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Tag Archives: politics

For Posterity (In Case We Survive)

Access Hollywood Bus

“I moved on her like a bitch.”

We’re in an interesting period of time for the United States, perhaps for the world, right now. We seem to have reached an inflection point, a tipping point if you will, in terms of women’s rights and how we respond to calls for equality, justice, and fair treatment. This does seem to be happening in many different areas where discrimination has been the order of the day, though not symmetrically at all.

However, the point I wish to address is only related to women and, especially, sexual harassment and sexism in general. As of today, at least two more men have been forced to resign or have been fired (according to the news I’ve been seeing). They are Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor.

While I’m happy men are being called out for inappropriate and, at many times, truly disgusting behavior, I’m a little worried we’re using far too broad a brush when condemning and calling out abusers. There also seems to be a strong partisan disparity in who we’re “getting rid of”.

As far as I’m concerned, the most egregious of these men is currently residing in the White House. For some reason I do understand, but will never fully accept, he’s been given a free pass. People who swore they could never vote for a man who was an admitted serial sexual abuser, did so anyway and . . . here we are. So, in the spirit of seeking justice and equal treatment for all, I wish to memorialize — as many have been doing on both Facebook and Twitter — the words of our “Dear Leader”, made public over a year ago on what’s generally referred to as the “Access Hollywood Tape.”

I did try and fuck her. She was married. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed look. I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything . . . Grab the by the pussy. You can do anything.”

— The President of the United States of America

Let me reiterate. I’m glad we’re finally (at least that’s how it looks right now) addressing the imbalance of power between men and women in all aspects of our government, economy, and society in general. However, it appears some men are getting a pass and don’t deserve it, while others are being removed from their positions for acts that are far less inappropriate than those of other men . . . especially men like Roy Moore and Donald Trump.

It’s important to bring context into our understanding. Leering is creepy, but groping is far worse. Most healthy men have fantasies they wouldn’t dream of sharing with anyone and, as long as they remain fantasies, I believe they’re relatively harmless. However, some men (lots of ’em, apparently) just don’t know how to control themselves and go beyond merely fantasizing. That’s at least one place a line needs to be drawn. Surely, there are many others, but I’m not here to analyze them all.

My intent here isn’t to solve anything; that’s really not my place and I’m woefully unequipped to do so. However, I do have this blog and I want to ensure I do my part to point out what I see as a blatant example of hypocrisy, especially coming from the Republican Party, Evangelical Christians, and far too many so-called “conservatives”. If anyone deserves to be removed from their job, it’s Donald John Trump. He’s condemned himself with his own words, hosted himself by his own petard. Until the right starts clamoring for his removal, their protestations don’t impress me.

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Dealing With Narcissistic Personality Disorder

I came across a post on Facebook last night which I thought very clearly laid out the personality traits of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, specifically one Donald J. Trump. It had been copied from elsewhere, and the friend who posted it passed on the suggestion that the text be copied and pasted, rather than “shared.” I’m not entirely certain why, though I suspect it is shared a little more pervasively with one’s friends if it’s seen as an original post. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong. Several of my friends commented on how useful it was and suggested publishing it, which I think is a good idea.

Trump admires himself

“Who Loves Me, Baby?”

At any rate, there are some very astute observations and insights in the text and we would do well to understand how things are likely going to work. Here’s the money quote for me:

“Focus on what you can change and how you can resist, where you are. We are all called to be leaders now, in the absence of leadership.”

Here’s the post in its entirety:

