Friday, May 25, 2012

Intellectuals, Elitists, and Public Discourse

This is the first of three entries on related concepts.

After a discussion he had with Noam Chomsky, Pete Dominick(on his Sirius/XM program Stand Up!) wondered aloud and discussed with his producer why intellectuals aren't given the platform they once were, and much of the discussion revolved around the anti-intellectualism, cynical political framing of issues, and people being distracted and uncaring toward matters of politics.  I sent a couple tweets on the matter, among them "Chomsky and other intellectuals are not palatable because, in part, that inability to 'talk to the level' of the audience." and "It's not talking down inherently, but can easily come across as exactly that.".

To elaborate, I'm saying that for someone to be considered an intellectual by at-large society, they must not only be considered a luminary of the tighter community of their own background or chosen pursuit, but by the actual at-large community.  For this to occur, the person must be more than intelligent.  Their points and perspective must be coherently perceived by more than those people already in agreement.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a person who I would feel safe saying most people who recognize his name would say he is an intellectual, and if they know his field would also consider him a relatively trustworthy source of information and opinion on matters relating to, at least, his field and in some cases more than that.  To be fair, Tyson's field of expertise is generally one that doesn't lend itself easily to liberal vs conservative stereotypes, but much more important is his ability to communicate and connect with people.  He is enthusiastic and friendly, unoffended but assertive, he motions with his hands and is animated in his body language.  He also tends to not get caught up in necessarily using complicated words.  This is not to say he dumbs things down, or doesn't use large words or get into minutia for a point he is making, but in general I think his language, which is easy to understand and relate to, and his favorable disposition both contribute to people liking him and respecting him.  Is he the most knowledgeable person in his field?  Tyson would probably not say say so, anyway.  But that matters little in the broader perception and public acknowledgment of the points he makes and issues he weighs in on, because he is the person more people identify credibility with.  He might make arguments from more cerebral people and those arguments are bolstered from his style of communication.

Compare this with Chomsky:  Granted, much of what he addresses is political and also his target audience are people who've read his books or are otherwise already familiar with his perspectives.  He is cerebral, perhaps overly thoughtful for his energy, and does tend to also use a wide vocabulary and even jargon which the average listener or viewer or audience member, unless already familiar with the concepts he speaks of, isn't going to easily follow.  This isn't an altogether bad trait, as it can engender a better informed specific community in which he is held in high regard.  However, I don't think Chomsky is as effective as he could be or  held in as high a regard in broader society as he could be, and what has become the popularized way for public policy to be discussed in the media where aggressiveness and argument-oriented wittiness are the prized manner of discourse.

In summary, all of this isn't to say style and medium should overwhelm the content of the idea a person is attempting to convey.  Rather, they must both exist for the other to matter.  Good ideas only rise to the top when people are able to understand and effectively spread it to others. Further, perhaps as much as ever, our attention spans and programming demand an engaging and entertaining experience.  So if the leaders and spokespeople are not the best at not only energizing their own adherents, it only serves the best interest of the organization, the ideology, and ideally the public interest for there to be followers or like-minds to attempt to make an argument for the same thing but in a different way, to avoid misunderstandings and fundamentally just contribute another voice to the public discourse.

*Edited on 8/4/12 for better clarity

Friday, May 18, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

This entry was originally posted as a comment reply in this submission to the technology subreddit.

Most of the entries I make on here will be devoted to politics or some aspect of culture and, perceptions and communication.  To be fair, many things overlap into those categories, though I also have a sweet spot for things which would broadly described as 'techie'.  The submission this comment appears under mostly had to do with Apple changing Siri's action when asked what the best smartphone is, which I'm mostly indifferent to (barring implications for Apple's and government compulsion to display particular results for various queries that would not give an accurate answer so much as what is deemed an 'appropriate' one).  The comment I replied to from gdstudios went as follows:

"Don't you realize that you are looking at a metaphor for how Apple runs its business? Pretty on the outside, strong and durable as hell, as long as you don't modify anything and play exactly according to our rules.

I will still never understand how the university generation is totally complacent with the fact that buying an iPhone forces you to download and purchase all of your apps, movies, and music from Apple through the unusable bloatware iTunes. Not to mention that it's beyond easy to accidentally erase all the mp3's you currently have on your phone when you upload new music."

While it was mostly directed toward amiability to Apple's DRM and walled-garden, I think average consumers don't consider those things when they hear or read about Apple or the products it makes.  They think of all the things Apple represents, and that's informed by what they see and have heard and read about the company and its employees from its past.  This is my attempt to articulate where people may be coming from on that.

