26 December 2007

New Year's Resolutions...

Oh boy.

Here we go.

I am a firm believer in the "do over". Endless hours on the playgrounds of my youth taught me the value of a second chance. Missed the basket? No problem, call a "do over". Didn't get the grade you wanted? Call a "do over". Well, that last action is not as simple as I represent. However, we do live in a time of almost endless do overs. We can bounce back from almost any failure. Sometimes all that is required is a simple act of forgiveness. A mulligan on the golf course is easy enough to obtain, unless money is at stake. In short, almost anything can be subject to a "do over". If you apply yourself, you can recreate your self a thousand times over. Just ask Madonna, or Cynthia McKinney or Al Gore. Even perpetual harpy Pat Buchanan has performed the feat.

New year's is the time for everyone to look for their do over. Sometimes it's about how we look, or act or what we weigh or eat. We face the prospect of the year with the idea that a fresh slate has been created for us to claim our "do over". I have gone so far as to think of every day as a potential "do over". But rather than thinking about what we would do over again, shouldn't we be thinking about what we would do better now? If we recognize the past as complete, subject only to interpretation and immutable, then we can look ahead for opportunities. This seems a healthier option than bemoaning what we do or don't have.

I would like to start 2008 with a thought towards what can I improve. How can I learn? I have two proto-citizens who are really starting to accelerate in their own learning and growth. I find myself starting to jog just to keep up. Soon, I will need a New Years every month to maintain pace with them. I guess I could simply let them leap ahead. I suspect each of us has a comfortable spot where we like to live. It's pleasant, the fridge is always full, the remote close by and the slippers extra cozy.

It's possible to simply stop. The pace of the planet has never seemed faster. The flow of information and options nearly torrential as it cascades over our existence. Standing still or out of the stream is pleasant, for a while. But that spot soon becomes very lonely. It's up to each of us to look at every night as a New Year's eve. Our chance to recreate and renew happens all the time.

There is always room for a "do over".

17 December 2007

Science is losing the media war...

In the conflict over extremist ideology, the United States is still behind the power curve when it comes to matching information and propaganda. This is not a good thing as any struggle is almost always won or lost first in the minds of the contenders. The same battle is being fought in the political arena, with claim and counter-claim being launched in all avenues of the media world. Regrettably, the greatest battle is being fought in the realm of scientific education and information.
A recent survey, for example, conducted by the University of Toronto identified the number of YouTube videos on vaccination and immunization and categorized them as to their perceived slant. Disappointingly, the overwhelming view was negative. This on a topic of science which has proven its efficacy and safety to the human species for nearly a century.

Like the perpetual pleas for money from Nigeria and bogus internet virus alerts, anti-science luddites continue to dominate the media war with half-truths, cherry picked data and emotionally charged claims. Science, a methodical process can not keep up. And so the slight defense of "full disclosure" falls to a handful of dedicated scientists, journalists and skeptics who doggedly point out logical flaws, falsehoods and other inconsistencies in the scaremongers tactics. And for their efforts, they are labeled "obstructionists" and worse.

The problem is compounded by a public mistrust of authority - blossoming in the 1960s. And a desire for solutions to really challenging problems. We are a hopeful animal and will stake our tents in any camp which promises answers to questions which keep us up at night, even if those answers are wrong.

NOTE - The short article is here
UPDATE - Why is this important you ask? In our post-modern anything goes, relatavist world shouldn't alternate (even minority) views be considered? The answer simply is no. It is all well and good to consider and debate fringe ideas, but to act on them is foolhardy in the extreme. Sen. Diane Feinstein, from the uber-nanny state of California, proposes to ban a set of key chemicals essential to the manufacture of plastics. Why, you may ask? Because of a misplaced fear of possible harm which is unsupported by science! This possible national legislation will have far reaching and unintended consequences from toy makers to dialysis patients.
Holy crap - do some research!

14 December 2007


Remember this? Howard Dean riding high and then collapsing in a primal scream of goofiness. I can only hope the same holds true for the weight losing, Mike Huckabee.

The presidential race is certainly heating up. MSNBC, also known as Major Source of News for Backroom Communists, is predicting a wild turnover of events in the primaries. I am not surprised. With the duration of the campaign season, it is inevitable that cracks would appear in the heir apparent's armor. Personally, I am excited. Politics has seemed to come alive again in the American spirit and a more civil discourse of issues appears to be taking place.

Let me offer a few of my own plans for election day in 2008. As the selection of potential candidates is essentially out of my hands, I will present a simple IF-THEN approach to voting.

Fair warning, I am a registered republican. In college I worked on George H. W. Bush's campaign. I was a registered libertarian for a period in the mid to late 1990s, but never voted the party ticket. I abandoned them after better understanding their overly "hands off" approach to too many critical issues.

1) I see no third party candidate of any interest. The fact that multiple parties still offer up candidates. However, the winnowing of candidates into two parties is efficient and effective. I am of the strong opinion that all politics is local.

