Living Homeless in 2015

Reposted from January, 2014.  Much to my great disappointment, it’s only gotten worse.  These days, you’re either all in or you’re a total asshole with no redeeming social value and ought to be banished from existence.  

I lived in Los Angeles from 1990 until 2004 when the Army permanently relocated me here to Virginia. During that period, I was trying to make a career in the entertainment industry as an actor. For a period of about 3-4 weeks smack in the middle of badly mismanaging my early life in LA, I was literally homeless, sleeping on the couches of fellow friends and other starving actors. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t romantic. It was frightening, demeaning and humbling. But I got through it and while I never did establish myself as a working actor as I had wanted, I did build a career as a technician in the entertainment industry for much of my time in LA and loved every minute of it.

This time, my homelessness is not as a result of my own gross mismanagement. In fact, this time, my homelessness is not a physical one but an ideological one. There’s no place at all for me to hang my hat when it comes to politics.

I am politically homeless.

The Republican Party as a group doesn’t seem to want to include anyone that doesn’t adhere to its strict conservative set of ideals. Sure, there are things about which I agree with the Republicans among them defense, fiscal responsibility (though no one in politics seems to be practicing this anymore) and personal responsibility above government responsibility.

The Democrats, on the other hand, deride anyone whose ideals conflict with a generally liberal perspective. I observe the Democrats pulling out the race card for things that generally aren’t racist, but that’s their opinion, I suppose, and they have a right to it. And there are things about which I agree completely with the Democrats including broadening the definition of marriage, legalization of marijuana and the easier provision of health care, though I disagree with the approach which is the Affordable Care Act.

So you see neither party will have me. And frankly, I don’t want either of them.

Since I disagree with the ACA, there are many in the Democratic Party who will state unequivocally that I hate poor people and actively want them to be sick. I don’t, and such charges are ridiculous. No one wants people to be sick if we can make them well. I’ve seen the ups and downs of the American health care system during my former spouse’s dealings with multiple cancers and other serious maladies and I welcome health care reform. I just disagree with this particular approach.

I hear a lot of Democrats say that the Republicans want dirty water and filthy air since they don’t support the same environmental concerns they do. That’s crazy talk, too. No one WANTS dirty air and water. No one. Not even the vast majority of corporate entities who are often falsely accused of relegating environmental concerns to the basement of the priority stack. They want to be good corporate citizens because it’s good policy and it’s better for their bottom line.

Republicans often say that if you support abortion under any circumstances that you want unborn babies to die. That’s ridiculous. Do you know one person who actually WANTS unborn babies to die? Do you know anyone who thinks that’s a great idea in every case? Again, no one wants that, but to hear it told by some staunch conservatives, if you have a (D) after your name, that is precisely the belief you hold along with ALL of those with (D)’s behind their names. That’s just nuts.

You get the idea.

Life is not now nor has it ever been an “either/or” proposition. Why has politics become this way?

And it’s not like a relationship with either party can be like one of those Venn Diagrams that you did in school:

Venn

Lately, it seems to me that neither party ideologically allows you to overlap even a little bit. (Not publicly anyway.) You’re either all in or your all out. You either agree with them 100% on everything or you’re a horrible person who wishes bad things to happen to everyone else.

Yes, I am aware of the Libertarian Party.  In fact, ideologically speaking, I probably overlap with libertarians the most.  But right now, the (L)’s are not influencing the national dialogue to any significant degree and therefore, not a practical entity in my opinion.

Ok, I admit it. There are a few people – very few — on whom I’d wish bad things. And no, none of them are ex-significant others or spouses or anything petty like that. So no, I don’t wish for bad things to happen to the sick, the well, the poor, the rich, the homeless, the unemployed, the heterosexual, the homosexual, the bisexual, the trisexual (or any sexual I can imagine — and I have a vivid imagination) or the purple people eaters of the world.

