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Eat Your Frogs

“Eat a live frog first thing every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain

The relative cholesterol of frogs notwithstanding* this has been my mantra for the past several days. As part of the seasonal reorganization of things here at my company, I have a new boss and new coworkers (sorta) and so there’s a bit of an administrative tax associated with that: the PowerPoint that describes your products. The weekly update email on how those products are doing. The monthly update PowerPoint on how those products are doing. The one-off PowerPoint to discuss the ProblemChild in your product, and the one-page Word docs to describe the individual projects of your Product. Then of course there’s the emails about each of these items.  It was a rough three weeks getting all of that in order, but now I think we’re there and it’s time to eat another frog.

America needs to eat a frog. Actually, your average American citizen needs to eat a *lot* of frogs, because it is Election season. Whatever their opinions are about the candidates for the Top Office are, and how much they do or do not like said candidates, that is (frankly) the least of the frogs Americans need to eat.

*All* of the 435 House of Representative seats are up for reelection this year. Thirty five of the 100 Senate seats are, too. One hundred and sixty three ballot measures are up in 35 states, and 72 citizen initiatives. In my home state we have some pretty big decisions to make, including the possibility of a carbon tax (the Economist covered it last week). There are initiatives about pot, about gun control, about taxes, and about minimum wage; I guarantee the average American has an opinion about some or all of those. I equally guarantee there are no simple choices.

Let’s take my home state: Washington. We have the aforementioned carbon emission tax on the ballot, which economists love but I guarantee you local businesses will not. Ditto the Minimum Wage initiative (actually economists are split on that one, depending on who you talk to regarding artificial price floors, etc.). Firearms make another appearance, this time around risk protection orders. Another initiative asks you to weigh privacy risks against proper compensation for home health care workers. There’s also not one, but two advisory votes (where we get to let the State House/Senate know how we feel about taxes they approved without subjecting them to vote). You may think we have a lot in our state but it turns out California and Alabama voters will have a much thicker pamphlet to read through.

All of these frogs to eat and yet, while the states are doing their best to saute them in butter and garlic (or is that braise them in red wine and tomato sauce?) our election year coverage seems largely devoted to the biggest frogs who, depending on the status of the Congress they are rewarded with, may be stuck in the mud anyway and unable to do much other than croak for the next two years.

Because of the howling cacophony over those “biggest frogs”, it’s rare you find an intelligent, balanced conversation over the little frogs (and possibly tadpoles) we need to consume. It’s almost like the sheer dread of that first big frog negates the fact that once we’re done chewing that one and swallowing it, we have to eat another fifteen, or twenty, or thirty frogs.  Unlike college, there isn’t going to be some sort of machismo pride on the line for chugging your frogs; there’s not going to be a team of your brothers and/or sisters cheering you on as you eat your frogs.  This is probably because they’ll be busy with their own frogs. Stopping to discuss the balance of flavors in the small frogs, or cooking method, seems ridiculous.

It is, however, the platefuls of small frogs that await us are what we’ll have to subsist on for the next two years (at least — remember Senate terms, for example, are six years), and they are not getting the attention they deserve. I’d argue the biggest frogs are over seasoned and will be cooked to a crisp, leaving little taste on the palette and not otherwise making any long-term impressions. It’s those carefully prepared, home-grown frogs we need to fill up on. On voting day,  you get to pick your frogs.

*50mg per 100g of frog meat, in case you were wondering, vs 88 for chicken. There may be a missed opportunity here.

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I usually resist posting overtly political messages — not because I do not have opinions (boy, do I have opinions), but because I can usually find someone screaming “my” message from the top of their lungs, participating in the cacophony that runs parallel to our electoral process.

I do not pretend to have voted in every election since I was 18. I have not. I *have* however voted in every election since 2000, when I returned to Washington State and in my own self assessment became a grown up (I had voted in every Presidential election previously, but like most younger folks I had largely ignored local elections). I vote because it’s one of the freedoms we have, an ostensible say in the selection of who is going to Speak For Us, and because there are still many in the world who do not have this freedom. I also vote because I’m a firm believer that if you don’t do what you can to improve things — in any way you can, the least expensive (in time and money) of which is to vote — then you don’t get to bitch about the outcome.

Which brings me to today, Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is the day we honor those who have fallen in service to our country. Male or female, any branch of service, for hundreds of years. Some of these folks died to preserve our nation and some of them died to (purportedly) preserve similar freedoms in other nations. It’s important to remember that whether or not you agree with the reasons they were sent “over there”, they still went, they still died, and they still deserve respect for it. You can argue at the top of your lungs that you don’t agree with some of our most recent wars — and you’d be in very excellent company — but the fact of the matter is the responsibility for the Going To War is held on different shoulders than those who Go To War. Those who declare we are Going To War do so from a (hopefully) analytic mindset for the Greater Good. And those who Go To War are doing (hopefully) the best with what is given to them, be it direction, armor, or support.

That there is deficit on both sides is well-documented, maddening, and disheartening. We as constituents find out we went to war for reasons that were not as stated, or that don’t make sense, or to support an economic position, rather than a defensive one. We find out those we sent to war weren’t prepared, weren’t supported, weren’t properly supervised, mentored, and managed, and that horrible things happened to those we sent and those they were sent to protect. (The “fortunate” ones who get out, who make it back, often are equally unsupported – psychologically, medically, and financially).

This Memorial Day I have the following entreaty: Vote. It’s the simplest, easiest way to honor those who have fallen and exercise your right to pick the people who, in effect, get to select who falls next, where, and for what. And not just for the Big Ticket — vote for your members of Congress, because they’re the ones who can officially Declare War, and unofficially bring things to a grinding halt, as well we know. You may feel like this election is one of “voting against” rather than “voting for”, but at the very least you are having a say.  https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote