Brian Keaney

Tag: barack obama

Negotiation 101

Luca, the morning after.

“Let’s cut to the chase,” the woman on the other end of the phone said to me.  “How much do you want?”

I’ve often said that I prefer Aristotle to Plato because the former gets right to the point while the later meanders through hundreds of pages and you still don’t have any answers at the end.  This woman was clearly an Aristotelian – or at least wanted to get me off the phone – and I liked that about her.  I did want answers to some of my questions first, but that was simply for my own edification and I wanted my money more.  I decided to skip the lesson.

When my Jeep blew up and then spent the night at the bottom of the ocean it was, needless to say, totaled.  The woman who asked me how much I wanted was asking how much I wanted the insurance company to pay.  I threw out a high number.  It wasn’t unreasonable, but it was higher than I was expecting to get.  It was a good deal more than what their original offer to me was.

She told me she couldn’t go that high and gave a number a few hundred dollars less.  If I wanted to make a case for my original figure, she said, I would have to go to a supervisor.  Deciding that a reasonable offer in the hand was worth two in the bush, I decided not to fight it any further.  There was no guarantee that I would get it, and considering that this woman clearly just wanted to get me off the phone by offering the maximum there was even the chance it could go down.

While I’m no dope, I am certainly not an expert negotiator.  I’m no lawyer, only an amateur politician, and haven’t really had all that many high stakes negotiation opportunities.  President Obama, on the other hand, is a lawyer, is a professional politician, and daily has to negotiate on matters that are literally life and death for billions of people around the world.  How, then, he completely capitulated on the debt ceiling deal astounds me.

Other more astute observers have pointed this out already, but I figure that if I was able to get the insurance company to give me $1,100 more for my Jeep than I paid for it, the President of the United States should be able to get a better deal than he did.

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Nine years and 15 minutes

Praise Allah.

The planned burning of Korans by a fringe preacher in Florida didn’t happen, but the lunatic who threatened to light the match got his 15 minutes of fame and then some.  When I first heard of how small his congregation is, under 50 members, I began to wonder why he was getting so much attention.

Why were national commentators writing and blabbering on about him on cable news networks?  This should have been a story that was covered by local press, and then maybe picked up by the wires.  It should have been one of those oddball stories you see in a little box to the side, not the main headline.

I think the reason it got so much attention isn’t because it was a notable event in and of itself, though when the president of the United States and General David Petraeus start talking about it, that is sure to get it some attention.  No, I think it fits into a larger narrative in the media and American society today about Islam, and that explains the way a small town preacher ended up with more reporters on his front lawn than parishioners in his pews.

Sizable segments of the American public, and Republicans in particular, believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim – with, wink wink, all that entails.  This is despite the controversy in the waning days of his election about offensive remarks his Christian pastor made from the pulpit.  Hands were wrung and teeth were gnashed over the fact that then-candidate Obama sat in this church for decades and had his children baptized –  Christened, even – by a reverend who made remarks many, myself included, found objectionable.  How soon we forget.

Part of this anger and vitriol we see being spewed towards the president, Muslims, and, before them, immigrants, I think  has to do with the xenophobic tendencies we see arise in this country (and probably elsewhere) during times of economic stress.  This being a particularly bad downturn, we see the anger magnified by that much more.

Someone has to be blamed for all the job losses and suffering we have endured over the past few years.  It certainly couldn’t be our fault for not keeping our skills current enough, or not saving enough money, or believing that dieing industries would provide stable jobs until our retirements when all signs indicated otherwise.  It couldn’t be that Wall Street bankers let us borrow too much money too easily and on usurious terms, and then gambled with the payments we made on those loans.  After all, they are mainly white men.  No, it must be the fault of other people we can’t see, who don’t look like us, don’t speak our language, don’t practice our religion, and don’t have any issues doing jobs that we are too good to do.

As we approached the anniversary of the most traumatic day in most of our lifetimes, Muslims became a focal point for all of the stress, all of the anger, all of the uncertainty in our lives.  How dare they build a cultural center on the same island as the World Trade Center?  Don’t they know this is sacred ground?  Don’t they know that this used to be a Burlington Coat Factory?

Pastor Terry Jones admitted that he’d never opened a Koran before.  He didn’t know what it said.  He couldn’t point to any particular chapter, verse, or even theme that he found objectionable.  He didn’t even care about all that love thy neighbor talk he could find in his own holy script.  No, he was mad as hell and he had to direct that anger somewhere lest it eat away at him.

I was in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001.  I saw the worst, and, it must be said, the best of humanity on that day.  In addition to the fighter jets buzzing over my head, I also experienced the rally around the flag sentiment that surrounded and pervaded the nation in the days and weeks that followed.

Yesterday, the ninth anniversary of that day, we saw much of the bumper sticker politics that convey trite and empty patriotism common in the days that followed the attacks.  Never Forget.  Home of the Free.  United We Stand.  Yes, united we stand, unless your president is black, you’ve lost your job, or a Mexican moved into the foreclosed home down the street.  Then it’s every man for himself.