Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

How do you know you’re cool? You wear body armor of course.

Some things are just plain silly. A good example is this fashion article from the NYT called “A Look That’s Bullet Proof.” 

I don’t usually read the fashion section of the NYT, but  I have personalized my google news aggregator and it provides me with a section called recommended reads. I have found that the recommendations are rather good. I am either informed, shocked or appalled.

At first I thought this article fell into the last category, appalling, because the article describes how people are now wearing bullet proof vests and other body armor as fashion accessories. The whole idea made me recall the incident with my son and the light saber he wanted for Christmas.  He didn’t get what he wanted, but he still believes that we could have gotten him a real light saber in America. He rationalizes the oversight by saying we didn’t get it for him because it’s too dangerous. So, to me, the whole idea that people are actually considering wearing bullet proof vests and other body armor as fashion accessories only seems to feed into this image that my son and other like him have about America. What kind of message are people trying to send? I know how my son would understand it.

After I was initially appalled, I began to wonder: “Why did google recommend this article for me?” And then I understood.  I realized that their was a possible upside  in this fashion trend for me.

In the summer of 2002 in the lead up to the war with Iraq I bought stock in a company that manufactures body armor, DHB Industries, Inc. Although I can’t justify buying stock in companies that manufacture offensive weapons, I though a body armor manufacturer would be a good play.

My reasoning: Bush is a madman. There will be war in Iraq. It will not be as quick and easy as he believes. There will be a lot of urban fighting. There will be partisans, and an insurgency. There might even be civil war. We will be there for a long time and our troops will need protection.

My initial investment looked promising. I bought 100 shares at around $4.50 a piece. By mid-2004 the shares had zoomed to $25 each and there was no end in sight to either Afghanistan or Iraq and then something completely unexpected happen. The company’s frontline product which it had developed with DARPA was recalled. See wiki article on the Interceptor Body Armor if you want to know more. 

The stock plummeted faster than I could dump it. It, of course, didn’t help that the company was saying one thing and the US military wasn’t saying anything because it was a matter of national security and troop protection. The price was dropping but I had no information regarding why it was dropping. Obviously some people were in the know and they dumped the stock by the boat load, but others like me were not. Due to the lack of information I decided to stand pat. By 2007 it was clear what the problem was and many of the uniformed large investors were angry, so they sued. My investment wasn’t large enough to qualify me as a participant in the class action suit against the company, you had to have $10,000 or more invested and so today I am stuck with stock that is valued at .38 cents a share. 

So, my question to you is: Are you cool? Do you have your own body armor? Do me a favor, and buy your own body armor today. Make sure it says: Point Blank Solutions. Here’s a link to their product catalog so that you ca get yours today.

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Referring Links: Is that the Great Firewall of China?

I like checking my blog stats, because sometimes it provides me with some unanticipated entertainment such as when people use their whole name when searching for things that target my site.

I have two ways of monitoring my stats. One service is provided by wordpress the publishing software that I use to maintain my blog, the other is statcounter, which I use for my all my sites.

The following address listed as one of the referring links which brought traffic to my site: http://firstbathrooms.co.uk/china/login.php

The address appears like this in the address bar of your browser:firstbathrooms-address

The address looks innocuous enough, but  the website looks like this:firstbathrooms-screen

The imagery obviously makes one want to ask: Is the Great Firewall of China checking up on me?

If recent news denotes a trend, then one can safely assert that China probably invests more manpower into cyber-security and cyber-mischief than any other nation. For example, a search of googles news aggregation service reveals that there are approximately 10,000 articles for the search terms: “China,” “cyber,”  and “attack” and approximately 3 million news articles for the search terms “China,” “cyber,”  and “security.”

Interestingly the two blog articles that this entity checked out were: “SLA meets the Faithful” and “A Morning Mish Mash.” Both of these particular blog posts mention two things that this entity might find interesting bathrooms and China. However, the entity did not check out all articles that mention bathrooms and I have mentioned bathrooms on several occasions on my blog:

nor did it check out all the articles about China that I have posted on my blog:.

Stranger still no search terms were entered to find these articles. In fact there have been no searches targeting my site since the 13th of January. The lack of search terms seems to suggests that one party monitors the internet for specific terms and another party inspects the sites that the first party finds. 