I want to talk a little about narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve unfortunately had a great deal of experience with it, and I’m feeling badly for those of you who are trying to grapple with it for the first time because of our president-elect, who almost certainly suffers from it or a similar disorder. If I am correct, it has some very particular implications for the office. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. It’s not curable and it’s barely treatable. He is who he is. There is no getting better, or learning, or adapting. He’s not going to “rise to the occasion” for more than maybe a couple hours. So just put that out of your mind.
  2. He will say whatever feels most comfortable or good to him at any given time. He will lie a lot, and say totally different things to different people. Stop being surprised by this. While it’s important to pretend “good faith” and remind him of promises, as Bernie Sanders and others are doing, that’s for his supporters, so *they* can see the inconsistency as it comes. He won’t care. So if you’re trying to reconcile or analyze his words, don’t. It’s 100% not worth your time. Only pay attention to and address his actions.
  3. You can influence him by making him feel good. There are already people like Bannon who appear ready to use him for their own ends. The GOP is excited to try. Watch them, not him. President Obama, in his wisdom, may be treating him well in hopes of influencing him and averting the worst. If he gets enough accolades for better behavior, he might continue to try it. But don’t count on it.
  4. Entitlement is a key aspect of the disorder. As we are already seeing, he will likely not observe traditional boundaries of the office. He has already stated that rules don’t apply to him. This particular attribute has huge implications for the presidency and it will be important for everyone who can to hold him to the same standards as previous presidents.
  5. We should expect that he only cares about himself and those he views as extensions of himself, like his children. (People with NPD often can’t understand others as fully human or distinct.) He desires accumulation of wealth and power because it fills a hole. (Melania is probably an acquired item, not an extension.) He will have no qualms *at all* about stealing everything he can from the country, and he’ll be happy to help others do so, if they make him feel good. He won’t view it as stealing but rather as something he’s entitled to do. This is likely the only thing he will intentionally accomplish.
  6. It’s very, very confusing for non-disordered people to experience a disordered person with NPD. While often intelligent, charismatic and charming, they do not reliably observe social conventions or demonstrate basic human empathy. It’s very common for non-disordered people to lower their own expectations and try to normalize the behavior. DO NOT DO THIS AND DO NOT ALLOW OTHERS, ESPECIALLY THE MEDIA, TO DO THIS. If you start to feel foggy or unclear about this, step away until you recalibrate.
  7. People with NPD often recruit helpers, referred to in the literature as “enablers” when they allow or cover for bad behavior and “flying monkeys” when they perpetrate bad behavior on behalf of the narcissist. Although it’s easiest to prey on malicious people, good and vulnerable people can be unwittingly recruited. It will be important to support good people around him if and when they attempt to stay clear or break away.
  8. People with NPD often foster competition for sport in people they control. Expect lots of chaos, firings and recriminations. He will probably behave worst toward those closest to him, but that doesn’t mean (obviously) that his actions won’t have consequences for the rest of us. He will punish enemies. He may start out, as he has with the NYT, with a confusing combination of punishing/rewarding, which is a classic abuse tactic for control. If you see your media cooperating or facilitating this behavior for rewards, call them on it.
  9. Gaslighting — where someone tries to convince you that the reality you’ve experienced isn’t true — is real and tortuous. He will gaslight, his followers will gaslight. Many of our politicians and media figures already gaslight, so it will be hard to distinguish his amplified version from what has already been normalized. Learn the signs and find ways to stay focused on what you know to be true. Note: it is typically not helpful to argue with people who are attempting to gaslight. You will only confuse yourself. Just walk away.
  10. Whenever possible, do not focus on the narcissist or give him attention. Unfortunately we can’t and shouldn’t ignore the president, but don’t circulate his tweets or laugh at him — you are enabling him and getting his word out. (I’ve done this, of course, we all have… just try to be aware.) Pay attention to your own emotions: do you sort of enjoy his clowning? do you enjoy the outrage? is this kind of fun and dramatic, in a sick way? You are adding to his energy.

Focus on what you can change and how you can resist, where you are. We are all called to be leaders now, in the absence of leadership.


Donald J. Drumpf – Your Drunk Neighbor

Based on recordings of things Teh Donald™ has actually allowed to plummet out of his fabulously wealthy piehole, this video pretty much sums up many (not all, but many) of my feelings about the man and his followers. I understand the fear some white people feel, though I think it’s ridiculous of them to do so. I’m pretty sure what really scares them is the realization of how terrible people of color have been treated and, since they’re so good at projection, they’re assuming white people are now going to get as good as they gave.

As a straight, white male I really do understand what many of them feel. However, as one who works hard to understand others, and who believes empathy is an important tool for anyone who wishes to live in a reasonably civilized, respectful, and well-adjusted society, I am of the opinion they’re making things worse for everyone, including themselves.

