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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Hoping For a Bad Meal Seems An Odd Strategy For An Evening Out

Okay, so here’s the picture I’d like to paint for you today:

After a contentious office discussion, you and a big crowd of friends, acquaintances and coworkers have come to an uneasy consensus as to where to go out for dinner.  The choice was far from unanimous… but then, in these workplace ‘cattle-call’ situations, a narrow majority is often the best one can hope for.

You all arrive outside the designated restaurant and, as often happens, a few of the more vocal proponents of the place begin loudly singing the praises of the venue’s chef, ambiance, and entrees… while a few of the more vocal detractors begin loudly knocking the shoddy décor, the crappy service, limited menu and inedible food.

All this, of course, is going on outside on the sidewalk before anyone has even crossed the threshold or been shown a table.

The crowd shuffles slowly into the place and is seated, and the vocal fans and foes of the restaurant begin loudly vying to sway the silent majority (who voted for or against the place, but have, so far, decided to reserve judgment), to their camp.

Now, as anyone who has ever dined out can tell you, going out to a restaurant is one of the most subjective experiences in life (which is why I’ve chosen it for today’s hopelessly-flawed analogy). 

The décor, although static, is just as likely to appeal to me as it is to offend the sensibilities of someone seated at the next table. 

The service will depend on how busy the place is, and can vary drastically even from server to server. 

The mood music can be caustic or conjure fond memories of one’s youth. 

The food is subject to arguably the widest range of perception since even expertly prepared meals may not live up to expectations (or one’s memory of the last time it was ordered)… and, of course, even great chefs have off nights.

So you and your crowd have ordered and begin receiving the various salads, appetizers, soups, entrees and desserts (hopefully in approximately the correct order).

I get that many of the group are unhappy with where they are right now.  I know they wanted with all their heart to have the group go a different way.  But this is where they are for the rest of the evening. 

So, why, at this point, are the nay-sayers still waging their full-throated campaign to convince everyone what a horrible mistake this place was?  It seems to me that once everyone is seated and eating their meals, they would share – at least momentarily - a common interest in trying to make the best of the situation.  

Why continue to ridicule the décor and table-service.  Is there a chance the management will give the place a facelift before dinner is served?

Why berate or sabotage the staff?  Don’t you  know these servers have unfettered access to your food?  

Why denigrate the chef to his face?  Do they think insults will motivate him to make an extra-special effort to turn in a Michelin-star-worthy performance for an ungrateful bunch of loudmouths who are already predicting his failure?

Short of walking out (something many threatened to do at the outset, but few actually followed through with), it would seem that the smart thing to do would be to try to make the best of the situation.  After all, most people in the world don’t have the resources or choice of going out to dinner.  In fact, most of the world would be deliriously happy if there was simply ample food on their table to get them through the day. 

So in that context, this idea of periodically being able to have a say in where to go to have someone prepare your food and serve it to you (and then clean up afterwards), seems to be a bit of an under-appreciated luxury.

Metaphor clear enough?  Obviously, there’s no magical, O. Henry-esque ‘reveal’ at the end of this essay.  I’ve been pretty ham-handed with where I’m headed, metaphorically speaking.

I get that Trump is an inarticulate buffoon. I suspect that for many, he was a gag-choice (think Jesse Ventura in Minnesota).   I can’t watch Trump  speak… it’s too cringe-inducing. But for all his ineptitude and seat-of-the-pants management ‘style’, by accident or design he isn’t screwing up absolutely everything.  Whether talking about the economy or some of the thornier foreign policy mine-fields, a couple of things appear to be, inexplicably, working out for him.  And by working out, I mean to America’s benefit, not just Trumps. 

I get that Trump and many of his appointees are rank amateurs who are clearly making it up as they go along.  Guess what, I can give you a long list of appointees in every Democratic and Republican administration who were also amateurs with little or no government experience.  Some were political patronage drones and some were savvy policy wonks.  But all had no choice but to produce or perish.  Some rose to the occasion… others didn’t. 

But when I see every YouTube mouth-breather and street-corner bigot being blamed on ‘Trump’s America’, I have to wonder if these same people were somehow in hibernation or medicated under previous presidents.  In my experience, idiots don’t wait for particular seasons and opportunities to strut their stuff.  Their bigotry and ass-hattery are well-developed and on display for most of their adult lives, and had little connection to who lived in the White House when they were filmed behaving badly.