I’m just me and I have my own ideas and thoughts about things. And I’m smart enough to draw conclusions from the available data for myself. I have an equally smart, terrific circle of friends and acquaintances most of whom don’t share my every perspective and I don’t hate them and they don’t hate me. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t. Yes, we have been known to have heated discussions, but we have far more in common just as people then we do politically.

And herein is the lead for this essay: We ALL have far more in common as people than we do politically. The two well-established political parties have lost sight of the American populace as people FIRST. People have nuance, color and diversity of thought. Voters don’t. And that’s how the two well-established political parties now view all of us – as voters not as people. You’re either all in or you’re all out.

In today’s political climate, this leaves the thinking person with no place to go. This leaves me homeless.

On the Fourteenth Anniversary of 9/11

PentagonI wrote this back in 2009 in response to all the “Where were you when 9/11 happened?” questions and recollections that were being circulated around the Internet.  I’ve reposted it many times in the hope that I’ll continue to recall not just the horrific facts of that day’s events, but the feelings with which I associate it.  To this day whenever I hear replays of the news broadcasts of that day, the feelings, anguish and anger can be nearly overwhelming.

Even though I wasn’t near any of the three places that were scarred forever by the acts of a few, 9/11/2001 changed my life in ways that I could not have imagined then and which I sometimes don’t believe even now.  Regardless, I will never shake the feelings that 9/11 evokes in me nor do I ever want to.  More importantly, I wish that all of us could share the unity, resolve and dedication to our nation and our common defense that we all felt in the days and weeks following that awful day in 2001.

Thanks for reading.

“So, do you think the Army’s going to call you up because of this?”

“I sure as hell hope so.”

That was the big question my supervisor at the E! Channel asked me on 9/11. While I did eventually get called up, I’d gladly give up all the financial and professional gains which resulted if it had never happened. But that’s not what these words are going to be about.

I was awakened that morning by a phone call from my mother-in-law who told us in frantic, disjointed words that something bad was happening. As a native New Yorker, she was understandably shaken at learning that Manhattan was under attack. The message was related to me by my spouse at the time who slammed into the bedroom and shook me awake and said “Wake up! The Pentagon’s under attack!”

I got up, rushed to the TV in a groggy stupor and saw the story as it was unfolding, still in chaos. Information was rolling into news agencies willy-nilly and much of what was heard and reported was unconfirmed. I dressed and hurried to work in the Wilshire District in LA, near the La Brea Tar Pits. The streets of Los Angeles were relatively deserted – not empty as they were during the LA riots in 1992. But it was clear that people were staying home. Businesses closed for the day and many more operated on essential staff only. Which is why I was going to work.

When I arrived at E!, I could see that many of the national cable networks which shared our satellite space had either gone dark or were carrying coverage from one of the big three networks. It was at that moment that the enormity and the immediate practical impact of this event on this Nation became apparent. Even broadcast commerce stopped for a time – shopping networks were carrying round the clock news coverage. Sports channels and others had full-screen graphics up telling people to tune to a network broadcast and follow the news.

One of the positive things about working at a TV network with all measure of high-tech TV equipment is that we could monitor as many TV stations as we had monitors. And we had plenty. CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC all raced to get pictures and firsthand accounts of the unfolding tragedy on the air. I flipped back and forth from moment to moment and channel to channel trying to find the best pictures. No one had a lock on the best, so it was back and forth from channel to channel.

As for what I was doing in between times, E! was trying to decide whether to take coverage from a major news network or stay with the on-air schedule without regard to the situation. My job was to design on-screen graphics in support of either option. Ultimately, E! chose to stay with their own programming rather than switch to one of the majors. I will not debate that decision, but I will observe on my own behalf that I had no interest in entertainment fluff at that point, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else feeling differently.

From the moment it sank in just what was going on, my heart was heavy, but my fists clenched in preparation. When my terrific boss, Ken Mason, asked me if I was going to get called up, not only did I hope so, but I was hoping it would be within the hour. For the rest of the day, most of us sat in network control going about our business with about as much feeling as the machines supporting us. It was quiet and the sounds of our air signal were mixed with the sounds of the coverage coming from ancillary equipment racks where the carnage of the day was being replayed over and over.