"University generation... I've never heard that term before though there's a response down from you that sort of defines it as millenials which I think I'm just before, having been born in '81. I have an iPhone now though it's because my company opted to go with the device for their provided handsets; I was hoping for an Android-based one for what it's worth.

In any event, I remember growing up and the general story-line was that Apple made the computer something that could be used by people outside of programmers and business type(though I didn't start seeing Macs until I was in middle school and I'd been using some Packard Bell and second hand home-built computers for a few years before that rocking out on Dos with Populous and Death Track and Circuit's Edge. Anyway...) Vile and evil Microsoft and Bill Gates ripped off Apple and succeeded based on the stolen ideas and brought all of the other hardware companies along with them. Apple was in all of my schools growing up, and even very early on I remember the 'just works' mantra though I couldn't for the life of me figure out how only having a single mouse button was useful, and I don't remember seeing desktop computers using CD-caddies except for some Macs we used in computer lab in I think it was junior high. Apple was also bandied about as the computer de jour for anything artistic or music oriented(I've later found that despite having options on Windows and Linux machines, Logic Pro actually is I guess pretty dang good for audio manipulation and creation.)

Anyway, throughout the 90's Apple was the little guy fighting the good fight after it was wronged, and especially the colored jolly-rancher looking iMacs really played to the idea Apple was outside the box on design, even if they weren't that appealing(this was back when most computers I'd seen anyway were the matte off-white that yellowed terribly. Credit where credit's due, I remember seeing some Acer computers back then that were all black or black and grey with swooping lines and aesthetics on the sides of the towers and had a swiss-cheese-ish look to their vents on the sides).

So going forward, all of these people from at least my generation if not all over had grown up seeing Apple depicted as the underdog, occasionally seen their stuff and being a little intrigued but confused by the differences it had compared to the 'normal' computers we'd see, we'd hear about them struggling but surviving, see the awkward but innovative designs. That pretty much takes us through the 90's and in the very early 00's Apple's hardware was still....well quirky I guess? awkward? bizarre some might have and continue to say? That wasn't the first thing to change as OS X dropped and even in its first iteration it was much prettier than Windows ME and even in many areas XP(Vista upped the visual ante for the OS but screwed the pooch on its initial usability and by the time Microsoft had missed the window, as it were, to try to save that version's mindshare) and was just so damn fluid. The buttons all lickable and glossy! You see that dock, man?! It's so much prettier than that stupid Start(task) Bar that actually says start on the button, ain't it? You see those icons! They shrink and zoom as you move over them, holy cow!

Okay, so OSX made the using of the computer much nicer. Take a look at how Apple took their designs from being artsy to being sharp. Those Powerbook G3s ? Get ridda that junk, we got smooth looking stuff going on here. I mean, look at what they replaced that thing with . Look at how the G4 Power Mac to the G5 Power Mac changed. Holy crap, right? I'm sure somebody'll find an example to slap me in the face with, but seriously those were not incremental changes for at the very least Apple's own lineup, and the iMacs weren't hard on the eyes either. The logo itself on the Apple hardware never again as far as I know has been the multi-colored one; it's white or silver or black. In short, Apple got their act together in the design realm before the vast majority of other hardware manufacturers and became that hot 20-something who used to be pimpled-up and awkward.

So there's that. Since I've already done all this typing, I may as well keep going for the various justifications and rationale that very well could play into random consumer A's perception of Apple and their products. Steve Jobs gets a huge amount of praise for these design changes and, indeed, he does deserve some of it. However, the industrial design may not have begun with him but Jonathan Ive apparently has had a huge amount of influence over the physical appearance of the devices Apple's put out in the aftermath of these early 2000's changes and this is the period of time to which people in media and unknowingly in common usage refer when they lavish over how amazing Apple's products look. On that note, it's my opinion Ive will be the next CEO and Cook's almost more of a place-holder while Ive's grooming is completed.

Back to Steve Jobs. Up until very recently, he was Apple. Woz, who? Steve wasn't the CEO for a decade? wha? If people knew about this history, and to be fair probably more people from the general consumer perspective knew of Apple's corporate makeup than say HP or Sony, it just intensified the myth and legend. Woz designed and made the original company possible but he was quirky and isn't a salesman, a showman, the guy who shows you something, smirks as he looks at you sidelong and you say damn that is pretty smooth. That was Jobs. Plus, the dude was the prodigal son of the company and he came back right when Apple was at its weakest, having needed to take money from Microsoft of all companies to stay afloat and bang, all of a sudden OSX, their physical designs go from meh to heck yeah.

