election of 1960 was the first election in which I was old enough to be interested. Living in the South where Roman Catholics (I was raised Roman Catholic) were only two steps up from Blacks and Jews, I heard all the OMGs from folks thinking the Pope was going to rule the US through JFK. Conversely, I also had an Aunt that stated she was voting for JFK because he was Catholic. I remember thinking at the time how stupid and myopic both arguments were. I don’t remember thinking the former bigoted, probably because I wasn’t introduced to that idea yet, just stupid. Knowing uncles and other men that were Catholic, even at six I knew they were not the Pope’s lackeys. Reverent and obedient to their faith when practicing their faith, these men (and women) seemed to do their best to live their secular life according to the tenants of their faith, but when it came to the law and life in the United States, they were Americans; I figured JFK would be the same as all the Catholics I knew, even the clergy, were Americans first and Catholic second in their every day affairs.

To even suggest Romney is anything but an American and interested only in bettering America is ludicrous. Further, having known a few Mormons in my life and seeing the love, respect, and drive to succeed they instill in their children, I have to say we could all benefit from learning how they achieve this consistently with all children, regardless of their faith. I would ask those that question how Romney’s religion might play a part in his governance to substitute a few different words into the sentence and see how it sounds. “I’m not sure how good a presidency it will be, remember she’s a woman.” “I’m not sure how good a presidency it will be, remember he’s a Black.” “I’m not sure how good a presidency it will be, remember he’s a cripple.” Geraldine Ferraro, Elizabeth Dole, or Hillary Clinton might not have made good presidents, but I sincerely doubt it would be because of their gender. You might take issue with President Obama, but his successes or failures has nothing to do with his skin color. Likewise, you may think FDR is either a great president or not, but I hardly think his being paraplegic entered into the equation. Isn’t it time we put every form of bigotry behind us and discuss the issues as nonjudgmental adults?

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Twitter Usage by Congress

Wow, what a cornucopia of ideas stemming from the Anthony Weiner fallout to blog about! I will start with a short one. Also, I remember the old adage that one should never talk about politics or religion, however this is just too juicy!

I heard the other day that congressional twitter usage was down by almost 25% and that got me to thinking why? There is a very sacrosanct rule in research about never drawing a conclusion from a correlation. The usual example is that red cars are ticketed the most, so don’t buy a red car. Studies have shown that there is nothing, per se, about the color of the car. However, people that like to drive fast seem to also favor red cars. That is the reason red cars are ticketed the most, not just the color. Without interviewing every representative and senator that Tweets, anything postulated is simply conjecture on my part, but moving fast towards my sixth decade and with my career change into psychology, I have found that common sense, past experience, and psychological tenants can offer some generalizations.

Have you ever noticed while driving on a highway, that when people come upon a law enforcement officer doing ten miles below the speed limit, most everyone slows down? Now a percentage might simply be wondering if their speedometer is off and want to play it safe, however, there is a portion that will feel apprehensive or guilty about their usual tendency to speed and over compensate by slowing down also. Those that know their speedometers are basically accurate and tend to obey traffic laws will simply pass the patrol car at the speed limit without any worries.

This leads me to the question of why has congress’ Twitter usage dropped? Further, and unfortunate as far as I am concerned, the majority of the drop off is by Democrats. It seems to me that if the only information these representatives or senators have been Tweeting are normal, job related Tweets, there would be no concern about continued Tweets and, therefore, no drop in the overall amount of Tweets. If, however, someone is concerned about possible inappropriate Tweets they have posted in the past, well …?!? I know, I know, this is painting every congressman that has reduced her or his tweets with a broad brush, but it is worth pondering.

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Boycotting BP

I find it interesting, this call for boycotting that has arisen so often lately; the current focus of punishment is, of course, British Petroleum. In the spirit of full disclosure and credentials, for those that do not know my background, I was in the oil and gas exploration business for 30 years. However, I ran a very small family business that BP, or any other major energy company, could and would squish without even noticing our extinction. So while there is no love loss on my part for a mammoth oil company, I do understand most aspect of the hydrocarbon energy business and I feel I can bring some unbiased thoughts to the situation.

First, I would ask if those of you calling for or actually boycotting BP, have you done any research on whom it will affect, do you know the extent of ramifications, and if, indeed, BP will be hurt? BP has been in the US for over 50 years and is now the biggest producer in the US, having bought out several other companies, but let’s dissect their business.

BP spent over $50 billion in the last 10 years and some would argue that this is just to further their profits. But all that money didn’t just vanish, it ultimately goes to people somewhere down the line. They directly paid salaries for their some 23,000 employees, rented office space and rigs, and purchased oil field and refinery equipment. Indirectly, they paid the salaries of the rig crews and those that built the rigs and refineries, and oil field service and support workers. Further, they paid royalties to federal and state government and to individual property owners, dividends to their stockholders, and some of that money going to pay federal, state, and county taxes.

If the boycott is wildly successful, BP might lose 2% of its global income, but are those at the top really going to see a reduction in their benefit packages? I doubt it. If they are impacted by the boycott, BP may lay off lower level workers, they may rent fewer rigs, and may buy less equipment and supplies. However, I bet they simply cut back on their investment in solar, wind, and bio-fuels, which historically have a lower profit margin. Also, when I hear most people talk about corporations, they seem to think they are an entity unto themselves and their only mission is to make as much money as possible. Legally they are considered a single unit but, notwithstanding what I consider to be obscene salaries at the top, they are owned by regular folks. This is either through direct stock ownership or through market or pension funds. I would bet that investors and pensioners too will lose money before any executive has his or her salary cut.

So how will the boycott manifest and who really gets hurt in a typical boycott these days? About the only way for the public to participate in a boycott will be to stop buying BP’s gasoline. While BP is one of the largest gasoline marketers in the US with almost 12,000 gas stations, do the boycotters know that BP does not actually own any of these stations? They are owned by small entrepreneurs, may of whom are moms and pops that saved up their money to get a piece of the American dream by owning their own business. Ultimately, yes BP does get a few cents on the dollar from every gallon sold, but if a station closes, it is the owners and their 2 – 4 local employees that lose jobs. The state and county loses the taxes no longer paid. Local owners of McDonald, Dominos, and Blockbuster lose business as those out of a job cut back. Hotel owners and others where those now unemployed would have vacationed lose income. Get the picture?

However, I will bet that BP actually does not lose 1¢ in even a “successful” boycott. That is because gasoline supplies remain fairly tight. I find that people are generally very unknowledgeable of almost every aspect of the oil and gas business. If a non-owned BP station closes, corporate BP will simply sell the gasoline that would have been allocated to that station to another company, either through their local distributer or right from the refinery. However, BP wouldn’t probably even have to do that as, unbelievably, there are people boycotting BP stations and, instead, they are buying their gasoline from Amaco and ARCO, both owned by BP!

And this boycott is not really atypical. There was a call to boycott Whole Foods last year after its owner, John Mackey, had, what some deemed, the audacity to propose an alternative to what is now called Obama Care before it was passed. Once again, I found not a single person that knew that Mackey did not receive a salary and hadn’t for many years. So who would have been hurt? Laid off store employees, local distributers, organic farmers, charities, and not-for-profits that Whole Foods support. Wow, talk about throwing out the baby with the bath water.

I understand the impotent feeling the public has over this abominable ecological disaster and the need to strike out. I totally agree that BP needs to be both held accountable and fined, but let’s let President Obama, Congress, state and local governments and regulatory agencies punish BP. If anything, we should be supporting our local BP station owners to help them in this time of recession, not heaping additional torment on them.

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