I would be many months before I actually got called up and reported here to Washington, D.C. in January, 2002. I spent the next 71 months assigned to the Pentagon in various assignments, some 9/11 related and others not.

A year after the attacks, our office moved into the rebuilt section of the Pentagon and shortly thereafter, the small indoor memorial and chapel was opened. Whenever I thought I was being unfairly put upon, I’d stroll the 30 seconds down the E-ring to the 9/11 memorial and stand for a minute or two.

It gave me perspective in two profound ways. It made me recognize that getting picked on that day wasn’t really so bad, and that any one of these people whose biography and photo were in one of two books would give anything to be in my predicament. Alive. Within reach of those about whom they cared. And it humbled me. Standing there for only a moment made me remember why I was there and that I had better do the best job I could.

Eight years have passed since the attack on our Nation. Today, while driving into my civilian job, I listened to replays of the coverage from that day and remember what it felt like that day. How shocked and horrified. How angry. How resolute. I suspect that will never change. I suspect that I’ll always feel the intense mix of emotions on this day. And I’ll fight back the tears on this day just as I did on this day eight years ago.

For many, the feelings we experienced that day have already escaped us, relegating the horror of the day to a collection of historical facts, figures and stately memorials to those who perished. It is right that we recall the facts and honor those who were murdered that day. However, it is my wish that somehow the shock, horror, anger and resolution I felt – that most everyone felt that morning – stay with us and unite us as it did on 9/11 and in the shadows of that day.

Eight years hence, we find ourselves a divided Nation when in truth, there’s so very much more about us that is alike than those things which divide us.

I wish we weren’t so divided and I have no solution as to how to unite us. I just know that we have it in us. The days following September 11, 2001 were some of America’s finest.

Remember what that was like. Not just today on this horrific anniversary. But every day.

It would serve us all well.

This Is Not About the DT’s!

081025_gop_logoThis is not about the DT’s, or delirium tremens, a psychotic condition typical of withdrawal in chronic alcoholics, involving tremors, hallucinations, anxiety, and disorientation.

This is also not about the DT&I, or The Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad operated between its namesake cities of Detroit, Michigan and Ironton, Ohio via Toledo between 1905 and 1983. (My grandfather, a maintainer on the competing C&O Railroad, referred to the DT&I as “Damn Tramps and Idiots.”)

This is especially not about Donald fucking Trump, who because of his outrageously non-presidential performance at last night’s first Republican debate, has earned a demotion to the list of people at whom I am comfortable leveling ad hominem attacks. The guy’s a political jackass and I wouldn’t piss on him if he were on fire. While I admit that I laughed hard at a lot of his antics, I said on Facebook last night:

“Hilarious does not constitute federal policy. He’s a buffoon and is damaging to the entire process.

(Should I be required to refer to him in the future, it will be by his new initials “DFT,” not to be confused with “DTF.”  Seriously.  Don’t confuse the two.)

There I go wasting space on DFT.

Anyway, back in this post, I made the case for two of the Republican underdogs in the race, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and current Buckeye State Governor John Kasich. While the dust hasn’t yet settled and the press hasn’t yet exhausted it analysis, it seems as though both of these potential nominees have raised their respective national profiles.

According to CNN:

“Carly Fiorina was one of the biggest winners Thursday night without even stepping on the prime-time stage. The California businesswoman didn’t meet the eligibility criteria to participate in the marque [sic] event, but her strong performance at the 5 p.m. debate for second-tier candidates lingered throughout the evening.”

According to Fortune Magazine, Fiorina was the most Googled candidate during the 5 p.m. Republican debate.

fiorinaGood for her and good for us. Perhaps the system will work and what appears to be a reasoned, poised candidate will rise in both the polls and in visibility permitting her to appear on the primary slate next time instead of the secondary slate as she did this time.

My home state’s governor John Kasich also did unexpectedly well.

Gannett’s Cincinatti.com’s headline reads:

John Kasich: GOP debate winner?”