All of that helped, and really made much of Apple's larger devices appealing for more and more and more people actually in college or university; gotta get that glowing logo on the back. So that brings me to what really in my mind what got Apple into people's heads. The iPod, iTunes and letting go of quite so much proprietariness. There were mp3 players before the iPod, of course, but Apple and Jobs' were able to hype theirs so much better, sell it much better, and more crucially than I think is given credit, after a short spell of exclusivity for Macs and Firewire, made the iPod compatible with Windows machines and gave it a USB plug. Lack of a requirement for songs to have been bought from iTunes helped massively as well, letting people bring in their pirated or ripped libraries with them. As things progressed, iTunes gained momentum and became the de facto method of legally obtained music and movies and television shows on the internet. The iPhone didn't even launch with App Store, but it was sexy looking when smart phones until then were anything but(Prada yes and Equilibrium and 13th Floor were great movies but who remembers that in place of The Matrix?). This was also on the tail end of rumor after rumor for how long hyping Apple's foray into the market? Where'd those rumors come from and who consumed them? Favorable and fawning people in media, the younger and 'tech-ier' of which grew up seeing Apple go from weird also-ran to trendsetter. Who(Apple), by the way, turned their handicap of tiny marketshare into a badge of exclusivity and along with changing from IBM to Intel cooled and cheapened their units for their manufacturing so they could begin to make incredible profit margins on devices most others can only dream of or attempt to make up for through marketshare.

The iPhone and iPad and all of the closed garden tight controls and cut-throat tactics be danged. This is crescendo times and even with their idol gone, Apple's got the mindshare in so many ways, in so many areas it could release incremental updates even as others do amazing things and they're still good for years to come.

Thanks for reading that massive block of tripe if you did and for what it's worth, Google's exactly the sort of foil to exist to give Apple something to continue to rage against in the mobile sphere as a relatively humbled Microsoft claws to get something, anything from that market since Windows machine makers are still trying to get their sexy back with the consumer base.

Apple's not bad and the magnetism they has roots that go deeper than just iPhone/Pad sales and App Store metrics."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

An Exchange on Civility

This post is found, in part, on this Republican subreddit entry.

The submission linked to an image which attempts to convey the indignation felt by the Republicans in this forum about arguing or disagreeing with liberals.

Since I'm not one to generally let stuff go without tossing out my thoughts on it, I posted a response which, unfortunately, didn't garner a response from the original poster of the picture.  It did, however, get me a little bit of anger from someone who read previous posts of mine and thought I was being hypocritical.  I'll attempt to do an effective job pasting in the exchange below.

My response to the post:
"For what it's worth, I've been told I'm a liberal though I'm enough of a hipster to dislike being put into any particular ideological brand and prefer to try to think pragmatically.

On that note, I do not hate all Republicans. I do not hate all conservatives, (L)libertarians, minarchists, Democrats, Greens, Constitutionalists or progressives or any other ideological or political affiliation. I would venture to say that I don't hate any of them, nor any individual person.

I hate discord. I hate apathy, antipathy, presumptions of malevolence and distinctions so bold and bifurcated that there is only right and wrong. Our method of government is one of those which puts on high the idea that we can discuss and, via rhetoric and not might, come to solutions for the real world problems we must face. Because there are supporters and people who believe in a particular policy, that therefore makes it a viable policy prescription, whether it be a federation of near-independent states or a massive federal arm with satellite states holding little power. Our government is what we make of it and the brass tacks is how we discuss the matters with one another and how we motivate the supporters for various positions to demonstrate their will in the political system.

I suppose that makes me, in some ways, a filthy free love hippie because I think civil discourse is preferable over polemic, and that no problem is one that we shouldn't approach in this way. I don't think it's a utopia for that to be the standard, as it's demonstrably obvious that it can be frustrating, grating and painful to have to endure the slowness and unpredictability that having free and open discussions in our society necessitates. Moreover, those who disagree with me are still my brothers and sisters in this nation, and that at most means we are adversaries. At worst we are opponents on a field that we both not only must, but should because we all were and are created as equals. You and I both have a vested interest in seeing our neighborhoods, cities, counties, states, regions and country do well.

For that I thank you and I will always make the best attempts to assume good intentions on the part of those who disagree with me, though I am significantly less than perfect in that regard."