The question still remains: Why these two articles and not the others? The only reason I can think of for “SLA Meets the Faithful” is that I mentioned that my former student dreamed of going to China as missionary and teaching the Bible in English. If I were the Chinese government, I’d certainly be worried about this. Remember the guy used Universal Grammar to prove the existence of the Tower of Babel. In terms of “A Morning Mish Mash” it would have to be due to Tony’s email and blog posting which I quoted about how the Koreans and Saudis trashed the US, but the lone Chinese student provided the expected pat answers. Maybe the Chinese government is wondering if this student is a dissent in the making.

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Music in the 21st Century

I read a thought provoking article this morning from CNET called: “Will Recorded Music Survive the 2010s?”  My guess is that the current trend which is described in the article will continue and that big studio produced albums will be “a thing of the past.”

Like he argued there will be less money in the music industry, because musician will produce and market their own music through social networking sites like facebook and myspace and they will upload self-made videos to youtube with links to places where you can buy and download their songs.

Because of these trends I see music becoming more local; more community oriented. Bands will work their local area and if they are lucky they will become regional, but only a few will become truly national or global. The reason for this is that social networking is a targeted form of marketing that uses a bottom-up distribution approach rather than the top-down distribution approach that major record companies currently have in place.

A good example of this can actually be found here in Korea. The EV Boyz  are a community based band that has self-produced and self marketed their own music. They primarily are entertaining the expat community here in South Korea and their facebook site reflects that.

But many other bands and not just one band here in Korea are using this approach. There are tens of thousand of bands to be found on facebook and other social networking sites. Youtube is also filled with the music of both amateur and struggling professional musicians.

But music marketing isn’t comprised to just those sites. An article posted to Mashable: the Social Media Guide called “Social Music: 5 Essential Tools for Marketing Your Band”  listed five web sites especially designed to help musicians market their music and their bands using a bottom-up, grassroots approach.

This will also make music conferences like SXSW even more important. In fact I would not be surprised to see even more of them in the future. SXSW has already inspired similar festivals elsewhere, including North by Northeast (NXNE) in Toronto and West by Southwest (WXSW) in Tucson, AZ.

The author of “Will recorded music survive the 2010s?” seemed to think that this loosening of music industry control was a bad thing. He made the following statements:

You can’t record the sound of a band in a great sounding room, unless you have a great sounding room. No wonder most new recordings sound so contrived. Just because you can make a record at home doesn’t mean you should.

He has a point. The sound quality may not be as good, but in some ways at least in terms of diversity and creativity I believe the music scene will be better. The music industry will certainly become less hierarchical. Music will be driven by the artists and their communities of followers which might create opportunities for more collaboration and experimentation. 

Personally, I feel that the record companies deserve what they have got. I remember when I was a college DJ in the late 1980s just as the transition from vinyl albums to CDs was being made. I read an article in the College Music Journal that said CDs were going to be great for consumers because compact discs were so relatively cheap to manufacture. The article describe how typical production and distribution cost of CDs ranged from .20 to .50 cent a unit compared to .50 to .75 cents per unit for vinyl and cassette tapes.

The article went on to predict that CDs would usher in a golden age for music consumers, that is, significantly cheaper music. But that actually never happened. CDs did usher in a golden age for the music industry as they gouged consumers with prices that were 20 to 30 percent higher for CDs than vinyl or cassettes.

The music industry exploited technology for its own purposes and now they are dying because of technology they cannot control. Perhaps if the music industry had looked beyond short-term profits in the late 1980s and early 1990s they would have avoided alienating their consumers. But that is a what if that simply never happened.

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Thoughts on the End of a Dynasty

I have never considered myself a rabid sports fan, but I enjoy keeping up with my hometown teams, and since I live overseas following my hometown team doesn’t mean flipping through the sports section in the local newspaper. Instead I keep abreast of my hometown teams electonically. More specifically I have a newsfeed. This morning’s newsfeed brought me this article from the Providence Journal: “Pats Dynasty Died When Brady Hurt His Knee.” 

 
As the headline indicates, the article argues that the New England Patriot’s dynasty died not with the loss to the Ravens this year in the playoffs, but with Brady’s injury in 2008. I disagree. I believe the day the Patriot’s dynasty died was September 9th, 2007; the day that “Spygate” or “Videogate” was exposed.  Sure, the Pats went on to have an 18-1 season in 2007, but it was on that day that the mystique and majesty of the dynasty, the decade long dominance died. It died because what they had accomplished became sullied. It died because NFL fans and players alike looked differently at the Patriots. Where they once saw preparation, hard-work, and effectively implementation of tactical plans, they now saw cheaters and no one can respect or be in awe of cheaters.