2) If Mike Huckabee secures the GOP nomination or VP slot – I will vote against him, even for Hillary Clinton or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad .

3) Barack Obama, for all his naïve nature is VERY electable.

In general I am optimistic. Our foreign policy has not converted the world into a firestorm of US hatred – anymore than it was prior to September 11, 2001. The real challenges remain as global security and human freedom, the economy and managing growth (thus its impact on the environment).

Healthcare, in my opinion is a red herring. This goes for immigration as well. Both require detailed solutions to some of the programmatic and fiscal aspects, but from a policy perspective – no major change is truly warranted.

11 December 2007

Holy retrospective...

Well it’s here. The baby boomer generation is indulging in its favorite pastime of navel gazing. The New York Times advertising section reports that advertisers are now increasingly tying their products to some whimsical representation of the 1960s. There is hardly anything wrong with categorizing any period as the good old days. As humans, we have a unique ability to emphasize any aspect of an experience over another.

Let’s just recapture the essence of the sixties. Political assassination was routine, even in the United States was common. Our armed forces were a last vestige of institutionalized slavery due to conscription. Many cities were reeling from racial violence and wide spread abandonment by middle class citizens. The threat of actual, all-out nuclear war was nearly made real with the Cuban missile crisis. The environment was NOT a top consideration of any mainstream party.

Some good aspects. The space race meant something. Civil rights were evolving for the good. Government control over the economy was waning. But the sixties were marked by chaos. The unpredictable result of decades of social unrest and overturning of the old order. There are a thousand different ways this period could have transpired. It could have happened with less violence, less pain and more insight.

But it didn’t. It happened the way it happened due to the actions and reactions of humanity. We will likely look back on this first decade of the 21st century and make similar comparisons. I think I would vote for Obama if only to move the nation away from the false memory of the 1960s.

I was born in the middle of that decade. My memories are locked squarely in the midst of the 1970s. Those days, naturally, seem magical to me. I was growing up and forming my worldview. The Soviets were bad. Hijackings didn’t end with plunges into cities. The economy was in tatters and we were retreating from our initial push into space.

There were no good old days.

The only good old day is now.

Do your part to make it the best one possible.

By the way, I know some folks who are – Capt Jack Harkness and Sonic Frog are boldly entrenched in making sure the youth of the planet have a touchstone of sanity in an otherwise anything goes society.

Rock on.

05 December 2007

A rose by any other name...

Citizen Prime raised an interesting issue about the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. She had read an editorial by Jonathan Tilove about the vitriol being used to attack Senator Clinton. The terms used in the article were related to misogyny, literally the hatred of women. The article goes further to describe the same tactic applied to other female figures.

Hillary garners special attention for several reasons. She is perhaps the most recognizable public figure on the planet. She is running for the most powerful position on the planet. She has a well known husband and a history for controversy. There is no doubt that she is a consummate politician. I have no doubt that she would be a capable president. I am VERY concerned about her approach to social programs, spending and taxation. I think her foreign policy would be practical and unspectacular – but I could be wrong. I would feel better about her if she had been governor of New York rather than senator. At this juncture in our history, there are NO senators who have the qualities required to be President.

So why the hate, players? The verbiage is particularly offensive – but not unusual. Our mixed culture of female empowerment / objectification has created a bizarre world of double, triple and quadruple standards. At present, one can find any number of sites denigrating the current administration (in the most personal fashion). Apparently there are a number of places where similar assaults are heaped upon Senator Clinton (and one would infer other candidates).

The predicament is that Senator Clinton is a woman and also someone’s mother. Does Condoleezza Rice receive similar attacks? A quick google will confirm that indeed she does. In fact, phrases reserved for the most uneducated and ignorant are heaped upon the present Secretary of State. Is there an additional level of horror reserved for the reaction to Hillary’s epithets due to her maternal status? Or is it because she represents the “progressive” side of politics? I have an unpleasant feeling it is the latter.

So let’s be honest. When sites like Democratic Underground, KOS, World Net Daily and other left and progressive site degrade and insult individuals (the ad hominem attack) – let us condemn them as strongly as we should Free Republic or similar sites on the opposite side of the spectrum. I have personally been kicked from off of each of the major left and right boards for "rationality".

No one, it seems, wants to talk about facts. Sad, really.

I deeply abhor the personal aspects of politics. I know that it has been around forever, but this behavior serves only to obscure reasoned discussion of issues and divide our nation further. A civil discourse, at least, allows one to see the humanity inherent in each individual. I would challenge those decrying the assaults on Hillary to equally decry the attacks on the other side of the aisle.

No one deserves to be insulted or degraded.

UPDATE - I just listened to Eric Idle's offering on XM Radio Comedy (entitled F*** the FCC) in which the normally humorous and erudite British citizen, refers to Secretary Rice as an "intellectual tart". This in addition to a series of unprintable (by me) expletives directed at any and all members of the present administration.