User GeneralPudding responded with the following:

" I suppose that makes me, in some ways, a filthy free love hippie because I think civil discourse is preferable over polemic, and that no problem is one that we shouldn't approach in this way.

That's funny coming from a guy who, not just 5 days ago, wrote this:

We don't need to play their market games with boycotts to defeat the opinion and outlook of a person like Limbaugh. We don't need to actively splinter and divide his audience and constituency the way he does ours with fear, uncertainty and doubt. We don't need to compete. That's their values and tactics and methods. We can go on his turf, play by his rules, with half our brain tied behind our back and still win in rhetorical sport. Because we really are the ones that are right, and it's a matter of putting it in words and values and principles more people can understand and relate to.

so yeah, you like "civil discourse" and "free and open discussions", except when it's from talk radio conservatives like Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity...."

The linked comment Pudding is quoting is from one I made regarding my opinion that while boycotts can be effective in some instances for affecting change, the outcry and subsequent advertiser pullouts from Rush Limbaugh's show in the aftermath of his fiendish remarks on Sandra Fluke would not ultimately be positive because they would only last as long as public attention was on the matter(which time seems to have borne out as true since advertisers have begun returning to his program) and more importantly, Limbaugh's listeners would perceive the boycott as an attack on conservatism, his rights and an insult to all of their opinions on women, regardless of whether these things are true or intended.  That comment is quoted entirely in the Boycotting Ideological Leaders post just put up a few moments ago.

In any event, I responded as follows:

"Ya know you're absolutely correct, I probably do engage in hyperbolic language and it's something I must try to keep in check. I try to account for my tendency to be 'overly passionate' or my screeds with such portions of my post as this, which you neglected to quote.

For that I thank you and I will always make the best attempts to assume good intentions on the part of those who disagree with me, though I am significantly less than perfect in that regard.(emphasis mine)

If it pleases you, GeneralPudding, I will explain my verbiage and I honestly don't think there's anything wrong or even offensive with what I said. However, if I was unfair or stereotyping with what I said, do point out my hypocrisies or contradictions so that I may learn from my generalizations.

First, for those who didn't click the link for whatever reason(or read my rather lengthy rambling, since I do tend to do that), the quoted portion of my post comes from a dissenting post in /r/politics regarding the boycott of Rush Limbaugh's advertisers. To summarize, I don't think a boycott of Proflowers/Carbonite/Legalzoom/Any-other-advertiser is the appropriate way to address Limbaugh's influence on the conservative dialogue, or via that, the Republican party and its priorities in our country.

From my perspective, it is admitting defeat in the rhetorical play-field which is our ongoing and perpetual national political discussion to resort to a boycott. I've met many a liberal/progressive who feel it's not even worth it to call into Limbaugh(/Hannity/Levin/Beck/Ingraham/Miller/I'm sure in this sub many of you have favorites and less-favored political commentators which you like or dislike for your own individual reasons) because 'the game is rigged' due to it being a conservative-run program which often does advertise for organizations such as Hillsdale College or the Heritage Foundation or other similarly minded outfits.

I say bullshit, and if 'we' are right, and by we I mean liberals/progressives/environmentalists/feminists/Democrats (again, I realize some of these broad groups do overlap with libertarians/conservationalists/conseratives/Republicans depending on a particular issue, but I am grossly generalizing for the sake of my ongoing rantble), then 'we' ought be able to find someone amongst our ilk which can operate on a level to 'hang with' those talented and high-paid personalities on the radio.

Sure, we've our own programs such as The Daily Show or Colbert Report, but those programs aren't watched by conservatives or Republicans the way they are liberals or Democrats(just like most libs or Dems don't actually listen to Limbaugh/Hannity/O'Reilly but will observe the soundbites of the programs and will be utterly, totally, shocked by what they hear) and therefore the only way our ideological leaders(which aren't even our political leaders on either side, mind-blowingly) don't have much to do with one another aside from their respective listeners arguing around the water cooler, dinner table or construction site.

Instead(and here's where I finally start breaking down my comment quoted by GeneralPudding), we ought to demonstrate those values we are sometimes lampooned for in our approach to 'playing the very serious game and sport' of politics:

We don't need to play their market games with boycotts to defeat the opinion and outlook of a person like Limbaugh

Liberals don't need to, and really shouldn't, utilize the free market to express their contempt for the opinion and outlook of Rush Limbaugh. I realize I sort of addressed this point in an earlier paragraph. No, I'm not going to go back and edit my post because....just because I'm on a riff here, dammit.

