Friday, October 29, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Why is it that right wing nutcases hate our soldiers?
2) I hope this is true. The permit was recently expanded from 20,000 to 60,000 attendees and if everyone is civil but political, it would do more to draw liberals and moderates out of the woodwork to vote than any press conference or interview President Obama can hold. We can win this thing, people. Let's go out and do it!
3) I finally got to see the interview with Obama that Stewart held the other night. Rather than fawning over the President, he respectfully held Obama's administration up to his filter and asked the President to comment. No, it wasn't confrontational or combative as many of my liberal brethren would have hoped, but you know what? He didn't let Obama get a pass. He was as informed as he is with nearly every serious guest coming on humping a book (like Condi Rice). If you haven't seen it, click the link. It's worth it.
4) Some views from the left on Barack Obama.
5) Y'know how panty-sniffing conservatives are all "troop morale!" about gays in the military? Turns out they don't know what they're talking about. I support gays in the military for the same reasaon I support gay marriage: Gays have the right to be as miserable as straights are.
6) Lord, I don't pray often enough, I know, but please PLEASE let this come to pass! The refudiation the wackjobs of the Teabaggers would be juicy, and finally, FINALLY, we can move this nation forward.
7) In related nutbag conservative news, Halliburton has finally fessed up they fucked the Gulf states.
8) Never play "Got your nose!" with a baby elephant.
9) Spidergoat, Killer cabbages, and Glow In The Dark Cats...just a few real monsters for your Halloween pleasure!
10) It's since it's Halloween this weekend, let me repeat my stock wishes: Please be safe, please keep an eye on your children, and if you're going as a witch, spend a little to go the extra mile and get a Christine O'Donnell mask!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Hm, interesting:
Florida Democrat Alex Sink leads Republican Rick Scott in the race for governor of the fourth- most-populous U.S. state for the first time in a Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters.

Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, was supported by 45 percent of respondents to 41 percent for Scott, a former health-care executive, in the survey taken Oct. 18-24, the Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute said today. The poll of 784 people has an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Why interesting? Two reasons.

First, Sink had been lagging behind in the polls since, well, since the race shaped up during the primaries way back in the spring. Indeed, as late as October 1, she lagged six points behind Scott, who has Teabagger support (which is weird because he was founder of Columbia Healthcare, which went on to become the largest private healthcare provider in'd hardly think of him as rabble).

Second, Scott has spent enormous sums of money (here's a trivia bit for you: Between Scott, Linda McMahon and Meg Whitman, a quarter of a billion...billion with a "b"...has been spent. All three are now losing their races).

All summer and fall, we'd heard about the massacre the Republicans would pull off in November at the polls. It seems that was premature talk, which summer boasting usually is. People don't pay attention to the races until September, until after Labor Day, when our attention span snaps into place.

And of course, as Christine O'Donnel, Rand Paul, and Carl Paladino prove, in the emotion of battle, "warriors" become stupid. The Teabaggers believed anger would put them over the top, but as many smarter people than I will point out, you can only fool some of the people all of the time, and the fools are still fooled. The rest of us woke up.

Perhaps none too late. We'll see come Tuesday.

One side note: the parallels between Ronald Reagan's first term and President Obama's first term are remarkable. Reagan's polling at this moment in his first term (just before midterms) was worse than Obama's. Reagan lost 26 seats in the 1982 election. If this election is a mandate on Obama's first two years, he'll have to come in under that number for this election to be deemed a success.

It appears he just might do that.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Tolerance Backlash Writ Toddler