Wall Street Journal blogger Linda Killian says:

“… His performance suggests he could be a serious alternative to Jeb Bush.”

KasichI’m all for a serious alternative to Governor Bush, whose performance last night seemed to be lackluster at best.

That many of my more liberal Facebook friends were at least superficially impressed with Kasich indicates to me that he’s a more attractive candidate that yesterday’s polls would have you believe:

“While I think there are better governors out there, Kasich is unique among those who were on stage in that his state has actually done well.”

“I liked John Kasich the most.

“The only one who didn’t make me homicidal was whatshisname from Ohio.” At least I think that’s where he was from. [Later, I confirmed that it was Kasich whom she’d spare in her theoretical homicidal rampage.]

To be fair, I could surf around the web and find positive comments on any of the 17. (Well, maybe not former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore. I still don’t know who the heck he is — and I live in Virginia.) So these comments aren’t intended to try to sway opinion or change anyone’s mind.

I’m just making the observation that maybe the underdogs DO have a chance after all. The day before yesterday, neither Kasich nor Fiorina had a whole lot of traction at the national level. Today? That’s a different story. Tomorrow? Who knows?

But let’s watch and find out!

RubioI also liked Marco Rubio last night, which surprised me.  He also came off poised and reasoned, though in my opinion, he fell a little short on charisma. He’s also been touted by some news outlets as the winner of the prime time debate last night, but so has DFT. And you know how I feel about him.

All in all, an interesting go-round.

I keep hoping that the triumph of reason over rhetoric rules the political process this and every election cycle. While I recognize that this is extremely unlikely, it’s nice to see the two candidates whose resumes I found to possess the requisite skill and experience also seem to be reasonable people. I’m delighted that the press generally agrees that Fiorina gets a seat at the grown up table next time.

Eh, maybe there’s hope after all.

 

In Defense of the Underdog

Underdog-cartoon-DVD

Underdog, voiced by the great Wally Cox.

It’s only July of 2015 and already I’m disillusioned about the general election next November. I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the idea of President Hillary. Though you could do a lot worse, it’s not my first choice.

Watching the Republican field implode used to be so much sport. Now it’s just pathetic. Really pathetic. I blame Donald Trump who is turning what in my opinion ought to be a reasoned, intellectual process into a circus sideshow best documented in the entertainment section rather than the political section of the news.

Mind you, I am not a low information voter. Neither am I any sort of expert in the art and science of elections. Plus, it’s early in the race, so I haven’t done a ton of homework on too many of the potential nominees in any party. So I reserve the right to modify my position based on new information I may or may not acquire in the course of the next sixteen months or so. Hell, I may just stay stupid just to see what it’s like.

Back in this post, I made the case for the candidate who would get my vote in the upcoming elections. I stand by that list which I will recreate here for those of you too busy (lazy) to read the original. For those of you who are neither, I’ll wait for you right here.

All done? Cool! Now that you’re back, you can skip the following bulleted list. (It’s for the sick, lame and lazy in my readership. You know who you are.)

  1. Possesses at least SOME charisma.
  2. Is willing to change her mind or position when presented with new facts. (See what I did there?)
  3. Has government or corporate executive experience. Check that. Has SUCCESSFUL government or corporate executive experience.
  4. Demonstrates willingness and ability to build consensus.
  5. Is reasonable.
  6. Treats other candidates with respect. Bonus points if it actually compliments its competitors. (It rubs the lotion on its Super PAC.)
  7. Puts Nation over party.

No one candidate in any party has made enough of an impression on me to satisfy my criteria. In their collective defense, it’s going to be extremely difficult for any candidate to rise above the current level of noise, particularly for any candidate who dares to be reasonable. But I’m still watching in my own semi-informed, but critical thinking way. For the moment, I’m going to jump ahead to the general election and make the case for at least my third criterion above.

CM_optics-pic2

THIS is optics, bitches!