Although this doesn’t change my feeling for the home team, I am still a Patriots fan. Furthermore, my feelings regarding “Spygate” or “Videogate” has also not altered my respect for Tom Brady. I believe Brady is great quarterback and his rise to prominence is a wonderful story of hard-work and determination; however, my feelings about Belichick are more ambiguous and complicated. Do I believe he is a great coach? Yes, but…and this is the key…his greatness is overshadowed by his ethical bankruptcy. He has a very Machiavellian approach to winning; that is to say he has a win at all costs mentality that allows him to justify the use of any means necessary, which, I believe runs counter to the idea of sportsmanship and fair play.

Monday, January 18th, 2010

The Funny Thing About Search Queries and Blogs

The good thing is that I know my family and friends are reading my blog. I know they are reading my blog not by the comments they are leaving or the discussions we are having but by the search query strings which are being reported in my blog stats. The search query usually begins with the person’s name and then is followed by some other term usually but not exclusive to the word “sex” or one of it’s many variations or synonyms.

I also know that my family and friends are not only confining their queries to the search box at my site, they are also inputting similar queries into google such as: person’s name, some other term usually but not exclusive to the word “sex” or one of it’s many variations or synonyms, and then brawnblog or brawnblog.com. This is also being reported in my blog stats. If you were wondering, yes, I also know that some of you are using firefox when you enter my site. 

For many bloggers interpreting their statistics is crucial for the advertising revenue they hope to generate from their sites, but I don’t sell ad space at my site, so how should I interpret this data? What is my readership trying to tell me? Are these queries silent pleas for me to write about their sex lives? Are they looking for soft porn in which they themselves are cast in the leading role?

As a writer one should always consider his or her audience. Obviously I can not ignore these stats, but as of yet, I do not know how I should respond.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Twitter and the Brain

Wednesday the sixth of January 2010 was a productive day as far as days go. My main task was to get ready for my Oxford University Press interview. It’s actually more of a presentation. I’m going for a semi-permanent, part-time position which will involve teacher-training, curriculum consulting, and book selling. My presentation needs to demonstrate that I can do all three simultaneously. Obviously, such an endeavor requires a certain amount of creative thinking; consequently, I took numerous facebook and google breaks.

The reason why I call this day productive is because:

  1. I finished what I set out to accomplish
  2. I learned something that I had no intention of learning
  3. I reconsidered something I had originally determined was a waste of time
  4. I am blogging about the all of the above

My solution for tomorrow’s presentation was actually fairly straight forward. As part of my skill-set as a teacher-trainer I often have to do “demonstration” or “sample” lessons. These “demonstration” or “sample” lessons often have to be done in front of real students with whom I have never met. My lessons are usually successful even though I have never met the students and there are observers and/or video equipment in the room. Therefore, I thought I should play to one of my strengths. Oxford University Press sent me one of their text books Surprise Surprise! and they asked me use it as part of my presentation. They said that the presentation should be 30% theory and 70% practical. A sample lesson with processing seems to fit that description perfectly. If I do a sample lesson from the textbook, that is very useful for a teacher or a prospective buyer. After the sample lesson, I will process what I did (that’s the theory) and I will also show how other units in the book can be adapted to the framework I modeled in the sample lesson.

Because I plan my lessons backwards, that is, I determine the last thing that my Ss will do in the class, before I decide how the class will start, the planning process is naturally somewhat discontinuous for me. Consequently, I had a lot of “time for reflections” as I was putting together my lesson. I used this “time for reflection” to check the news and to peruse facebook. While looking over the news and facebook I stumble across a couple of interesting articles, which at first seem completely unrelated.