But back to the topic at hand, my point is that once a group has exercised some semblance of democratic process, and the results have been announced, doesn’t everyone have a shared interest in making the best of the situation?  There’ll be plenty of time after the meal and back at the office to dissect take-away lessons from the experience, and campaign for the choice of venue for the next office outing. 

But while you are actually sitting in your seat, why try to ruin an unavoidable experience that is already underway?  Why insult the chef, trip the waiters and vandalize the furniture?  This time you got Red Lobster.  Maybe next time you’ll get your way and steer the group to Peter Luger.

I guess I don’t understand the mindset of those who, having had their preference rejected (by however narrow a margin), would pray for food poisoning rather than hope that perhaps the breadsticks and one or two of the less-complicated entrees might be safe.

After all, like I mentioned earlier, not many in the world actually have a choice.

Posted by David Bogner on June 10, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Sit Down and Shut Up!

This just in from disgraced Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert (yes, the one who just got out of prison!), in an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, about the way Israel is dealing with the violence from Gaza:

 "In this context, I think that we have to consider other options of operations which will be less violent and damaging…I mean, it's not a thousand kids only, there were tens of thousands of people and they were, indeed, there were many casualties and there were 62 people killed. And I am terribly sorry and sad about it… Is it necessary to use the guns the way they were used, snipers the way they were used? (...) I have questions, I have doubts”.

Okay, listen up surrender boy.  The current catastrophe in Gaza is the gift from your failed Kadima party that just keeps on giving (you do remember the ‘Disengagement, don’t you?!). 

Thirteen years ago, you and your elitist cronies assured us you knew what was best for us.  You promised us that a frantic, unilateral retreat from Gaza was the best and only solution to Israel’s problems.  'The world will respect us', you said.  'The Palestinians will thank us', you said.  'There will be no missiles from Gaza', you said.  'The seeds of peace, so generously sown, will spontaneously sprout flowers all over the middle east', you said!

That was the summer of 2005. 

You were a Cabinet Minister in 2005 and Prime Minister from 2006 - 2009. 

Before you were shown the door, your popularity rating had slipped to below 3% in most polls, and a ‘Google Bomb’ brought up your Wikipedia page whenever anyone did a Hebrew search for the term ‘Miserable Failure’.

So am I missing something?  Did you get smacked around in prison so hard that you lost all memory of the 'Disengagement' from Gaza over which you and your Kadima-led government presided?  Did the disastrous war in Lebanon (which ended with you and Tzippi Livni literally pleading for a cease fire), slip your mind?  Did you forget that according to the UN-brokered ceasefire agreement, the enemy was required to do only two things:  Return our kidnapped soldiers and disarm Hezbollah?

Up until the moment the bodies of the kidnapped soldiers were dumped like yesterday’s trash at our northern border, you and your feckless Kadima comrades didn’t even know if they were alive or dead.  It was a devastating gut-punch to Israel, and a huge PR win for Hezbollah.  And as for the promise that the Iranian proxy in Lebanon would be forced to disarm?  How’s that working out so far?  Interesting that the UN Security Council isn't meeting to discuss non-compliance with that resolution, right!

So you’ll excuse me if I suggest that you should have confined your entire interview to those last few words:  “I have my doubts”.  We know.  We had them too (and still do).  But back in 2005 you managed to convince everyone that you knew better… that you had all the answers.  That you had no doubts.

In case you hadn't noticed, it's not 2005.  It's 2018.  You're not in charge anymore. 

I get that you're unhappy with the news from Gaza.  Take a number… nobody (except, perhaps Hamas and Islamic Jihad) is happy watching the news from Gaza these days.  Unfortunately, managing that snake pit in Gaza from outside is a lot like trying to cook a meal without being able to lift a pot lid or open the oven door.

So unless you have a more concrete solution than ‘we should consider other options’, just take a knee and let the grown-ups have a crack at this.  You had your chance.  We'll let you know if/when we've finished cleaning up your mess.

Posted by David Bogner on June 7, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)