And I’m also going to consider the optics of the presidency. <shudder> I hate the word “optics.” Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. But these days, optics in the political sense of the word matter greatly

I do think it’s time for a woman president. I just don’t think it ought to be Secretary Clinton. If (when) Clinton wins the nomination and the general, it will in my opinion usher in yet another eight years of politics and business as usual in DC. Secretary Clinton is well established in the Washington bureaucracy and I believe it unlikely that she will, because of experience, temperament and training conduct the Office of the Presidency with any innovation, any sense of urgency or any desire to really change the course of our nation. She’s too well entrenched in the existing systems of government. Washington today is what she knows and we all gravitate to that which we know best.

Now, the experience she brings is formidable and part of #3 is “SUCCESSFUL government or corporate executive experience.” I think successful government experience is one of the necessary tools that a candidate should have. And Secretary Clinton meets that standard.

But a potential President needs more than just an understanding of the federal bureaucracy. But how about the corporate angle?

Howzabout we form an administration that has both successful corporate and government experience? No one candidate is likely to do that, so that’s why I’m jumping to the general to propose that the Republicans nominate a Fiorina/Kasich ticket.

carly-johnNow before you dismiss me out of hand go read my opening few paragraphs again. You can’t possibly be too lazy to do that. Seriously.  You just can’t.

Carly Fiorina is an extraordinarily successful business woman having run tech giant Hewlett-Packard. From Wikipedia (granted not a bastion of absolute fact):

“Starting in 1980, Fiorina rose through the ranks to become an executive at AT&T and its equipment and technology spinoff, Lucent. As chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard (HP) from 1999 to 2005, she was the first woman to lead one of the top twenty U.S. companies.

In 2002, Fiorina undertook the biggest high-tech merger in history with rival computer company Compaq, which made HP the world’s largest personal computer manufacturer. HP gained market share following the merger and subsequently laid off 30,000 American workers. By the end of 2005, the merged company had more employees worldwide than they had separately before the merger.”

Optics? Check – First woman President. Successful business leader? Check. Job creator? Check. Consensus builder? Check. Government experience?

<crickets>

This is where current Ohio Governor John Kasich comes in.

Again from my old pal Wikipedia:

In 1982, Kasich ran for Congress in Ohio’s 12th District, based in Columbus, Ohio. He won the Republican primary with 83% of the vote, and defeated [the] incumbent Democrat … in the general election by a margin of 50%–47%. Kasich was re-elected eight times after 1982, winning at least 64% of the vote each time.

As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Kasich was the lead architect of the 1997 balanced budget deal. This marked the first time the federal budget achieved balance since 1969 and ultimately led to a federal budget surplus. Kasich also chaired the congressional conference committee that overhauled welfare, requiring new work/training requirements into the system.

Dude knows how to win an election and balance a budget. He can also likely deliver the critical state of Ohio in the general election because:

[As Governor of the Buckeye State,] Kasich utilized a number of cost-saving reforms without raising taxes and signed the new balanced budget on June 30, 2011. The budget included the elimination of the estate tax and the continuation of a previously passed income tax cut for all Ohioans.

… As a result of Kasich’s budgeting efforts throughout his first term, Ohio’s rainy-day fund (or surplus) went from $0.89 to $1.5 billion today.

… Kasich has cut taxes in Ohio by a net total of more than $3 billion. This includes the income tax cut implemented in his first budget, the 10% income tax cut in his second budget, the 50% income tax cut for small businesses, and other tax reforms that included a quarter-percentage-point increase in the state sales tax.

During Kasich’s first term in office, 316,800 new jobs were created in the state of Ohio and the unemployment rate dropped from 9.4% to 5.1%

Successful government leader? Check – both State and Federal. Job creator? Check. Government experience? In spades. Optics?

Well, that’s where I have issues and it’s a relatively minor one. In spite of Governor Kasich’s record of success leading large government agencies, it’s my opinion that the optics (there’s that word again!) of a former Fox News anchorman as President presents a problem for me. Then again, Tony Snow went from Fox to the White House for a successful turn as Press Secretary, but that’s a different animal than the presidency itself.