The first of these articles, “Why Twitter Will Endure” was from the NYT and it directed me to a second article, “How Twitter Will Change The Way We Live,” from Time Magazine. After reading these two articles I decided to re-evaluate Twitter. I originally checked it out two years ago. My first tweet:

@jbrawn67 Checking out Twitter 9:27 PM Apr 23rd, 2008 from web

At the time twitter was only about a year old and I only checked it out because it had been mentioned in a couple of articles I had read about the 2008 SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas. Both articled had mentioned how it had added to the overall experience of the conference. When I lived in Austin form 1993 to 1996, I had been a regular attendee of the SXSW Music Conference, and so I decided to check out twitter, in part, I suspect, with the hope of rekindling some of those fading memories of Austin and its great music scene. Obviously reading 140 character long comments about something that had happened that you hadn’t personally experienced didn’t do much for my sense of nostalgia, so I chalked the whole twitter experience up to another web-based waste of time.

Since I had a little extra time on my hands and both articles seemed to suggest that even if twitter itself doesn’t endure aspects of the the platform it uses will. Both authors basically argue that real-time search about what’s “hot” has already become essential. Here’s a brief look at how google’s real time search and twitter compare. The article used a San Fransisco earthquake as a measurable event and where twitter actually did report the event in real-time, it took google’s search engine six minutes to start producing results. I don’t know if  “real-time search”  is as vital as those two authors claim, but twitter did introduce me to Death Cab for Cutie an alternative music band that debuted in 1997, the year I debarked for Korea, so I am at least grateful for that.

The next two articles I read were introduced to me through facebook by Justin, a former Daewon Foreign Language High School colleague. He seems to be on a brain kick these days, because he has posted several articles and video dealing with the topic on facebook. Naturally since I was being “reflective” a kind of brainy thing to do I checked them out. The first was called Scans Show Learning ‘Sculpts’ The Brain’s Connections and it describes how learning changes the structures in the brain and the second article was called Mind Reading  a NYT book review for Stanislas Dehaene’s Reading in the Brain.  

Obviously both of these article, although talking about different things, the first focuses on learning the second on how it is the brain is able to read, both describe how malleable our brain is. Although the brain was not designed to be able to read we have jerry-rigged the platform so that we can. If we believe what the first article describes, then by learning to read we also in turn sculpt our brains. Structures that were designed to recognize shapes in the wild are sculpted so we can accurately distinguish between a ‘b’ and a ‘d.’  Reading is a powerful technology and once the individual masters it, it in turns opens up the knowledge of the ages. 

As an undergraduate I was a philosophy major and one of the philosophy classes I took was a philosophy of language course. In that course I was first introduced to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which is the idea that the language we speak and the culture we are embedded in affects the way we think.  There is a strong version of this and a weak version of this hypothesis. I have lived outside my culture and native language for 12 years now. I have also been privileged to function as an educator, and I would have to say that I support a weak version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. I beleive language and culture do to a certain extent affect the way we think. Based on the idea that learning sculpts brain, then this shouldn’t be unreasonable.

In that philosophy of language class I remember writing a paper on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and while doing research of the that paper I ran across the Sylvia Schribner and Michael Cole book called The Psychology of Literacy. In the book they looked at the differences between literate and illiterate brains especially in terms of cognitive tasks. Based on their research they were able to conclude that there are definite cognitive skills associated with literacy, but not necessarily with classroom learning. This conclusion seems to run counter to the findings described in Scans Show Learning ‘Sculpts’ the Brain’s Connections.  This, however, isn’t necessarily true, because in 1981 when they were doing their research they had to use paper and pencil type tasks to measure ‘effect’ therefore the task types may account for some of their results. One conclusion I think that can be drawn from this is literacy changes the brain more than classroom learning.

In the end, what these four article got me thinking about is how technology, reading after all is a technology, affects us. Twitter, the internet, facebook and blogs, they are changing not only the way we think but possibly even how we think on a very physical level; however, because we all come to these technologies differently and with different cultural baggage the way we change is profoundly different. Perhaps like the NYT reviewer says at the close of his article Mind Reading:

But the dance through time between old brains and new ones, parents and children, tradition and innovation, is itself a deep part of human nature, perhaps the deepest part…[As] parents, [we] have to watch our children glide irretrievably into a future we can never reach ourselves. But, surely, in the end, the story of the reading, learning, hyperlinking, endlessly rewiring brain is more hopeful than sad.

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Same as it ever was

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

I was surfing the net the other day and I ran into this:

The Progressive Party, Platform (August, 1912)
The conscience of the people, in a time of grave national problems, has called into being a new party, born of the nation’s sense of justice.
 

We of the Progressive party here dedicate ourselves to the fulfillment of the duty laid upon us by our fathers to- maintain the government of the people, by the people and for the people whose foundations they laid.

