September 13, 2008
Wisdom of The Father
The piece, roughly summarized, is about how long-time Republican friends of the writer were going to vote for Obama until Palin was announced as McCain's running mate. Her friends—Kim & Scott Speranza—cited many reasons for supporting Palin including such brilliant decision making as that Palin is reminiscent of Kim's farm-raised Grandmother.
What was most thrilling for my father was this quotation:
As for Palin's special-needs infant, pregnant teenage daughter and the sudden emergence of the future son-in-law with an expletive-laced MySpace page that declared his lack of interest in fatherhood, the Speranzas say Palin's willingness to cope with her flaws makes voters like them love her more. "Look, I'd certainly think twice about the family consequences of running for office," said Kim. "She has an entirely different sense of her own boundaries than most people. She's almost like a superhero. Though she does have my hair."
This caused my father to pen the following response:
Pick of the litter on pick of Palin
Re "Greetings from the energized base," Opinion, Sept. 6
I shudder to think what Meghan Daum's Republican "religious conservative" friends, who once admitted respect for Barack Obama but now feel energized after seeing how "real" Sarah Palin's family is, would have felt if Obama's out-of-wedlock, pregnant, 17-year-old daughter and her 18-year-old soon-to-be husband, using expletives on his MySpace page, had been paraded around the Democratic convention.
Would they say, "That's so American"?
Would they have been just as energized?
Game off, folks.
It is hard to disagree with him. Somehow I don't think that many Americans would have been "energized" by the news of the daughter of a black political family to be pregnant out of wedlock. It isn't hard to imagine the scathing speeches that would have been made on the collapse of American "family values" by both sides of the political punditry. But if it's a white girl, then getting pregnant by your foul-mouthed high school sweetie is just as American as apple pie and other stuff that white people like.
October 29, 2006
The Midwestern Backyard Mentality
A coworker of mine shared an interesting observation about the Midwest in the corporate cafeteria last week. He moved to the Midwest from New York and I asked him what it was like adjusting to our lifestyle. He said it wasn't terribly hard but it was moderately difficult adjusting from the "front-porch" neighborhood mentality of the upper-east coast to the "backyard" mentality here in the Midwest
When I asked him what he meant he explained that in the east, in New York, people from the neighborhood always collect out-front on the porches in a common space. As a result, people are always watching the neighborhood--who's coming and going. As a consequence, he told me, people might be more inclined to let their kids run around in the front yard or on the front sidewalk and interact with the other neighbors.
The Midwest on the other hand, he explained, feel more stilted. Suburban streets are clear of foot traffic. Everybody collects privately into their private space in the backyard. The neighbors seldom interact. The neighborhood feels less watched. This, he claimed, made him more reluctant to let his kids run off and explore the neighborhood.
Of course this situation is what programs like National Night Out are trying to remedy but I see his point. There is a cultural difference here. However, I don't think it's always been this way here in the Midwest.
Something happened here. I think it happened sometime in the '90s. I think it was sometime after the abduction and disappearance of Jacob Wetterling but I can't be sure. We just stopped hanging around the front of our houses. I hope this changes.
June 9, 2006
As a Proud Member of the Polygamist Lobby, I am Appauled
In response to this senate speech I wrote the following letter to Senator Inhofe (R-OK) today.
I follow our Senate's activities closely and am APPALLED that instead of working on issues important to our nation you instead choose to waste the time of the people with hateful and poorly crafted rhetoric. Allow me to quote:"The homosexual marriage lobby, as well as the polygamist lobby, shares the goal of essentially breaking down all State-regulated marriage requirements to just one: consent. In doing so, they are paving the way for legal protection of such repugnant practices as: homosexual marriage, unrestricted sexual conduct between adults and children, group marriage, incest, and bestiality."
Can you not see that drawing a link between homosexuality and practices such as pedophilia, incest, and bestiality is not only completely illogical but nothing more than a third-rate, sophomoric rhetorical scare-tactic?