So . . . here it is folks. I can hardly think of a better way to characterize the blatherings of our first reality show presidential candidate. This is YUGE!!


Dear everyone who keeps haranguing me to donate, donate, donate!!!

Political Donations

Give! Give! Give! There’s No End to it.

I am well aware the Republicans are threatening to take over the Senate and retain control of the House. I am also well aware that democracy as we think we know it is in danger of going the way of the Dodo bird and the very structure of the universe is threatened.

Unfortunately, I’m kind of stretched real thin and I’ve given about as much as I can for now. Do you want me to take out a second on my home? I receive about a dozen pleas each day, some of them worded so direly as to make me want to vomit.

I can only do so much, even if each one of my $3.00 donations will be tripled. I’d still end up donating a couple hundred dollars each and every week. You know that old saying, “You can’t squeeze dollars out of someone who’s living on a fixed income”, don’t you?

I’ve tried unsubscribing, but each time I sign an online petition about something I really do care about (even if I can’t afford to donate to it) I’m subscribed again because many of them don’t give me the opportunity to opt out. Really. I’m not even a Democrat; you’re too conservative for my tastes, but I am a pragmatist and I will generally vote Democratic. You’re beginning to make me wonder why.

PS – I would definitely vote for Bernie Sanders.

Update!

We have AT&T’s U-verse in our home and The Daily Show doesn’t air until 11:00 pm Mon – Thu, so I record it (along with The Colbert Report) and generally watch the next day. Shortly after I posted this, I went to watch last night’s show and, lo and behold, Jon Stewart addressed this very issue in his opening segment. It’s a great piece, so I’m adding it below in case you haven’t had the opportunity to see it. Unfortunately, I can only find it in two parts. Once again, he nails it and this time he’s skewering the Democrats, who richly deserve every word.

Here’s Part 1

Here’s Part 2


Breaking Away from HuffPo

Recently, I wrote about my frustration with the Huffington Post’s online presence, due mostly to the length of time it takes for the page to load and the number of refreshes one experiences while numerous pieces are fit onto the page. What I find most frustrating is the constant resizing and repositioning of what I’m trying to read as it’s loading. I’m not one to click on a link, then walk away for a minute or two waiting for the page I’m being served to settle down comfortably in my browser. I start reading the moment there’s a word in front of my face. BTW – I currently use Google Chrome and I am not going to spend time testing Safari, Firefox, or Opera to see if there’s a difference, though if someone tells me there is a substantial difference I might check it out.

Apolo Ohno

Yep! Just Like my Politics.

HuffPo is no longer the force it was when I first joined it over eight and a half years ago. At least it isn’t for me. There are plenty of alternatives, many of which are simpler and also a bit closer to my politics. Meaning, they lean to the left like Apolo Ohno entering a turn.

Yesterday I received a comment from a reader (also a friend) who said he experienced the same thing and was wondering if I could point him to some possible replacement sites for learning from a similar outlook. I should mention I know this person does not share my politics, but I’m glad to hear he’s interested in seeing things from more than one angle. The hallmark of an open mind is the willingness to see things from perspectives different than one’s own. I respect that a great deal.

Now, I go to quite a few different sites, each of which would be considered Leftist, but which are also somewhat different in how they approach the news and their reporting and analysis of it. For instance, there is a distinct difference between a site that is run by liberal Christians and one run by secular leftists. They report the same stories, frequently in similar fashion, yet they each have a particular slant on how important they consider these stories and what they think is behind them and how they ought to be resolved. These show up in how their posts are written, where they’re placed, or when they are attended to. There are numerous other nuances that I think differentiate many of the sites I get my news from, but the bottom line is I still have to sift through what they’re telling me, as well as what others are saying. Then I have to hold it all up to the lens of my knowledge and experience over the years. Did someone say critical thinking?

