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October 30, 2016

Cozy fall day. Halloween is such a great holiday. Wish we didn’t do elections this time of year, really.

Last time I devoted a lot of my energy to an election was 2004 and the experience, seeing even the most minimal piece of “how the sausage is made” turned me off to politics deeply for 10 years. Come to think of it, that’s a great metaphor.

When I was in college I worked in food service for just a few of days, before getting a research assistant job that got much more respect and was a better fit for my career path. So about the sausage. This was at football games and the menu was simple. Hot dog, sausage, pretzel, burger (?),  coke or pepsi products (cant remember which), and I think one kind of beer. (Since then the university has bumped up its food service game dramatically, it’s world class now. I digress.) The part that is burned into my mind was the sausage. They actually came out pretty palatable. That was until I was shown the kitchen.

Whoever went in first had to turn on the sausage cooking/re-heating machine – it took some time to warm up, so that the viscosity of the sausage grease would drop to a level that allowed it to flow, which was important for the process to function properly. I don’t remember it perfectly, but it was a basically a stainless steel trough, like 5 foot wide left-to-right and maybe 3 foot deep both horizontally and vertically. It was heated with lamps overhead, I think the bottom was heated too. There was access at the top beneath the lamps to load and take out sausages, and for a shovel like tool to periodically rotate the mass of of pre-cut sausages without breaking too many of them, so the ones at the top of the pile cooked as well as the ones on the bottom. Most importantly, there was generously sized drainage to let excess grease come out, and yet not get clogged by the bits of this and that which ended up everywhere.

Once the cooking/re-heating machine was warmed up, you dump a bucket or two of refrigerated, perhaps semi precooked, pre-cut sausages in, then wait several hours. It was generally agreed by everyone I met that the rotation step could be skipped without any visible effect on customers. Use of the meat thermometer depended on who ran it. At the end of the day you disposed of the leftovers (garbage-bag sized amounts). There was also a cleaning procedure. I now realize the designers of the machine were smart enough to anticipate that parts of this procedure would be completely ignored. In any case, it was a duty I successfully avoided in my very brief time there. Whoever was assigned to clean it must’ve been terrified of reaching in there, so I don’t think the surfaces ever got cleaned at all, but I think the hot new grease would displace most of the old grease, except a layer of ultra-high viscosity stuff which was basically permanently adhered to all the internal surfaces and, really all the surfaces in the kitchen. However, the professional cleaning staff actually took care of those periodically. In any case, the sausage grease smell was prominent, and since I had never had this kind of job before (perks of being a computer nerd at just the right time), it came as a surprise. Adding to the shock was that when you first walked in, the kitchen’s powerful ventilation system was just turned on, but hadn’t yet cycled out the stale air, which made for a nicely disgusting moment to start a shift.

Supervision was ultra-minimal, basically a few minutes at the beginning and end of each shift, mostly to check the cash vs the total in the register. When serving the sausages, you rejected the more unpalatable looking specimens, which were about 30% or so of the sausage population. Like I said, if you didn’t know better, they tasted great. If the register person was smart, they’d recommend them over the other food items, the sausages were often praised by customers. At which point you gave them your best smile and thanked them sincerely. Alumni in particular tipped quite well. But the purpose of a part time job at that point in life isn’t just beer money, so I moved on.

Now, returning to the current presidential election.

The Hillary camp is up in arms about the FBI / Comey annoncement. At this point I’m kindof actually rooting for her to lose or at least suffer a major setback based on it, because its nice to see that the overt favoritism she benefitted from isn’t complete.

Thinking about it logically: I completely reject both Trump and Clinton, and think the development of 3rd parties in US politics are an absolute necessity for there to be any progress. So the best outcome for me is that they end up in a near-tie, and discredit each other as much as possible in the process. This is actually happening beautifully… and yet very un-beautifully. The way in which they are discrediting each other is exactly wrong.

I hate having to root for the email thing to be the way Clinton is restrained. I don’t really care about the emails, they’re not her primary defect as a candidate. I care about her policy-record, which I think is beyond awful, and the overt influence of big money donors in politics, which is the driving force behind her policy record and also the way she escapes political consequences. In terms of $/politics, Clinton isn’t unique, Trump will of course be the same, it’s just that the Clinton machine has proven frighteningly efficient.

In any case, it looks like the only truly effective lines of argument in this election have been the most primitive: tabloid presentation of the email scandal for Hillary and tabloid presentation of the locker room talk for Trump. Neither even come close to the most fundamental flaws of each candidate, although although both do indicate that they each fail on “character”.

And I can see how people become so completely cynical about politics.

That cynicism is so well justified, but it needs to be processed into something other just throwing your hands up and walking away. We, collectively, have to face the details of how our political process functions. It would be better to do it with intent than to have it thrown in our faces, but the worst thing is to turn a blind eye.

In addition to supplementing FOIA when it is evaded, the Podesta archive is a valuable in how we deal with the cynicism. I hope it motivates people to make the conscious decision to look at the details of how all this sausage is made…


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