Like you, I've been fairly dismayed by the recent spate of homophobia-fueled hate mongering by folks who in a less correct era would parade around in Nazi uniforms.
Not that hate-crimes against GLBT people have ever gone away, but it seems now, especially with a right-wing mainstream media dominating the news coverage, that there's many more of them and they are more and more vicious and tragic from younger and younger people. I filed this development away for later consideration. Why, in a society that has more and more valued tolerance, where being gay in many places has become not only acceptable but unnoticeable, are these crimes popping up? 
Yesterday, I noticed a meme that got my wheels turning. Is Sesame Street the problem?
Put aside your immediate visceral reaction for a second, and come along this wynd with me. Admittedly, there's a leap of logic involved across a chasm of muddled thinking, but if I'm right, it would explain a lot of young adult America.
I'm a little too old to have "grown up" with Sesame Street. If I recall correctly, I was something like ten or eleven when it first popped up on public television. I remember it came on just after Yoga For Life with Richard Hittleman, so I would end up catching snippets of it as I came out of my yogic relaxation that ended every one of his shows, and started getting ready for school.
As a father to a young daughter two decades ago, I was delighted to see that it was still on, and was still teaching kids the alphabet and numbers. Yes, things had changed on the show, and in a good way. Somewhere along the way, and under my radar, Sesame Street decided that along with book learnin' there was a crying need for lessons in civics: how to share, how to be polite, and how to accept yourself and others.
Twenty-odd years later, I worry that maybe that wasn't as purely good as I believed it to be.
I worry about the conflict teaching tolerance creates in kids. I blame the parents.
There is no doubt that Sesame Street is a powerful influence on children. Quick, finish this phrase: "On my way to where the air is sweet..."
The show has been around so long because it flat out works. Children learn. They enter school a step ahead of children for a hundred year before them, knowing the alphabet and the numbers. They're able to distinguish colours, and do some basic math. Many of them already know how to read, thanks to those fuzzy little puppets and the humans, adult and children, that inhabit this mythical little street. 
They've dealt with some pretty heavy topics on the show: death, divorce, change. In each, they've encouraged children to share feelings, to seek comfort and support, and to offer a shoulder or a hand to friends who need them. 
And yes, this has also encapsulated under the banner of "difference," gaiety. The show has taken great pains to keep sexuality out of the equation, to be sure, because that's simply too complicated a topic to cover in a few minutes on TV and really deserves a dialogue. 
But accepting who you are, that's part of being gay in the 21st century. We've seen the crash and burn of many public figures who swear they are not gay as they get dragged away in handcuffs for solicitation in men's rooms. The friendly acceptance of who you are is imperative in a nation that is maturing past adolescence, particularly in a world where privacy is no longer a given, where webcams can secretly broadcast your innermost desires to the world.
If you don't know and accept who you are, you simply won't survive. 
That doesn't make the sentiment universal, however. There are powerful forces at work that want us to deny our differences, to accept a homogenous society where we all agree with each other, and that differences are to be feared and hated. Those influences can come home every night at five with the adults in the household. They can come into the home with each FOX News view, or conversation between parents after the child's bedtime that drifts into the ear of the boy or girl.
Here's the part that troubles me: if you force a child to choose between beloved furry characters and splashy colourful graphics and his or her parents, you create a terrible division in that child's soul. That might be fine if both sides of the issue have equal opportunity to address the problem in a calm and colelcted fashion.
But being a parent, I can tell you, is hard stressful work. You won't always be able to keep your cool, particularly when it comes to emotional issues like sexuality, issues that raise panics in things as simple as accidentally brushing up against another naked man in the locker room at the golf course, or the glimpse of another woman's panties in a shoe store.
If something as neutral as those encounters can embarass and stress an adult out, how does that adult handle a TV show where gay is okay? He or she probably rails long and loud (which explains the backlash to things from the recent "True Blood" parody to Katie Perry's appearance).
The message the child takes is that gay is okay, except that Dad/Mom says its not.
And Dad/Mom hold that child's life in their hands. Their future, the peace of the household, and remember that young children think magically. If Daddy gets angry because Bert and Ernie share an apartment, what's he going to do if I kiss another boy/girl? Or marry one?
Hate becomes easier than love and tolerance. And the same panic that mommy and daddy grew up with infests yet another generation of that family, and possibly worse because the filter of knowing and being friends with gay men and lesbians hasn't been installed yet as they reach the difficult adolescent years, a time when hormones make logical thinking impossible, even if the brain is quite ready to handle it.
One can only hope the backlash to the backlash will dampen this recent spate down, and that tolerance will eventually win out. It would be nice if it happened in this generation, and maybe it will. After all, we elected a black man president, and if you asked me even ten years ago, I would have said it would never happen in my lifetime.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Internet: Destroyer Of Firms