We don't need to actively splinter and divide his audience and constituency the way he does ours with fear, uncertainty and doubt.

My personal opinion is that Limbaugh and other public figures of conservative media apply an all-too-combative tone to their rhetoric which is perfectly fine when it comes to discussing matters relating to people or organizations which are outside our own political environment. But when talking about things with our fellow citizenry? I think it's at the least poor form to practice such caricatures of liberals as malevolent forces seeking to do harm to others. But it's profitable via drawing many listeners, and more importantly, he and others on the air do absolutely make very strong arguments which listeners can then use in their daily discussions with liberal friends/coworkers/etc. *See the linked post for more on that point.

That's their values and tactics and methods. We can go on his turf, play by his rules, with half our brain tied behind our back and still win in rhetorical sport. Because we really are the ones that are right, and it's a matter of putting it in words and values and principles more people can understand and relate to.

This refers to, again, the polemic and pretty obvious(in my view) demonization of liberals on these programs which serves little for constructive public discourse of very important issues. I think it's just as unproductive as it is for Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann to smirk and say conservatives are stupid or heartless or malevolent for holding the views or positions on policy that they do.

Now to be sure, I'm sure there can be other quotes by me which can be found which belie my intent and positions. Read my various comments and I'm confident that you'll come away with an impression which is not that which is given by a selective quote, as many people like to say, 'taken out of context'.

Thanks for reading all of this if you did!"

Doubly so for anyone getting through all of that, and while I have yet to post the reason I feel the need to have a blog specifically for my own views on matters and views on the ways others in public express their views about not just issue but one another, it's probably becoming apparent that when it comes to having an opinion, I'm rather open to differing perspectives so long as a tenant of that perspective isn't to assume all those disagreeing are stupid or evil and must be conquered and scattered.

Boycotts of Ideological Leaders

Originally posted to this entry in the politics subreddit.

On the subject of boycotting Rush Limbaugh for his comments about Sandra Fluke.

As righteous a cause as this might be, I don't think this will achieve as much of an impact as it could if there was another approach taken. There are those who can keep their cool and draw commonality with these hosts' audiences. Why does that matter? Oh they're just stupid southern racist elderly white rich men? Maybe some are, but there's millions of people who listen to Limbaugh's program and the countless other talking heads. They are, in my view, no more robots and parrots than we are, but what they get from these programs are effective means to frustrate or shut up liberals and progressives in their own lives. Push the 'libs' into making a statement that questions how compassionate they are, how intelligent they are. Then it is an issue of assuming bad faith and self-righteous shouting wins the day.

This boycott will be seen as a symbolic victory, but not just for people 'on the left' or for 'people in the middle'. It will be seen as a symbolic silencing of one of the conservative vanguard, and it will be trumpeted as proof that conservatives are the victims of an oppressive liberal fascist communist statist plot to crush dissent. No, it doesn't matter that this isn't a freedom of speech issue.  Remember this? Responded to like that? And that?(Read the comments to see it's not just 'leaders') No, it doesn't matter that consumer boycotts are utilized by people like Limbaugh and Beck and Hannity and O'Reilly to attempt to impress their views via their audiences on other organizations and businesses.

The point is that while there will be a smaller and smaller minority of people who will stick by the Limbaughs and and Schlessingers and Becks as these statements go forward, those who do stick with them will become a more and more inflamed and potentially radicalized element in our own society, lurching away from the civilized discourse, reviling what is considered the 'other' even more, and despising those they see as traitors. It'll be more appealing to people who are in a precarious place in their life or perhaps less able to comprehend what is going on politically and are more prone to take action, even violent means to do what they feel is 'necessary'. Or maybe they won't and it'll be yet another festering wound in our country like the unfortunate way that the Civil Rights Movement is seen by some. Like the way revisionists cast 'The War Between the States' and glorify antebellum life.

