SmartAss Award 1 — You Go Paula Maccabee!!

As a facilitator of group sessions, on leadership development or talking with the media or tatting, I often, when I remember to, give out a Smartass Award. Somebody shoots off a zinger nailing me or a corporate sacred cow or a boss who can take it, and I’ll toss out a T-Shirt or a book or some Fruit Loops and have everyone applaud the Smartass Award Winner. People like it, they like laughing, and it takes their mind off the issue of whether they’re actually learning anything in my session.

So, let’s import this concept into The Same Rowdy Crowd and start a tradition. Let’s give a SmartAss Award to someone in Minnesota, or a Minnesotan out in the warmer world, who lets fly with a turn of phrase that makes us all wish we’d said that — or had the guts to say that.

We’ll celebrate a winner whenever one of us stops watching As The World Turns long enough to pay attention to local communications.

Our inaugural winner is Paula Maccabee, an attorney for WaterLegacy, an environmental group wishing the DNR would do a little more hearing at its hearings.

In a Tom Meersman story in the StarTribune, the DNR gets a little seemingly deserved heat for informational meetings this week on a copper nickel mining project in Northeastern Minnesota. There will be information presented to the public, but no open microphones for public comment. People can, however, line up and give their views to — drumroll — stenographers. Really.

Now public hearings can get pretty rowdy (and that’s a bad thing why?) and they can become Kabuki Theater if too many PR types like us draft astroturf “public” comments. So I get the desire to keep things more orderly. But having people talk to stenographers? Takes all the fun out of it.

So up steps Counselor Maccabee, quoted by Meersman:

“The agencies have taken both ‘public’ and ‘information’ out of the term ‘public information meeting.'”

You go, Paula!

SmartAss Award Numero Uno from The Same Rowdy Crowd.

Keep it smart out there, folks.

— Bruce Benidt

hr outsourcing nice

Cost of No New Taxes, China, Greed & Pogo

One in four kids in America on food stamps. Ninety thousand new food stamp recipients in Minnesota in the last two years. A Hennepin County spokesperson told the StarTribune Sunday that the “solidly middle class have fallen into the safety net.”

Now Minneapolis will have 25 fewer cops next year because of budget cuts. This is personal. We’ve had the police dealing with problems on our street in Minneapolis several times this year — and I want their protection and presence. We are now cutting into the government’s ability to protect its citizens — a basic function of government that even conservatives would defend, I would think.

The StarTribune, in an editorial on Sunday, called on Governor Tim Pawlenty to do something more than mouth the “nonewtaxesgovernmentistheproblemcutcutcut” mantra of easy political pandering. We need, we all need, creative realistic solutions as Minnesota faces more years of dire economic straits.

It’s as easy for me to blast “no new taxes” folks as it is for them to chant the mantra. And neither gets us anywhere.

The problem is all of us. I’ve bought three new reading lights to replace one that died after more than 10 years. Each cost between $100 and $150 or so. Each was made in China. One broke while I was assembling it. One was missing parts. One lit my book brilliantly — for two minutes. Then died. They are crap. Made in China crap. Crap made by just-above-slave-labor workers. Crap made by workers hired by American companies trying to cut costs.

Because we want cheap goods. (Oxymoron, right, cheap and good.)

Tom Friedman says we have gutted our economy and sent the meat to China. Sent our jobs and our money — and our future — to China. So we can buy cheap disposable crap we don’t need and that the planet can’t sustain. The lamp I bought previously was made in Germany. It cost a lot. Lasted more than a decade. My China crap lights lasted an average of 40 seconds. Germany is a fair trading partner in this world economy. Treats its citizens and workers well.

Our national and state economies are both wounded partly because so many jobs have gone offshore, most to much much cheaper labor. So that corporate executives and speculators can pile up huge stacks of money. So that we consumers can have everything we want — or so it seems, until we unwrap the package. Chain this together with the cowardly politics of “government is the problem, the humanitarian instincts of Wall Street speculators are the answer,” and we are sinking, those of us in the bottom 90 percent of the American economy.

We all need to have less, and more. Less fragile consumer crap, more solid moments of life with friends, faith, family, nature, books, cats and dogs and neighbors.

Christmas season. What if we gave ourselves and the world the gift of only buying a few well-made things we need and can truly enjoy? A sustainable Christmas. If I remember my reading, the author of Christmas would approve.

— Bruce Benidt
(Classic image from Walt Kelly)business expense spreadsheet nice