So to recap: A potential Fiorina/Kasich ticket brings to a potential administration:

  • Successful corporate executive experience.
  • Successful government executive experience.
  • Ability to build consensus. (Who merges HP and Compaq without being able to do that?)
  • Possesses at least some charisma. (True. I remember Kasich from his days in the anchor chair.)
  • Optics, in this case, the inauguration of the first woman president.

Now I’m not low informed enough to think that there aren’t negatives about either Fiorina or Kasich. I know of a couple. From my perspective at this point in the election, the combination of these two success stories is worthy of consideration by a party that can’t find its collective butt with both hands and a flashlight.

My point? Kasich and Fiorina are not getting any traction. They’re two of many underdogs among the crowded Republican field. And I think that’s unfortunate because the collective experience of these two people is an attractive combination. Together on paper, they have a resume that I believe could serve this nation unusually well.

I’m not willing to say this is the only way to go and that no other candidate is worthy of my vote. I’m saying that my relatively superficial evaluation has led me here. I will probably change my mind at some point, and it’s my right to do that.

But today, right now, how about let’s have a look at the underdogs.

I’m Giving Away My 2016 Presidential Vote!

The below use of any gender-specific pronoun is not intended to exclude any other gender. I just haven’t figured out the right grammar for that sort of thing yet and I hate using “his/her” or some such ridiculous bit of constriction.

PresCandWelp, here we go again. With the addition of Messers. Cruz and Paul and presumably Ms. Clinton this weekend, the horse race that is our presidential election has begun. Frankly, this time around, there ain’t enough Motrin on the planet to soothe the headache that will likely result from all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth over these next 19 months or so. As a preventative measure, I’m going to not listen to any of it, instead putting out my criteria publicly and whoever finds me first can have my vote.

Simple, right?

red-checkmarkMy vote’s easily had, ladies and gentlemen. Matters not to me whether you’re a D or an R or an L or an I or any other letter in the American English alphabet.  Turn my criteria below into a checklist, check ‘em off, and I’m yours for the asking. No catch. No fine print. You give me what I want and I’ll give you want you want – my vote. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

So here in no particular order, here are the things I want in a presidential candidate before I’ll even consider voting for any one of them. My vote will go to the candidate who:

  1. Possesses at least SOME charisma.
  2. Is willing to change her mind or position when presented with new facts. (See what I did there?)
  3. Has government or corporate executive experience. Check that. Has SUCCESSFUL government or corporate executive experience.
  4. Demonstrates willingness and ability to build consensus.
  5. Is reasonable.
  6. Treats other candidates with respect. Bonus points if it actually compliments its competitors. (It rubs the lotion on its Super PAC.)
  7. Puts Nation over party.

Ok, folks, now you know the rules. If you think you got what it takes, come and get it.

I dare you.

Why do We Fear Language?

Full disclosure: I do not fluently speak any foreign language. I learned to speak tourist German and Spanish in my Army days, though I never was able to wrap my arms around French when I was living in Belgium. (Those darned French have a different word for EVERYTHING!) And no, I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night either.

i2i_holagraphicBack when I lived in Los Angeles, everything seemed to be bilingual. Hearing foreign accents was a daily occurrence and it used to bug me because even back then I was hard of hearing. People with accents are often tougher for me to understand.  (I suffer from CHS.  Can’t Hear Shit.)  But the use of languages other than English wasn’t off-putting to me at all.

Today I heard on the radio the remarks from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal regarding the assimilation of immigrants into the United States:

BobbyJindal-Governor-louisiana-indian-american-politician-statement-reaction“It is my view that immigration can make a country stronger, or it can make a country weaker. It really depends on whether immigrants coming to your country are coming to join your culture, your mores, your laws, and become a part of your history. Or, are they coming to be set apart? Are they willing to assimilate? Do they have their own laws they want to establish? Do they fundamentally disagree with your political culture?”*

The subsequent discussion on the radio focused on the assimilation of immigrants into American culture and that such assimilation required the use of English. Required. Many local D.C. callers to the radio show were immigrants who celebrated their parents’ requirement to speak nothing but English. I get that. Learning English in the United States of America has a huge practical advantage over the alternative. It really does set one up for success.