We don't need to play their market games with boycotts to defeat the opinion and outlook of a person like Limbaugh. We don't need to actively splinter and divide his audience and constituency the way he does ours with fear, uncertainty and doubt. We don't need to compete. That's their values and tactics and methods. We can go on his turf, play by his rules, with half our brain tied behind our back and still win in rhetorical sport. Because we really are the ones that are right, and it's a matter of putting it in words and values and principles more people can understand and relate to. When there's someone who says "Well if not loving our socialist president makes me a racist, then I'm a proud racist" be the one to say "If being willing to talk with you about your actual views deeper than what you don't like(the president) makes me a hippie, then I'm a proud hippie". Instead of boycotting these shows we can find the best representatives, the most flexible and witty and relatable people that can not just stand their own with communicating a liberal point of view, but do it in a way that doesn't stoop to shouting matches. Exercise disciplined decorum that is so sorely lacking in our public square these days because the talk radio, the Fox, the ideologues on our own side as well lower our aptitude for greatness. Instead of competing with them, offer cooperation(though always keep our own ideals and principles at the heart of such cooperation. Instead of offering the FUD of 'the other', demonstrate that everyone is an other, even those we mostly agree with, but we can do better only together.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Calling In

A few years back I resolved to begin attempting to make my views and perspectives more visible beyond the friends and family I speak with on a semi-regular basis.  This (we)blog is a part of that, actually, but calling into programs with big personalities talking about current events with strong opinions was and remains my prime interest.   My 30th birthday soon became the dash in the sand which would be when I did it.  I decided to call into my local talk radio station last year(2011), specifically to the Mark Davis Show.  He has occasionally stood in for Rush Limbaugh, and I personally find his style to be much better than Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or just about any other of the big names in conservative talk radio.  I've intended on calling into his or other programs since then, as I prefer the style most talk radio shows have for debating even if I consider the way in which the hosts and callers put on the air use this style for mostly inflammatory and unproductive ends as far as public discourse on current events goes.  Unfortunately, I've been consumed with work as of late and it's made even listening to the programs very difficult, much less being able to call in and give the proper amount of attention and care to the endeavor.  I don't think it serves the host, their audience, or myself well if I were to call in and be fumbling for words, distracted or frustrated because of some unrelated thing going on.

Anyway, as you'll hear I called in without much direction on what I wanted to speak about, though I recall there was much going on with Herman Cain at this point during the Republican primaries.  I honestly would have enjoyed talking about just about anything and am just eager to have an exchange of ideas with others and better understand their perspectives on it.  I'm not big on attempting to judge others for their opinions but I do think it's important to understand how a person arrived at their opinion and also to do whatever is possible to take the position and ponder its implications, both intended and unintended.  In a near-future post I intend on going into more detail about this and how things could be improved, arrogant as it is to presume I could improve upon models which move millions of dollars a year.

Getting back to the conversation I had with Mark, I really enjoyed my interaction with him and I admit I was pleasantly surprised I didn't get too wound up nor did I offend or upset the host.  I'll let the audio of the call in this embedded video speak for itself, though.  I apologize for Mark's portion of the conversation being muted in comparison to my own as I did the recording with my computer;  I wasn't sure if I would be able to find my call in his podcast and then crop it out.  In the future any call-ins I'll be doing I'll do a better job balancing volumes.

Let me know what you think of the conversation we had and what points you think we missed or glazed over.  Thanks very much for reading and listening and using your time here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cutting Our Hair, Flip Flopping and Evolving

Portions of this entry appear on this submission to the Republican subreddit.

Much has been made this past week over a couple things.  One is the current president's change to publicly supporting/endorsing what supporters call marriage equality and critics call gay marriage.  Another is an alleged incident in which former governor Romney, either assisted or encouraged by a group of fellow classmates, held down a long-haired man and forcibly cut off some portion of his hair.

Firstly, almost all of the outrage directed toward Romney for this incident has been focused through the lens of this man, John Lauber, being potentially gay and that was the motivating factor in this action.  For his part, the presumptive Republican nominee states that while he doesn't remember this particular he did do many things which were stupid when younger.  He also says that the sexual orientation of Lauber was not a motivating factor and in fact was not something even that was considered at that point in time. To play devil's advocate even if such language was used in reference to Lauber it doesn't mean those calling him that were anti-homosexual. At least in my own personal experience epithets such as 'fag' or even the use of the word gay has taken on a derisive, negative connotation in common parlance. Uses of the word, if they were in this case, may have been simply to harass Lauber simply because he was outside their comfort zone, outside their mainstream. Why it doesn't matter to me personally whether the supposed attack was motivated by Lauber's assumed or actual sexual orientation is because bullying is wrong and should be pointed out and stopped no matter what the rationalization is, and I hope if any message may be taken from this entry it be that. As far as the political side goes, if this story is true I think it extremely important for Romney to articulate how he has grown from that point in time and how he has come to be a more mature and accepting man either as a result of it, of his faith, or whatever catalyst in his own personal life which made that happen. To change one's opinion on this matter is an excellent example of a change in heart or opinion on a matter which is due to a maturation of an individual, and not one born or craven or cynical political posturing.