Later you assert, "That is really what this is all about--marriage is between a man and a woman," and share scripture from The Good Book to assert your point. In truth, however, there is plenty of precedent for Biblical support of polygamy which as you say is one of the many "repugnant" practices you choose to waste our country's time with in the Senate chamber.
As a man who on more than one occasion has asserted his sharp tact to the Lord's Path, I urge you to consider II Sam. 5:13, I Kings 11:3, & II Chron 11:21.
However please keep your response out of capital hill, there are more important things to be doing with our time.
Although I'm not one of your constituents, health care and the affordability thereof for small business owners and private citizens would rate at the very top of my list. Polls of the good people of Oklahoma seem to resonate with my opinion.
I wonder how many milliseconds it will take an office intern to throw away? I bet they won't even up to the word, "APPALLED" before they hit delete. I am thinking it will occur someplace around "Senate's activities..."
December 19, 2005
Analog Hole to be Sewn Shut?
We got computers, we're tapping phone lines
I know that ain't allowed
(Life during wartime, Talking Heads)
It's life during wartime alright and it looks as though the erosion of civil liberties continues and we're being told it's fully legal as the president has a "duty to uphold the laws of the United States"  and therefore somehow while holding up the law he must be acting under it as well. The logic confounds.
If that weren't enough, I was made aware of legislation introduced into congress and lobbied for by the RIAA and MPAA which limits the rights of fair use of analog content in an attempt to "close the analog hole"  whereby requiring analog devices to honor the "rights signaling system" imposed within the digital domain, including the ability to flag certain content as Copy Prohibited Content thus denying the viewer the ability to produce even an analog copy of the content for personal use. The notion that this legislation was even introduced further convinces me of how far out of whack the business model of media distribution really is.
Imagine that a disruptive technology comes along that changes the way you must do business. Instead of adapting your business to work with the new technology, you try and get the new technology to be crippled by legislation so your old business model is still profitable. The RIAA and MPAA in concert with the large, slow moving media distribution organizations seem to be doing exactly this.
To my mind, legislating against analog fair use is exactly as ridiculous as if Kodak lobbied for the introduction of legislation that would ban anybody from printing photos taken via a digital process without paying Kodak a small fee for the privilege; or if book publishers required photocopiers to recongnize watermarks in text and thereby not makng a copy. I had better not give anybody any fancy ideas or soon I'll find myself trying to sketch my photos and hand copy my paper citations.
Will the law win and hackers loose? Will all this digital convenience yield to the legal impediments introduced by special intrest? Absolutely not. The old way of content distribution is dying a slow, painful death. But it isn't going to stop them from trying to take a few of them with us by using legal wrangling on their way down into the ground.
-  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/12/20051219-2.html
-  http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20051218-5797.html
May 10, 2005
Finally, Some Civil Disobedience - U of MN General College Closure Protests
As I was leaving the University of Minnesota after a final on Monday night, I was confronted by the site of about 20 or so tents pitched out on the concrete of The Mall between the Physics building and Walter Library. Curious and always ready for a good story I walked right over, perusing signs on the way that read things such as "keep your ego off our education" and "save G.C." I had a decent idea of what was going on there.
The impromptu camping session formed as an extension to May 4th's student sit-in after a camping permit was secured granting 7 days—which is less than the indefinate encampment as claimed by the student action group We Be G.C.—of camping upon the public park space that makes up the U of MN's Mall area.
All the same, I've got to give a hand to these students if for nothing else for bringing back a spirit of constructive civil disobedience to college campuses. My father and I would often discuss the irony of how an entire generation of children raised by what could be argued as the greatest generation of college-aged protesters in the 20th century stood by and did comparatively little during the election controversy in Florida, at any point of the Iraq war, or choose to demonstrate disobedience for any of the other myriad of reasons to be mal-content these days. Heck, one would have thought the double-digit percentage increases in student tuition for the three past consecutive years would have been a good enough reason for a mass student sit in somewhere.