 

THE OLD PARTIES

 

Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people.

 

From these great tasks both of the old parties have turned aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare, they have become the tools of corrupt interests which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.

 

To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.


The deliberate betrayal of its trust by the Republican party, the fatal incapacity of the Democratic party to deal with the new issues of the new time, have compelled the people to forge a new instrument of government through which to give effect to their will in laws and institutions.

 

Unhampered by tradition, uncorrupted by power, undismayed by the magnitude of the task, the new party offers itself as the instrument of the people to sweep away old abuses, to build a new and nobler commonwealth. 

 

To think that this was written in 1912; I guess it only goes to show that the more things change the more things remain the same. I especially found the part that spoke of the deliberate betrayal of the people’s trust by a war mongering Republican party and the fatal incapacity of the Democratic party to deal with the issues of our times to be prophetic.
 

 

Too bad third, fourth and fifth parties can’t make a go of it in the US. I think it would improve the quality of our government, but they really don’t have a chance according to FAIR.

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Andy and the Light Saber

When we told the kids about our Christmas travel plans, Andy asked: “Will I be able to get a light saber in America; a real one?”

This was an unusual question for several reasons. First, the only thing that Andy has been thinking about since August has been about getting a Nintendo DS . He only stopped asking about the Nintendo DS because he is now sufficiently sure that Nana will actually get him one. BoA convinced Andy that Nana always gets you what you ask for; in fact, she is better than Santa Claus. Another reason that this question is unusual is that it reveals something about Andy’s attitude about America. Why should he think a real light saber is more likely to be available in the US rather than in Korea? 

The children of the world (those born from 1995-present) know America from two places: It’s movie and television shows and their own country’s nightly news. One thing that these children have learned is that  American is a violent place. Our movies and televisions shows seem to glorify it and the nightly news  seems to corroborate it. 

I’m not sure if this is the image that I want my children to have of my home country. The older generations such as the parents of these children still talk of America as a place of opportunities, but the new generation doesn’t see America as a place of opportunities. They have never heard of an American dream, but they have witnessed the American nightmare; a nightmare that for Andy seems to include real light sabers.

Andy knows that in Korea guns; real ones, are impossible to get. Korea has a very strict gun control policy even getting a hunting rifle is insanely difficult and expensive. Although murders happen in Korea, they rarely, outside the armed forces, involve firearms. Knives and fists seem to be the weapons of choice for the masses.    Knives and and fists can kill people, but they are less effective than guns; therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that the number of murders per capita in Korea is significantly lower than the number of murders in America (although not as low as I would have thought – see link above).

Korea is a violent country. I have witnessed many drunken brawls, violent domestic disputes, and arguments that have turned physical in my ten plus years here. I have also seen the after affects of these fights brought into Emergency Rooms on the few occasions that I myself have had reason to go to the hospital. It is probably wise that the Korean government has made it nearly impossible for an individual to get their hands on a gun. If the law were to change I suspect that there would be a sudden increase in the murder rate.

Monday, October 27th, 2008

House Of Cards Revisited

Thursday, 23 October, 2008

A little over a month ago a wrote about the financial house of cards that our financial institutions had created. As I was writing that original piece I remembered that I had read a prediction about a similar meltdown in the Atlantic Monthly. I wanted to link to the story, but at the time I was unable to find it. I have, however, recently prevailed in my search.

It’s an interesting piece it was written in the summer of 2005, so only two-years into the Second Gulf War. Its premise is how the Bush Administration would bankrupt America which in turn would create the necessary conditions for a return to a depressed and stagnant economy with high inflation, taxes and interest rates. The coda or moral for the piece seems obvious: If you don’t pay now, then you will certainly pay latter.

The piece is written as a fictitious strategy memo to an unnamed third party candidate who is running for the US Presidency in 2016. The memo assures the candidate that he will win, but that it is important to truly understand the problems that exist so that he can be both honest and hopeful with the American people.