This leads me to the next point, which is President Obama's recent change in support for marriage equality, and some who characterize it alternatively as flip flopping akin to a position on regulations or an evolution or change in honest opinion by him.

To some, and unfortunately it pretty much goes 'both' ways on the ideological spectrum, any change in positions or opinions is deserved of the term. Conservatives and/or Republicans will say Obama's flip-flopping on things such as marriage equality or on matters of national security(and there are those especially among the OWS group that will actually say the same thing), and liberals and/or Democrats will say Romney's flip-flopped on things(and many of the more values-based and libertarian portions of his own constituency will say the same thing).

I don't think either of them are necessarily flip flopping. They may be changing their opinions cravenly for political expediency, or perhaps they had the newer position all along and the previous one was the cop out. Maybe he did it only because Biden and other administration officials had already let the horse out of the barn and it's a political face-saving gesture. Because it's so damn difficult to know what is actually in the mind and soul of someone, though, unless there's some sort of evidence which cements that a change was other than what is publicly stated to be the case, it's unproductive to muse about the 'true' motivations behind that change.

Evolving is sort of a sterile term for what many, if not all of us, do throughout our lives as we are raised, come into our own, and mature(at least in our own minds) in our perspective on issues that confront our heads and hearts. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a change of heart on a subject; even people sharing identical values and principles can have different interpretations on what those things mean in their application to the real world. What I'm disappointed with is that because there's the hostility to this and therefore our elected officials are very averse to changing their minds when confronted with different facts or something which challenges their position, or when they do they don't like to elaborate on the whys or hows or considerations they went through. This includes the recent change in publicly stated position by the current president on gay marriage/marriage equality. He went into it a little bit, but for as long as it's been discussed on the radio television and print, in campaign ads, and gatherings of friends family and coworkers, having too much put out there by a man who identifies as someone who has changed their mind on the issue is simply not possible.

As always, thank you for your time and your consideration of my thoughts and if you think we may benefit from a discourse, please leave a comment and we can engage to better understand the situation together.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Perspective On An Occupier Arguing With Sean Hannity

Posted originally to this Republican subreddit submission.

     I'm certainly not an organizer or even involved in OWS beyond occasionally posting in their subreddit, but Schultz seems to do a rather poor job being a spokesperson for the movement at least in this debate/argument. I could certainly try to say he was sought out specifically for this interview with Hannity because of his combative and condescending tendencies, but those're big positives for visible people in movements; get the most assertive and aggressive person who talks the most crap about those on the 'other' side because they'll energize like minded individuals. Unfortunately, that drives away people who are less inclined to agree and may very well come off as pedantic to those who disagree. Nobody likes being smirked at and talked down to.

     In any event, I'll do what I can to address some of the things brought up by these two men at least from my own perspective.

     With regard to the reliability of the NYT and FoxNews, I personally would put the former over the latter but only slightly. They're both top-down organizations disseminating ideas in a mostly one-way medium. Both have examples which can be pointed to as selective coverage, both have staffs which could be derided as biased. Ironically, while I think I might agree with some ideas of Schultz(that's a bit of an assumption on my part), his point of not needing someone such as Hannity I think is misplaced. While he might not fit this stereotype, I would wager he doesn't have a problem with Rachel Maddow or Bill Maher and, fundamentally, I don't see them as all that different from the man he's arguing with here. Talk Radio, Hannity's own background, I think actually holds potential for a lot more of what I consider a modern media interface, in that there is an ongoing dialogue between the audience and outlet. A good idea or point doesn't simply propagate on its own, and a good 'salesman' is needed to convey an idea in a way that is relate-able to others. That's the place these talking heads currently enjoy for very good reasons.

     On a similar note, ratings and circulation do not equate credibility or public need as each of these men seem to imply. It's just a rough estimation of how well these outlets draw, sustain, and engage their audiences. Our popular media demonstrates, for me at least, this does not always mean quality content but rather titillation and outrage.

     Capitalism isn't 'broken' nor is it not working 'anymore'. It was never perfect to begin with just as with any human institution. As such, we as the people living within this system must be willing to soberly look at the way it operates. Appreciate and protect the positives associated with it while recognizing and acting to mitigate the negatives because ultimately those will be the real threats to the long term sustainability of the quo, not the existence of alternatives. The point I would make to Hannity or Levin or Wilkow or any of the other conservative opinion-makers would be that it is not perfect, and that setting a society free in an economic sense does not necessarily mean it will result in a just and fair society. I listen somewhat frequently to the aforementioned programs and a very regular sentiment I hear is that free markets are a near panacea for problems, only generating problems, itself, when there's a government which favors particular companies or industries. I don't dispute government can and does screw that up, but it is not the root of all problems.