Anyone remember AOL?
It exists as a shell of its former self, a testament to the hubris of a corporation that thought it would own the Internet and its content.
Now, whither MicroSoft? A PeeC based software company is likely doomed in an era where you can (and probably should) do everything on the Internet. In this day and age of mobile computing involving devices that don't carry a lot of programming or the capacity to house them, the idea of a hardware-based computing device seems quaint, limited to people with severe security issues and proprietary data.
Adapt or die.
MicroSoft has shown little ability to do more than two things: imitate and dominate. The company they've most imitated, Apple, has gone in a wholly different direction than MicroSoft's strength, which is in software.
Sure, Apple has iTunes and iLife and the Mac OS, all of which have been adopted by MicroSoft in some form or other, lately with spectacular failures (Zune, anyone?). MicroSoft has made some stabs at hardware, most notably the X-Box gaming system, with mixed results. Where Apple has been the design and innovation leader, MicroSoft can't seem to get more than a foot off the starting line without stumbling.
In consumer electronics, you can lead or lag (meaning you can invent or you can make cheaper versions) but you can't stay in the middle forever. The most successful companies in electronics have either made enormous advances or made a nice comfortable career at the back end of development.
The computer used to be different. MicroSoft used to be able to get away with playing things very cautiously, thanks to the remarkable short-sightedness of two companies: Apple (yes, them again) and IBM, both of whom passed on Bill Gates novel ideas about how computer operate. He saw the world in terms of digits. The rest of the planet looked at the hardware.
MicroSoft now faces a challenge it could not possibly have foreseen thirty years ago. The Internet has allowed anyone with a few clicks of a computer mouse to do online what MicroSoft engineers sweated months to create for the PeeC. Need to remote control a computer? There's an app for that (or you can buy a Windows server program for thousands of dollars). Need to create an invitation to a party? There's a website that will do that for you, or you can go buy an off-the-shelf program that took months to develop.
You use the 'Net, else you wouldn't be reading this. What else are you doing on the Internet that you did at home previously?
And maybe the confusion in the last part of that question highlights MicroSoft's problem: you ARE doing it at home, you're just not doing it IN home.
MicroSoft joins a long line of companies that were big in technology that have or are withering away: IBM, AOL, and Hewlett-Packard are the big names at the top of that list, but the list really does go on and on. Think about even five years ago, what websites were popular? I'd bet you can't find half of them now.
The Internet really does have a voracious appetite for companies.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Myth America

We all know the fable: the rugged individualism of small-town America, where you can make a go of it on your own, where neighbors sit out on the porch and talk away the hours at night over iced tea, a gun is your best friend against the varmints that infest your woods, where the local high school still holds sock hops and the church is the place to go if you need a hot meal or some clothes.
Um. Bullshit.
Our 100 largest metropolitan areas constitute a new economic geography, seamlessly integrating cities and suburbs, exurbs and rural towns. Together, they house almost two-thirds of our population, generate 74% of our gross domestic product (GDP) and disproportionately concentrate the assets that drive economic success: patents, advanced research and venture capital, college graduates and Ph.D.s, and air, rail and sea hubs.
America is not an agglomeration of small towns where girls still wear gingham and boys seek tadpoles in the crick. Sarah Palin's "Real Americans" are the true sheltered disconnected elitists.
Real Americans complain about traffic jams. Real Americans complain about take-off vectors from the local airport. Real Americans get on a commuter train or the highway every morning to their job in a cubicle, where they have to worry about losing that job to outsourcing or the economic crunch. Real Americans worry about their lawns. Real Americans have kids that play soccer, and hang out in malls.
Neither Sarah Palin nor the Teabaggers speak for Real Americans. Real Americans, for the most part, don't really care who is running, so long as they can be secure in their jobs. They don't mind paying taxes so long as they see something back for those taxes: better schools, better roads, more police and fire fighters and trash collectors.
Real Americans don't pay attention to politics, not because they're apathetic, but because Johnny got a "C" in Algebra. Real Americans want to see a clean subway station before a clean Congress. They want to be able to sit around the dining room table and discuss the next vacation they can afford, not the bills and definitely not the Muslim terror scarifying that the right wing specialises in.
And there's the rub: so long as the right wing of this nation is cowardly, the nation itself will be cowardly. The right wing, aided and abetted, with comfort given to the enemy by the right wing mainstream media, like NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX, has so bullied and badgered the nation by being the squeakier wheel.
Progressives have to start getting louder, yes, but more than that, we have to start pointing out the major flaws in the right wing's ideology.
This, that the overwhelming number of Americans, the overwhelming values of Americans, reside within a few miles of our cities, should be number one on that list. "Small town values" have their value, in the dwindling population and economic activity that makes up small towns (only 3 states in this nation can claim that the majority of their economy is derived from rural areas). But those values do not represent 21st century America. Those values are as outdated as buggy whips and oil lamps in this nation.
We have to march forward, not backward, because that is how time marches. We resist time at our own peril.