Culture is entwined with language and I have said myself that you can’t fully understand a culture without knowing at least a little of the language. Having admitted that, I find myself thinking more and more that it’s not the be all and end all for everyday life in these here United States or anywhere else for that matter.

Hypothetically, if an immigrant embraces liberty, freedom, our representative system of government and loves this Nation just as much as I do, why is it so important that they NOT refer to us as “Estados Unidos” or “Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika?” Those words all describe the same thing. In one sense, it’s like “car” versus “automobile” or “feline” versus “cat.” Two expressions exist which describe the same concept.

Why do we accept those subtle variations in our own language yet are so intolerant of variations supplied by other languages? Isn’t it just other words for the same things?

Personally, I suppose I can sum this up by saying that I really don’t care how you talk to me as long as you treat me with respect and kindness. I totally get the practical aspects of communicating with me in English. If you want me to understand you, you will probably have to query me in English, but if you’re lucky, I may know the German or Spanish words. Or if you’re really lucky, you may stumble on the two Russian words I know. (I got a D in Russian in college — not my proudest moment.)

It’s not these practical aspects of language that perplex me. It’s the outright fear and indignance that a lot of Americans exhibit at the prospect of other languages creeping into the American culture.

So I’ll ask thusly: Why do Americans seem to fear language other than English? Should we? Can immigrants who assimilate every aspect of our culture except the use of every day English be considered truly assimilated? Does the inclusion of other languages diminish or augment American culture?

* My emphasis.  I am neither endorsing Governor Jindal’s position nor do I oppose it. I am merely using it as a jump-off point for discussion. Now jump and discuss.

Playing Catch Up with the News

I’ve not written much lately. You know, life getting in the way and all that rot. I am a terribly undisciplined person writer and don’t always post here or anywhere else, for that matter. But I got this web site and I really should feed it more often. But I’m lazy.

For now, since I am far too lazy busy to write lengthy essays on topical issues and in the spirit of feeding this blog, here’s a list of winners and losers from relatively current events.

Kim Jong Un vs. Sony Pictures:

Winner by KO: Kim Jong Un. North Korea appears to have single handedly dealt a serious economic blow to a major U.S. corporation. The accepted definition of terrorism, ”the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims,” applies here. We as a Nation should respond accordingly.

the-interview

(Sidebar: I’ll bet sales of “Team America: World Police” are going to skyrocket because of this. Therefore, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the only American winners in this transaction.)

 

Mid-term Elections: Republicans vs. Democrats:

Winner: No one. We still get the same guys for the most part. I long for a viable third party.

 

Kim Kardashian vs The Internet:

Winner: The Internet. She didn’t break the Internet. Kim’s butt is the broken one – it’s got a crack in it. (Hardy har har.)

(Sidebar: If you were expecting a picture here, you will be sorely disappointed.)

 

U.S.A. vs Cuba:

Winners: Everyone. We’re now a step closer (albeit a small one) to exporting American culture, commerce and freedom to Cubans. Besides, what was in place wasn’t working and after 50 years, it’s time to try something new.

Now, let’s sell those Cubans some DirecTV dishes!

 

Marvel vs. DC:

Winner: Marvel. While “Gotham” on the Fox network is terrific, Marvel has masterfully woven its characters into a rich fabric spanning movies and television. The finale of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” delivered a magnificent situation from which the Marvel universe will blossom even more. Well done, Marvel Studios.

Chloe Bennett as Skye

Chloe Bennett as Skye

Loser: Paramount Pictures. They still can’t get “Star Trek” right. Trek is as rich of a property as Marvel with an established fan base. Why they keep screwing it up is beyond me.

 

NASA vs. ESA:

Winner: The edge goes to ESA for landing on a comet ten YEARS after launching the damned thing. Philae’s successful landing on Comet 67P/Churymov–Gerasimenko is the culmination of a monumental undertaking by the European Space Agency. Well done!