     Accusing the NYPD of being the reason there were assaults or rapes at their camp in Zuccotti or any other location is distraction just as much as attempting to point out the existence of such things demonstrates the more depravity of those who agree with some things OWS purports to stand for. Take the criticism that it exists, the tents were set up as corrective action for a relatively small number of people taking advantage of an environment not conducive to good keeping of the peace. I would argue that OWS as a whole does not want an all-you-can-rape lawless society and the existence of such problems is a terrible example of how a loosely organized(both ideologically and physically) group encamped for long periods of time whose prime interaction with law enforcement is one of aggression will involve more illegal behavior than one more tightly controlled and with a friendly interaction with legal authorities. Oh, and screaming 'shame! shame!' could certainly use a reworking 'cause that's not gonna engender any goodwill from police-men and women who really do share roots and and ideals with many of us all, regardless our affiliation or ideology.

     On that note, the last thing I'll say is something which many in this subreddit can probably identify with if you've attempted to posit your ideas or positions on /r/politics, and that is demonizing and sneering at those we disagree with is not the path to informed discourse, coherent policy, or good government. Thanks for reading all of that for those who did and if I said anything jacked up or ill-informed, please let me know and be specific so I can learn. The last thing I want to do is be spouting off inaccuracies.

Online Anonymity

Posted originally to Lord Blizzard's Google+ post.

     As near as I can tell there are at least two major perspectives of anonymity on the internet. Neither, as far as I know, really predate the other but at different times they've served a productive purpose. I'm not going to attempt to create a timeline, but clearly at the nascence of ARPANET the idea of anonymity for such a purpose was not practicable, if discussed much at all.

     Anyway, on one side there are the proponents of a anonymized internet. They'll point to the freedom this engenders, the openness of sharing information and ideas in a way that might not otherwise be possible in the physical world due to fear of repercussions or cultural stigma. Consider, as an example, posts on a site such as reddit with the leading phrase 'Get your throwaways ready..'. If a networking site allows for accounts which are not linked to a specific, real-world identity, it can encourage a greater participation in discourse because people have little to worry about in regard to consequences for the things they may say.

     On the other(another?) side, there is the idea that total anonymity on the internet is both a pipe dream as well as immature or poor implementation of a system because total anonymity can encourage irresponsible behavior on the internet and it is much less reliable for data mining for advertising purposes, something which the modern internet is highly dependent upon.
It's a pipe dream because there are any number of ways, even without a Google+ profile requirement, that an individual can be tracked down on the internet based on their activity.

     It can encourage irresponsible behavior such as malicious bullying and trolling when a person feels impunity to act however they like, regardless the harmful consequences(what's called in pop media cyber bullying).
It's much less reliable for data mining for advertising purposes because comparably speaking Lord Blizzard living on Naboo who has two kids, a wife and an apprentice is much more of a concrete item to utilize in good targeted advertising than +Lord Blizzard of who knows where doing who knows what about who knows where and who and whatever(I realize from looking at your about: page you do give information about your real-world location so you don't fall into these cookie-cut extremes).

     As much as we might like for the internet to remain free as in speech and open and free as in beer all while maintaining total anonymity, massive server farms cannot at this time pay for themselves and the paradigm the internet is in right now is that of advertising, and the better the goes-ins for generating targeting ads the better the goes-outs. Google is, if not a hub for this kind of activity and commerce, the epicenter for it. In that vein, we'd do well to remember the 800 pound gorilla that Google is competing with in the social networking realm, Facebook. Their current value(when they go public) is based entirely around this premise that they have much more intimate information for their users than, say, Google does. It's entirely understandable, if not condonable, that Google would be seeking to correlate the massive data they already have with much more specific, real-world identities. I can sympathize that Google could and perhaps should seek the 'higher' ground with being more permissive about pseudonyms so we as a global society can have as much of an open discussion of all items as possible, but I do not begrudge them one bit for the path they have chosen for their social networking platform because of the many pragmatic considerations incumbent upon them. As much as it may come off as a mean thing to say, at least at this time there are many other outlets and venues for you to retain your anonymity when consuming or creating on the internet.