So . . . here’s a list of some of the sites I would recommend, along with a little bit of my thinking as to why they matter:

  • Daily Kos – What I like about Daily Kos is that many, if not most, of the stories (which they call “Diaries”) are written by individuals who have an interest in the subject they’re writing about. Some of them are excellent journalists and some are merely passionate individuals who have something to say. Diaries run the gamut from well-researched investigative pieces to highly opinionated diatribes. The page loads quickly and is customizable to your tastes, including subjects and authors. You can also create a fairly detailed profile. It’s very participatory. I post there once in a while; usually by copying over one of my blog posts from Systems Savvy.
  • Mother Jones – In addition to politics, MJ covers environmental and cultural news, much like HuffPo. They also have lots of photo essays and blogs. Pages load up quickly, yet there’s lots of info to choose from, all of which is presented pretty clearly. I’m not a web designer, so I don’t know what the ultimate is when it comes to ease of access, etc., but MJ looks pretty good to my eyes.
  • The Raw Story – I’m not that familiar with this one, but I do read some of their stories when I’m pointed to them via a friend on Facebook. The site loads up quickly and offers snippets to lots of different stories. In addition to the front page, their menu (easily accessible at the top of the page) offers U.S. and World News, Science, Tech, and a few other special areas of interest.
  • Slate Magazine – Visually, Slate is considerably different than the three above, though I think they just changed and it looks like they’re trying to create a paid subscription issue with some special content. The home page is somewhat visually appealing, but looks a little confusing if you’re just wanting to find specific types of information. There is a menu, but it wasn’t apparent to me (it’s at the top right and the icon for it is three horizontal lines. What I like about Slate is many of its articles are in-depth. They take a bit of commitment to read through, but they’re generally quite well-written and literate.
  • Truthout – Interestingly, I’m not all that familiar with this one, yet their Senior Editor and Lead Columnist is a Facebook friend of mine. I read a lot of his stuff directly on Facebook, where it is easy to engage. Doing so on any of these sites isn’t anywhere as easy or as immediate, let alone satisfying. Truthout is a non-profit and you will see far fewer ads than on some of the other sites. They also have a section called “Progressive Picks” where they offer books for sale, a portion of the proceeds (tax-deductible) going to their organization. They also provide articles, excerpts, and interviews related to their weekly pick. Everything loads quickly and there’s little superfluous junk on the pages. Truthout also has a sort of auxiliary site called “Buzzflash”, which has loads of headlines (sortable by freshness) as well as commentary.
  • Liberal America – This WordPress-driven site is one I am somewhat familiar with, as I was accepted as an author for them. I ended up not writing anything because I was admonished that it wasn’t an opinion site, yet it was clear to me there’s a very opinionated slant to all their articles. I’m fine with that, but I found the position confusing and, since the pay was very minimal, I decided to concentrate my efforts elsewhere. Nevertheless, the site is reasonably clean, loads quickly (without all the garbage that makes HuffPo so damned infuriating nowadays) and, with the exception of a tendency to republish older material (at least on their Facebook page), is timely and pertinent. The publisher and at least several of the writers are left-wing Christians.

Now for a little confession. When I read the comment asking my opinion of sites similar to The Huffington Post, which was last night, I did a Google search on the term “news sites similar to huffington post”. It was a bit disconcerting to find most of the hits returned were about HuffPo itself. I probably could have changed my query to get a more targeted set of responses, but I was able to find one site on the second page of hits that was what I was looking for. It’s entitled “Huffingtonpost.com – 50 Similar Sites and Alternatives” and I used it to navigate to most of the sites I mention above. I could have gone to most of them independently, but I wanted to check out some of the others.

In the list of 50 similar sites, there were a few that are not similar; at least not for the purpose I was asked to consider, which was sites with a definitely liberal, progressive, left-wing slant. Obviously, there are quite a few sites to check out and I suggest anyone who is interested (including my friend who requested my opinion) use this site to check them out. You can even vote on whether or not you agree with their picks.

My analysis is not terribly extensive, but I hope it’s helpful. I would like to reiterate what I mentioned in most of what I wrote about these sites. None of them take longer than a few seconds to load and, therefore, in addition to being left-leaning in content and position, they are also superior for ease-of-use and lack of irritating, multiple refresh instances. As always, I welcome any feedback others may wish to provide.


No Pun Intended? Yeah. Right.

WARNING!