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NASA, please don’t feel left out. You only missed by a hair’s breadth. I have always loved what you do. You contributed enormously to my childhood imagination so I’m automatically prejudiced. Orion’s first flight was a remarkable accomplishment and paves the way for the return of American manned space missions. But dude, ten years? Man, that’s tough to top! (If that little explosion at Wallops hadn’t happened, you’d have had the edge. Just sayin’.)

NASA's Orion soon-to-be manned spacecraft.

NASA’s Orion soon-to-be manned spacecraft.

Why I Support Net Neutrality

Netneutralitycopy1Stay with me here, this is liable to get complicated.

My first instinct when it came to this subject was to pooh-pooh government regulation of what amounts to a private pipeline. The Internet, after all, is an electronic pipe that delivers information on demand and unbiased by location. In other words, you have access to the same information regardless of where you are on the network. (That’s the beauty of TCP/IP.)

Since an Internet service provider owns the broadband network infrastructure, they should be allowed to manage it and charge what the market will bear. Consumers will regulate the value and price of delivery through the usual dynamics of supply and demand.

Makes sense, right? Let’s look a little more closely.

Enter Comcast, for example. (And there are other examples. I’m picking on Comcast because I’m a former Comcast employee, sorta.)

Comcast and others have decided that they will prioritize the delivery of Internet traffic based on the information provider’s ability to pay. This means that an information provider can pay Comcast to move its information faster than a competitor. Plus, if I’m a high-volume information provider, I’m using up a whole lot more of Comcast’s bandwidth to deliver my information. Therefore, if I’m using more of Comcast’s resources to move my information, it should cost me more, right?

While this sorta makes sense in the context of a Netflix streaming service, or iTunes Movie delivery, when you consider the second and third order effects, this concerns me.

Comcast owns the National Broadcasting Company, or NBC and all of its entertainment and news operations. Let’s suppose hypothetically that Comcast decides that it will give top priority to Internet delivery of its NBC News products and relegate other news organizations to a lower priority.   Comcast understandably wants to you to see their advertisements in their news products instead of those of their competition. That means that if you’re a Comcast subscriber, online access to NBC News products would be easier to find, more readily available, faster to download, featured in ads and otherwise presented to the consumer IN LIEU OF products from other news outlets.

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Taken to the extreme, since Comcast owns NBC, they may make an economic decision to offer ONLY NBC News products on their network by routing all Internet searches for news and current events to NBC resources.  This would have the effect of censoring all news and information from any other source but Comcast’s NBC News.

And Comcast isn’t the only one who would likely engage in such a scenario.

Time Warner, Cox, Verizon all would likely strike similar deals with information providers who would collectively decide what information gets priority on their networks and what gets relegated to the basement of Internet transfer speeds, ultimately limiting what your eyeballs can see.

Do you want your access to information limited in any way just because of the company you’ve chosen to deliver your Internet service? Do you want your Internet provider deciding what news source you’re likely to see?

I don’t.

I have no objections to the CONSUMER paying higher prices for using greater capacity. I have a problem with Internet service providers deciding for me whose information is more valuable. The value of any given piece of information is a decision that individuals should make for themselves.

If there were multiple broadband Internet service providers available nationwide, I’d not be too awfully worried about the issue as the marketplace would have multiple choices from which to choose information they want. But in most cases, there exists a duopoly or, as it is in my hometown, only a monopoly on broadband Internet service.  In these communities, market forces can’t apply and if the ISP limits the delivery of certain kinds of information, what’s a consumer to do?

Since broadband Internet service in a given community is more often than not limited to one or two companies, it becomes more like a utility than not and should be regulated appropriately. No single company should have the power to limit news and information provided through their networks given the public’s reliance on it.

Internet service is no longer a luxury. It’s a must-have. Schools rely on it. We voters rely on it for the delivery of facts and opinion. In fact, broadband Internet service has become so important that it serves the public, and therefore the public interest.

Keep the information flowing to the public without bias, without limiting choices and ideas and without commercial interest censoring it.