And so, our campers on The Mall make me proud. The group out on the green even told me a couple of protest members took mace to the face and allegedly even a couple of kicks to the groin from police during their arrest at the sit-in as they were being removed via the tunnels beneath the building to avoid media exposure.
The students claim that they did nothing but peaceably resist removal.
Police now guard Morrill Hall and check visitors at all entrances in an effort to prevent further hijinks.
Indeed, the police weren't the only ones angry with the protesters. A few students told me this morning that allegedly two other students showed up last night with sledgehammers in their hands and stood near their campsite ominously, but luckily unsure what to do next. When confronted by the campers, the students dropped their hammers and fled (picture of a camper with a captured hammer at right).
But what initiated these protests in the first place?
The claim by the administration is that General College is not being closed down but its services are being restructured into other colleges within the University. Although the exact details of the plan have not been made clear, the "restructuring" would offer a claimed cost-savings to the University and help position it to achieve the newly stated goal of becoming one of the top three research universities in the country.
One primary concern from the student body has been that the General College is the primary entryway into the University for students of color. At least 40% of the students of color at the University enter through the general college.
The administration has responded that the University will not eliminate students of color from the student body by shutting down the General college but will instead raise-the-bar at the University by offering generous scholarships to exceptionally bright students of color to attend the school.
After talking with the student protesters and researching the matter on-line I have learned that the primary argument against this as of yet uncemented plan is that it would effectively turn the University's back against disadvantaged students of color at the level of the local community, not to forget about immigrants and students who are parents for whom the College is already well equipped to handle. The University they feel should provide a foot in the door for local Twin Cities students that may have not had the same opportunities to succeed as students pulled from other, more polished backgrounds however independant of ethnicity.
Indeed I am inclined to agree with this viewpoint. The University is after all a Minneapolis and St. Paul land-grant University. In exchange for land and tax-money the University should best serve the people of the surrounding land who pay the taxes and not cater only to the educational elite of the world at large. Not to say that the University should not cater to these people, but it should have a fiduciary responsibility for its local citizenry.
So why not just send present General College students instead to community college?
The general college is a highly integrated part of the University. After meeting specific requirements, it is relatively easy to transfer to one of the many other colleges within the U. In addition, general college students mix with the student body at large and add an invaluable yet intangible set of viewpoints from a variety of backgrounds that might be lost if the student body becomes more homogenous.
There is a broader argument here as well. There is somewhat a general consensus amongst the citizenry of Minnesota that the University's Board of Regents as been less than transparent on at least a couple occasions with regards to their decision making. There should be a transparent discussion of plans for making decisions as large as this one so that the people of the State of Minnesota can have adaquate time to react so the will of the people can be taken into consideration making a final judgement.
For now, I happen to come down on the side of the protesting students on this matter. I want to know why we cannot have the best of both worlds. The University is one of the the largest in the country, a Big 10 school, but somehow there isn't enough money or space to attract both the best and brightest and serve the community, regarless that everybody pays their tuition to attend? I don't buy it.
What I would like to see is the actual plan post-closure of the General College and the true justification for closing the school as proposed by the Board of Regents and President Bruininks so I may decide the issue for myself. Unfortunately, right now there just isn't enough actual information and that fact alone is enough for people such as myself to be mad enough to camp out.
Good luck to the protesters on The Mall. I know your permit expires tonight!
- Duluth Superior: U of M proposes closing colleges
- St. Paul Pioneer Press: Rally set for General College
- Dean of General College writes, "In Defense of General College"
- Save G.C. Blog
- We Be G.C.
- General College supporters arrested in protest at U
- Talk Left: U of M Students Arrested in Morrill Hall Sit-In
- Sit-in, part 3-- students arrested
May 5, 2005
The Downing Street Memo
In the UK, this makes waves in the media. Here, hardly a dribble.
John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack...
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy...
To this citizen, "intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," (Bush March 17th Address to the Nation) is a much bigger lie and a much larger crime than, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" (Washington Post).
Thank you Kevin for pointing out the contrast.
But hey—you know—things are going so well...lying is not a crime as long as you are winning, right?