What follows is in no way meant to be a treatise on the subject. I really just wanted to share one instance I found entertaining and clever and perhaps say a word or two about the genre. I was, however, reminded just how pervasive this form of humor/wit is and a bit overwhelmed by the quantity (if not the quality) of examples available. Please forgive me.


Food Pun

From the ever-so-delightful world of food puns

I came across this graphic and shared it with my friends on Facebook. It has proven to be quite popular, which makes me wonder about the reasons we call puns (or plays on words) the lowest form of humor, yet they seem to be universally enjoyed . . . even when they’re real groaners. I think this one is quite clever, though.

Oscar Levant once suggested “A pun is the lowest form of humor—when you don’t think of it first.” I find great wisdom in that observation. Nothing evokes groans so much as a pun. Sometimes it seems the most clever ones are rewarded with the loudest groans; perhaps from jealousy. Who knows?

Wikipedia tells us the pun, “also called paronomasia, is a form of word play that suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect.” In its own, inimitable fashion, the entry goes on, and on, and on, describing everything from humorous puns, to rhetorical puns, to scientific and computing puns. Click on the link, above, and you’ll see what I mean.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I had friend who said he wanted to be the Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee to Purge Punsters – after the revolution, of course. He suggested his first trial would be against himself. People who really like punning are strange birds indeed.

I find it quite fascinating there is so much time and energy given to knocking puns, yet we seem to spend an equal amount of time making and enjoying them – and there’s no end to the availability of high (low?) quality puns out there. More food puns? Here are a few:

  • The history of cheese is full of holes, but it’s interesting in its own whey
  • At breakfast, the hacker downloaded cornflakes via his cereal port
  • Those who eat candy with both hands are ambi-dextrose
  • When the cannibal showed up late to the luncheon, they gave him the cold shoulder
  • Old colanders never die, they just can’t take the strain anymore
  • Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it

I found hundreds of these, as well as quite a few visual puns. Actually, most of the visual ones rely on words to help them out, as the following (it truly is bad; I know) attests:

Chicken Cord on Blue

Here’s a bit of a crossover pun I encountered. I found it searching specifically for food puns and I guess it is one. However, it also brings a bit of politics and current affairs into the mix.

Warm up the Chinese

Finally, here’s one I rather like despite it having absolutely nothing to do with food:

Big Fan

For good or bad, I’m quite certain I could go on for a very long time and not exhaust the material that’s out there, but I want to circle back to the item that precipitated this post in the first place, and leave you with the song that inspired it. So, here’s Annie Lennox singing Sweet Dreams. Enjoy!


Can I Get an Amen?

Amen Corner at Augusta National Golf Course

The word “Amen” isn’t confined to prayer, though it’s generally closely related.

Yesterday I was inducted into one of several local Rotary clubs here in Simi Valley, CA. The name of this club is Simi Sunrise and, not coincidentally, it meets at 7:00 am every Thursday at the Grand Vista Hotel. I had some trepidations about joining an organization such as Rotary International, best explained by the question a friend asked me when informed of my desire to join; “Aren’t they a really conservative organization?”

Truth to tell, I wasn’t entirely sure they would accept me, especially since this is a fairly conservative city I live in and I’ve made it abundantly clear I am not a conservative – at least not politically. I didn’t really know a lot about Rotary and I knew an awful lot of the people who were in this club. Most of them were quite conservative – politically. At the same time, I live and work with them and know them to be good, decent people. Especially the ones in Rotary 1 and other service organizations.

Fortunately, I got to know a person who ended up convincing – and sponsoring – me to join. Due to an unlikely confluence of events I ended up being the guest who wouldn’t go away, and a process which normally takes a couple of weeks ended up taking a couple of months. Nevertheless, she insisted I continue showing up and, because she had to pay for my breakfast each week, I have offered to do some data input for her at her discretion. It’s the least I can do.

Yesterday was the culmination of two months of meetings and thinking about what I was getting myself into. Now that I’m officially a member I will not only have an ongoing financial obligation and an expectation of service in the form of volunteerism, I will also be expected to perform various duties at the meetings, e.g. greeting members as they arrive, checking attendance, etc. There is one duty I’m somewhat concerned about. Leading the invocation.