Some of the details that lead to the “meltdown” did not happen as the author foresaw, but his timing is almost dead on. He guessed that the meltdown would occur in the early part of 2009. Instead the meltdown occurred in September and continued through October of 2008. He was off by about six months. If you’re interest in checking out the piece it’s called “Countdown to Meltdown” by James Fallows

It took only a year for the house of cards to fall. On the 9th of October, 2007 the Dow reached it’s all-time high closing at 14,164.53. A year later on the 9th of October, 2008 the Dow had fallen 5,585 points, or 39.4 percent. However, our current meltdown continues. Yesterday the Dow closed at  8519, so it’s now down 6645 points or 46.9 percent since the 9th of October, 2007. This is even a worse run on the Dow than the nearly two-year bear market that ended in December 1974 when the Dow lost 45 percent. That oil-shock induced meltdown took two-years yet our current meltdown succeeded in wiping out a similar percentage of wealth in only about eight weeks.  

As I wrote before, I decided that if stock indices could shed excess pounds, that I would attempt to do the same. I am calling this the Crash of 2008 Diet. You simply see how far back in time the Dow goes and you attempt to rollback your weight in keeping with the Dow. For example, yesterday the Dow closed at 8519. The Dow hasn’t been at the 8500 level since the summer of 2003. This mean that I am currently trying to get down to my 2003 weight, and that means I should lose another 5-7kg. 

I done well, I’ve drop about 5 kg and all I’ve really done is stopped my consumption of beer and avoided all late night snacks. However, my weight has been trading in a narrow range the last few weeks, so further reduction will not be possible without exercise. As I mentioned before, I injued my ankle, and it was only last week that Noah and I began taking our 40 minute walks again. This is good, but I really need to return to the gym so I can increase the amount of calories I am burning. I think the stationary bike should be low impact enough for my still tender ankle.

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Apathy: Presidential Politics and the Spirit of the Age

Saturday, 12 September 2008

I should be excited about the presidential election in America this year. The Democrats had a thrilling presidential primaries which pitied Hilary Clinton against Barack Obama; a white woman vs. a black man. It went to the wire, yet it seemed so meaningless.

Maybe it’s because I live and have lived on the opposite side of the world for more than a decade and I no longer feel “in touch” with America.

Maybe it’s because I decided to stop “consuming” mainstream media after the run-up to the war in Iraq, and now the power-struggles of the elite have taken backseat to the power-struggles of the weak and marginalized.

Maybe it’s because I have succumbed to the spirit of the age: Apathy.

Just look at the way I described the Democrat’s presidential primary in my first paragraph; it’s like how I might describe a new season of “24” or “Lost.”  It’s entertainment that I no longer find entertaining. It’s a fad that has fallen out of fashion. But more importantly it demonstrates that apathy has taken over, because something that should have significance has lost all its meaning.

 

A life-long friend recently contacted me through facebook. He wanted to share his thought about Palin, McCain and the GOP’s choice for VP. He also wished for me to share my thoughts, but as I said above, the election seems so meaningless.

Here is what my friend wrote:

Palin-drone

by Paul  Sept. 6 2008

So, I’m thinking about the whole Palin thing and listening to Paul Simon while I should be working…

I certainly don’t share the GOP’s politics, but damn they understand strategy and know how to compete in elections.

So you’re a white voter. Maybe you’re one of those Ohio or Pennsylvania or Florida Dems who subconsciously (or consciously) doesn’t feel comfortable voting for the black guy. Or maybe you’re a Hillary supporter who still feels bitter. (In the words of Johnny Rotten, “Ever get the feeling you been cheated?”) But Obama would be a historic choice…

Voila! Now voting for a 72 year old wealthy white Republican IS a historic choice! No need to feel guilty! You’re striking a blow for women everywhere by smashing the glass ceiling! (It’s helpful to forget that the GOP helped kill the ERA and that they’ve consistently opposed legislation to give women equal pay for equal work. And let’s not even get started on reproductive freedom…) That’s what Palin is: a permission slip.

The choice also goes along way toward neutering Joe Biden, particularly in the debates. If he crushes Palin with his superior knowledge and experience, he looks like a bully. If he backs off, Palin – who is smart and not easily intimidated – looks like his equal. The bar is set pretty low for her, as it was for Bush.

While I tip my hat to Republican strategists, I find the hypocrisy of the choice almost unbearable. Let me get this straight: for three months you’ve been hammering away at Obama – particularly on national security – because of his lack of experience. So, while running the oldest candidate in history who’s already had a couple of bouts with skin cancer, you choose a woman whose been governor of one of the least populous states in the nation for 20 months?

