Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Whatever were they thinking?


By Bill Kraus

I am assembling stories from near and far for "Whatever Were They Thinking? Awards" along the lines of the Darwin Awards.

There will be no strict rules, but I expect the entries will be about serious missteps (or over-reaching) by those in power who are important enough to attract press attention.

The antics of the likes of New York City’s Andrew Wiener and Madison’s Brett Hulsey, which seem to me to be in a different category--Not Thinking perhaps--will not be eligible.

A few examples of what I consider eligible follow.

1. The National Rifle Association genius who decided to take advantage of Starbucks' questionable decision to not ban guns in their stores and to prove to the suffering and still seriously sensitized residents of Newtown, Connecticut, by staging a gun carriers rally in a Starbucks in that wounded city where six year olds were massacred less than a year ago. The idea, one assumes, was to show the townspeople that their heavily armed presence in the local Starbucks made both that place and everyone in Newtown safe. The manager of the Newtown Starbucks proved to be more sensitive. He closed the store the day of the proposed rally.

2. The Wisconsin politicians who decided to get rid of the annoying singalongs in the state Capitol by resorting to Nazi era tactics by the police force of that building. The singers were representative of the never-forget-or-forgive group. The more measured response to the Act 10 that led to the dis-empowerment and demise of the over-reaching public unions was relief by these unions’ terrified political enemies and the tacit approval of these unions’ alleged intimidated political “friends.” What using force to quell a noisy few did was change the subject from the perceived excesses of Act 10 to the forceful suppression of what the Supreme Court would regard as free speech, and most observers think is acceptable, peaceful protest.

3. The executives of TimeWarner cable and CBS who turned their fight over fees charged by CBS to TimeWarner for rebroadcasting the offerings of CBS into a boycott whose victims were the customers and viewers both corporations depend on for their economic livelihood. Both parties to the dispute put their revenues from the fees (TimeWarner) and advertising (CBS) that emanate from the broadcasts involved at risk. The cable company’s customers have long wanted an itemized list of entertainments to choose from and pay for. This idea is anathema to the cable companies’ bundling strategy: ”You want A; you gotta take B, C, D and more as well.” The CBS viewers, in the meantime, are finding that there are other ways to get their on-the-air product which may diminish or disguise their viewer counts. Taking these esoteric matters public and exposing the unattractive underbelly of the broadcasting and rebroadcasting system that makes money for both companies at their customers/viewers considerable expense toys with what neither company wants: a customer/viewer revolt.

4. The jolly gerrymanderers in Wisconsin, Illinois, and probably elsewhere as well, who have given the reformers the visual and visible weapon they want to stir the voter/victims of this process to take the every-10-years mapmaking out of their hands and turn it over to someone--anyone--who will not use that power to create decade-long advantages for whatever party happens to be in the majority when the maps are drawn. This inside-politics procedure is often decried by the minority insiders and do-good reformers. They do this by publishing numbers and statistics which show how the majority’s excesses have turned into a system where voters choose their representatives into one where candidates choose their voters. The maps will bring this mapmaking mischief to voters' attention more dramatically by visualizing the demographic larceny perpetrated by partisanizing the process.

Entries for the first contest may be sent to There will be occasional publications of the entries and winners through a yet-to-be-determined medium.

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