I have now heard approximately eight different invocations. I don’t recall any of them being identifiably denominational, though some referenced “our heavenly father”. I believe at least one ended a bit irreverently . . . and comically. They all end with “amen”, a word of Hebrew origin defined by Merriam-Webster online as: “used to express solemn ratification (as of an expression of faith) or hearty approval (as of an assertion).” Although used primarily at the end of a prayer or hymn, it is clearly not limited to religious expression. So it looks like an invocation avoiding the mention of God would most likely be acceptable, even if hard to author.

However, as an atheist I have a lot of experience with people who misunderstand my kind of “faith” and are likely to exhibit one or more of the following traits or attitudes in response to an expression they perceive to be anti-religion: Anger; disgust; defensiveness; dismissiveness; revulsion; incredulity; hatred; need I go on? When you think of invocation, you just don’t think of atheism now, do you?

So . . . my dilemma. I’m going to assume I will, at some point in time, be asked to give the invocation. I suppose I could respectfully decline, but I kind of want to do it. The issue for me is how to do so without offending anyone. Part of me believes that’s a tall order, precisely because of the responses I’ve experienced or observed for so many years, while another part of me believes it isn’t as big an issue as it at first appears. I’ll post the text . . . when I write it!


1 Rotary is very attractive to me as it espouses values I believe are important and progressive. I find it a little ironic so many of the members are staunch conservatives, yet the values they ascribe to can just as easily fit the most progressive agenda. If words are important, and I believe they are, then their foundational writings should matter a lot when determining what kind of an organization they (at the very least) aspire to be. For instance, there’s The Four-Way Test:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Coupled with numerous other writings, which I will not get into now but will surely bring up as I gain more experiences with this new facet of my life, I think Rotary paints itself as an organization dedicated to the same things I am – Peace, Justice, Goodwill, Internationalism, Fairness, etc.

There’s likely an argument lying beneath the surface here as to the role volunteerism plays in an inherently unfair economic system, but – in my opinion – it is more a philosophical one and should in no way minimize the pain alleviated through the actions of Rotary and other organizations like it. More on this some other time.


That’s Just Stupid, You Moronic Idiot!

Mediation Blues

Getting Along

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I have often said I spent over two decades – the entire length of my career at Rocketdyne – trying to get Engineering to talk to Information Technology; two different groups of geeks, each of which thought they were superior to the other.

I didn’t work on it full time, and it wasn’t my job to get them talking, but had I been successful it would have made my job a lot easier. I worked at being a voice of reconciliation between them. It’s in my nature. I was not successful; at least not overall.

Now, the difficulty in getting these two organizations (we called them  “Processes”, as opposed to “Functions” or “Departments”) to talk to each other, was deeply ingrained in the culture of that enterprise. Part of the problem stemmed from the way we, as an enterprise, were organized. When I first arrived there in 1987, we were heavily command-and-control and pathologically hierarchical. There were kingdoms; fiefdoms, if you will and very few people thought further ahead than their own careers and organizations.

I’m happy to say things improved pretty dramatically over the years. One reason was the tireless efforts of a group of people, led by Dr. Bill Bellows, to apply the concepts and tools of thought leaders like W. Edwards Deming, Russell Ackoff, Edward de Bono, and many others to the way we did business. The term Dr. Bellows used for many years was Enterprise Thinking.

What made this way of thinking stand out, in my opinion, was its recognition of the systemic nature of an organization, an enterprise. It was clearly understood that all things – all processes or departments – were interconnected. Nothing in an enterprise exists by itself, outside the system(s) with which it interacts.

When you can clearly see this, suddenly you recognize how counter-productive it can be to blame people for things that go wrong, as well as expect individuals to make things work properly, which brings me back to the Engineering and IT departments I so futilely attempted to arbitrate for, as well as the title of this post.

Civility in Argument

Although I am guilty of it myself at times . . . I’m working on it . . . I don’t believe it is productive to blame others and, especially, to completely alienate them by using labels like “Idiot” or “Moron”. This is true whether you’re working together at an enterprise and – ostensibly – you share the same basic vision and goals, or you are on completely opposite sides of the political spectrum when it comes to how you think the country and the economy should be run.