Also, why exactly is the stuff about Palin’s pregnant daughter off limits? Seems to me that if you tout your conservative Christianity and “family values” as reasons for people to vote for you and if you actively oppose sex ed and contraception for adolescents, you should expect to face a few questions about how you square your beliefs with the behavior of your seventeen year old, pregnant, unwed daughter. And by the way, why are you an affront to morality and American culture if you support gay folks who marry and settle down, but a paragon of virtue for championing a daughter who CLEARLY doesn’t buy in to the abstinence only stuff? Could that be… GASP… moral relativism?!

One last thing: Sarah Palin has foreign policy experience because Alaska is close to Russia… Palin has more executive experience as mayor of Wasilla (pop. 6700) than Obama and Biden combined… I don’t really have a punchline here. It’s preposterousness of PYROTECHNIC proportions. When someone says stuff like this, you half expect them to be struck down by lightning. Any reporter who does not IMMEDIATELY sock these people with an enormous polo mallet full of horse manure should have his/her press pass permanently revoked.

Thoughts?

Thoughts; do I have any thoughts?

 

I suppose I do. But I’ve also heard the thoughts of others.  For example, Tony, an American guy from Singapore who I met at Glenda’s house on Friday night made something similar to the following statement: “I wouldn’t vote for her [Palin], but she’s a MILF.”

 

Then there was the ‘Hot Mike’ excerpt from some Republican strategist which got posted to You Tube  in which they remarked that Palin is a “cynical” choice all about “narrowing” the ticket to appease the religious right wing of the party, and then there’s Paul thoughts about how this might in fact plausible strategy that will effectively steal votes from the Democrats because it subtly uses gender and race to distract both the voters and the candidates from the issues.  

 

 To a certain extent I think everyone is right. For example, since I have chosen to cut myself off from mainstream media, I saw none of either convention. When Tony first called her a MILF, I assumed it was sarcastic and I assumed that when I googeld her I would get a Bushesque matriarch. I was rather stunned when the first picture appeared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously I knew that this picture was photo-shopped, but it still wasn’t like anything I would have imagined and I have a vivid imagination. Then the thought struck me: Tony’s right in a sex-sells kind of way.

 

 

 After I googled her image I then began a more extensive inquiry. I stumble first upon her religious views and then upon the ‘hot mike’ conversation between Republican strategists (same as above). The fact that she admits to being a religious conservative and the fact that she has said she often prays for gas pipes certainly makes her choice as narrow and as cynical as the Republican strategists suggest. It seems obvious that certain advisors in the McCain camp want to pander to the religious right. Furthermore, she is a perfect “trophy VP” for all the oil money that has poured in to the McCain coffers .   

 

Finally, Paul is right, because politics is more often than not about the irrational: Fears (conscious and subconscious), beliefs and values. I especially think that Paul is right that suddenly Palin makes McCain, for some voters, a more plausible choice. They can defend/rationalize their choice; it becomes more acceptable in a deceptionally historic kind of way.

 

But more importantly choosing Palin helps to distract the candidates and the voters from the issues. Obama has said that Palin’s 17-year old daughter’s child out of wedlock is “out of bounds.” But regardless of whether the candidates say it’s in or out of bounds the idea is already in play as a kind of distracting side-show which the media will be sure to monitor. The more time the media, the candidates and the people worry about what is and isn’t in/out of bounds the less discussion there is of the issues.

 

And there are plenty of issues that need to be discussed; for example:  The economy, the abuse of complicated financials by the finance industry, energy (fossil fuels vs. alternatives), the budget and it’s deficit, the budget and it’s pork, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (their costs – moral, financial and in the number of human lives), nuclear proliferation, medical research (stem cells, HIV, and of course everyone’s favorite malaria), government debt, civil liberties/privileges (freedom of choice vs. pro-life, spying on citizens, Gitmo and the lack of due process, net neutrality, voting rights in the electronic age, drinking age and college culture that promotes binge drinking), the relationship between education and innovation, and so forth…       

 

My final thought is: In essence the candidates shouldn’t matter as much as they seem to, because they ought to be vehicles for a policy platform, but both parties try to avoid the issues. If both parties are avoiding the issue or only pay lip service to the issues, how does it matter? Even though I will vote as a kind of habitual reflex action, I guess this why for me apathy has won.

 

 **This post was delayed because I was waiting for Paul’s permission J**

Friday, September 19th, 2008