I started writing this to make a point about the level of incivility I find at times on the Internet, especially in the comments of non-moderated news sites. Even the moderated ones contain some really argumentative and, at times, nasty comments. As I worked on what I was trying to say, the tragedy in Aurora played out and, true to form, the arguments between those who believe the second amendment is sacrosanct and those who wish to see access to guns more regulated are heating up.

My original intention was to point out how I have been able to get along with many very conservative people in my life, especially when we live and work together and see each other face-to-face on a fairly regular basis. I have long said that locally, in terms of how our cities and neighborhoods are run, we all want essentially the same things, e.g. safe neighborhoods, good schools, jobs, access to health care, etc.

I seldom have anyone disagree with this and it doesn’t surprise me. The problems seem to arise when we start talking about more abstract affairs; the economy, foreign relations, use of the military. Yet, I find with the people I know best we’re able to disagree without labeling each other as morons or idiots. We disagree but, somehow, we manage to continue getting things done together and not getting into actual fights over who’s right or how best to accomplish something.

I suppose this is one of our biggest problems in this country. Many of us have the tendency to ascribe the worst of motives to those they disagree with. I’m inclined to think that’s not a very good way to work together and achieve anything other than a continuous standoff. It seems that’s precisely how our government is now being run and it does not portend well for us as a nation. I’d like to see it stop.

A Taste of the Future

I have seldom written about politics or civic affairs here, but they weigh heavily on me. I have two young girls my wife and I adopted from China. I worry about the future they face here, where everything seems to be falling apart. I want to leave them a better world than I found as I was growing up and it sure as hell looks like that’s going to be a tall order.

I’ll leave this particular post with one thought and I will no doubt have more to say in the future . . . especially now that I’ve sort of broken the ice (not very well). Ironically, given I live in Simi Valley – still notorious for its role in the acquittal of the Los Angeles Police Officers who beat Rodney King, the thought that comes most readily to mind is, “Can’t we all just get along?” I know it’s a bit more complicated than that, but it is something to wonder about. It happens quite frequently in real-life, on the ground . . . as they say.


To The Moon, Alice!

Moon Colony

Some Day This Should be all Ours

The other day a friend of mine posted an interesting item on his blog, Global Neighbourhoods (love that other side of the pond spelling) and asked on Twitter if anyone had read it. I saw the tweet because it was ported over to my Facebook news feed. I answered I hadn’t, but would shortly . . . which I did. Shel makes an interesting point that, regardless of how one may feel about Newt Gingrich – and we both agree we wouldn’t vote for him even if Hell froze over – his idea about establishing a colony on the Moon isn’t such a bad one. Consider that President Kennedy’s call to put a man on the Moon preceded an unprecedented growth in innovation through the technologies that needed to be developed in order to accomplish the feat required by the Apollo program.

Shel goes on to ask that we think about what such an endeavor might mean for us, regardless of the situation we are in right now. As he says:

“It seems to me, that what makes us unique from other animals is that our entire history is based on going beyond what we have done. Before we consider the benefits or catastrophes, we simply have to see if we can do it.

“Why should man walk on the moon? Because some day, we can build a colony on it? What will we do then? Look around and see what else we can do, where else we can go, we can learn more about the moon, and thus about the earth and our universe and how life got to here and anywhere else that it might exist.

“And yes the cost is huge at a time when people are losing their homes. But to me, the cost is an investment, one that will create a great many new jobs that may be more appealing than the manufacturing our current president seems to be focused upon.

“What we learn along the way will give the world new technology that is likely to pervade into computing, science, medicine, earth sciences, the classroom and places that we cannot yet imagine.”

I responded the next day in a comment. As of the date of this posting, it still says it’s waiting moderation but, hopefully, by the time most read this it will have been posted. Suffice it to say I agree with Shel’s assessment of the technologies it will create and that it is an investment. I also have another, long-standing reason I believe we should go back to the Moon and establish a permanent presence there, which I have set forth in my comment. I have also written about it several times in various posts on this blog. I encourage you to read Shel’s post. Tell him I sent you.

Photo Courtesy of Dallas1200am


The Many Uses of Facebook

Speak Up?

Thinking Back

A while back I wrote about the dilemma I faced when I first realized my Facebook “friends” consisted of numerous constituencies, and my concern that speaking frankly to one may unwittingly offend or alienate some from another. I also mentioned that, despite this initial fear, I quickly resolved it in favor of just being myself and not worrying too much about it.

Lately I’ve noticed another phenomena that’s been slowly creeping into my activity on Facebook. While it’s related to my interest in economics and politics, it does seem to be driven considerably by the Occupy movement (I use only Occupy advisedly, as there exist not merely an Occupy Wall Street group – which started this whole thing – but also other groups, most evident on Facebook as Occupy Together, Occupy Marines, etc.)

As part of my decision to just “let it all hang loose” and be myself, I have increasingly shared articles, pictures, etc. from some of the political sites I either frequent or that like-minded friends have shared with me. As it happens, I generally characterize my political leaning as so far to the left I’m almost a Libertarian (mind you, emphatically not one). I have also responded to some posts from people with whom I don’t exactly agree, telling them politely of my problems with their positions. Most of these conversations have been quite pleasant; spirited debates over policy and principle. Several times someone has actually commented on how they were pleased with the civility of the thread and its participants.

Is Useful Political Discourse Possible?

So, what I’m beginning to wonder is if this is, indeed, a new phenomena that may turn out to be useful and healthy for political discourse. If you have a fair amount of friends there’s a substantial chance they will represent numerous viewpoints and positions on the important issues facing us. Might not we be able to understand each other better and, consequently, move away from the precipice of irreconcilable differences we seem to be teetering on lately?

I have to admit there is a bit of a dark side to this as well. Two things have happened to me that I find a bit chilling. The first was a friendly “suggestion” I received that I might want to tone it down a bit when discussing the Occupy movement and the politics and economics behind it. The impact this might have on my standing in the business community was the implication, and its seriousness did not go unnoticed by me. The second is related, but needs a bit of background.

UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident

Not Exactly a Meeting of Minds

Maybe We Can’t All “Just Get Along”

I live in a relatively insular city – Simi Valley, CA – home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. The City leaders are, for the most part, far more conservative than I am (who isn’t?) and I have become Facebook friends with a lot of them, including the Mayor, members of the local Chamber of Commerce, and at least one City Council member. Being a strong proponent of the right of free speech, I have spoken my mind rather openly; at least on Facebook. I don’t get into too many political discussions when doing business and I am a big supporter of local small business and wish to actively contribute to making our local economy strong and vibrant.

Last night I realized the City Council member had “unfriended” me, presumably due to a conversation I had with a couple of his friends. As I recall, it was one that received a post of praise for its tenor and the level of intellect involved. I do recall, though, I was very adamant in pointing out what I saw as fallacious arguments based on incomplete or incorrect knowledge. Frankly, I’d like to hear of anyone having a really fruitful discussion about the merits of Dialectical Materialism with a rabid anti-Communist. In my experience, the philosophy behind Marxism is little known here in these enlightened United States, and it’s very hard to receive any respect from someone who is certain of the correctness of their knowledge and the evilness of yours.

A Profound Dilemma

So I’m also wondering . . . despite my essentially being out of the job market and, therefore, not having to worry about alienating a potential employer, do I now have to censor myself politically lest I “upset” a city leader and risk throwing a roadblock in my meager, but important, efforts at making Simi Valley a better place to live? I don’t ask that people agree with me; merely that they respect my position and – especially – my desire to do what’s right for the community as I see it . . . just as I respect their beliefs and integrity. I really don’t care for revisiting this whole dilemma around what’s appropriate when it involves the core issues of our lives and livelihoods.

As well, I’m very disappointed this person decided to unfriend me. I believe we have more in common than we differ on. I also wanted to keep up with what he was doing as a Councilperson, as he uses Facebook to post from various events he is involved with. It seems I’ve been cut off from a useful, viable channel to the goings on of one of my city’s leaders and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. How do you feel about this?

Mouth/Flag Image from reading. writing. revolution


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