Thursday, August 17, 2017

Monumental Lunacy

The Howard County Times, taking the concept of "on-the-other-hand-ism" to its illogical apogee, penned a horrendously ill-thought out and terribly crafted editorial, which can be found here.

Choosing to conflate a repository of knowledge (a library) with a celebration of traitors who fought for the Confederacy (the monument on the courthouse grounds in Ellicott City), the scribbler who penned that piece appears to have lost the thread immediately after the byline.

The call for a "modulated" response is nonsensical.  The Civil War ended (spoiler: The South lost) 152 years ago, why is additional time needed to ponder the fate of something which should never have been installed in the first place?

Employing the same kind of reflexive anti-reasoning that calls for "bipartisanship," even when one side is clearly in the right while the other is demonstrably wrong, the HoCo Times has embarrassed itself with an editorial that appears to claim that opponents of this marker are attempting to "rewrite history."  Rubbish.  The people on the monument simply do not deserve to be remembered, on public grounds, as those who "fought for their beliefs in a vastly different era." This phrasing almost sounds romantic and the rest of the sentence, which almost grudgingly acknowledges that they were on "the wrong side of history by allowing and condoning slavery" is not nearly damning enough.  They turned their back on country and picked up arms to preserve the abomination of slavery, and all of the suffering that came with that evil institution.

The only proper response is for the marker's immediate removal.  Anything else is unacceptable.  For the Times to not recognize this is not a sign of a struggle against "political correctness," it is a sign of their failure to perceive moral correctness.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

In These Times

With today’s tragedy in Charlottesville, and the continuing abdication of moral leadership on technicolor display in Bedminster, it is, as always, important to reflect upon first principles and consider historical patterns.

This President, and his failure to condemn white nationalist terrorism by name, once again demonstrates his unfitness to serve.  While he has, at least on a metaphorical level, already “lost Cronkite,” the question remains: when, if at all, will Congress decide that enough is already far too much and take action? 

The Political Left, as it did in the Civil Rights Movement and during Vietnam, is standing front and center in defense of American principles and our moral center.  Members of the Democratic Socialists of America were hit by the driver who rammed his car through the crowd of counter-protestors.  Leaders in the progressive faith community, such as Reverend William Barber, have been visible in their denunciations of the moral turpitude coming out of this White House in general and the Poltroon by the Potomac specifically.  Liberal-minded policymakers and activists, as well as every-day centrist or apolitical but outraged Americans, and even some (albeit few) conservatives, have taken to the streets to voice their opposition to this Administration.  Organizations that are not inherently ideological in a strict right/left sense, but who advocate on behalf of causes that are viewed as progressive, such as Black Lives Matter, are advocating for social change.  Analogues from the ‘60s for all of these individuals and groups (with varying degrees of similarity) can be found, from Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. to SNCC, to the many “New Left” groups that mobilized against the Vietnam War and for civil rights at home.     

This is not to say that the American Left is the sole repository of virtue.  Most Americans, from across the political spectrum, stand foursquare opposed to the latest incarnation of the Klan/Nazi plague, the alt-right.  The challenge rests in ridding this hate from our land; and in demanding that this Administration immediately remove from itself those who identify with the alt-right.  Of course, if the Administration were to simply remove itself, that would be a good start.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Being and Batty

Some scientists say there is at least a 20% chance that we are residing in a simulation run by hyper-intelligent aliens. If they are correct, that means odds are, at minimum, one-in-five that you and I are simulacra, deluded into thinking we are “real.”  Elon Musk puts the odds at far better than 50/50 that we are denizens of a rather complex version of Galaga. 

When you dream, perhaps those sheep are electric.

Tie this into the “one-electron universe” theory (posited by physicist John Wheeler to fellow physicist Richard Feynman during what could have been one of the worst phone sex chats of all time) that “all electrons and positrons are actually manifestations of a single entity moving backwards and forwards in time,” one must ask, “are the alien video game programmers extremely lazy, extremely efficient, or both?”

Is death “Game Over” or do we level-up?   

While humans are capable of pondering such questions, and science might one day provide answers, assuming we are not annihilated by ourselves or some external force (a hard re-boot, indeed), it still amazes that for all of our technological advancements over the past, call it century, our human faculties in some regards remain quite limited. 

From a communications perspective, we are still bound by fallible senses and minds that misperceive.  We fail to discern cues.  We ensnare messages delivered to us by others, even those who speak the same language and those we know well, in a web of our own past experiences or expectations or emotions, thus distorting their meaning.  It is as if each of us walks around with a Tower of Babel lodged somewhere near the cerebral cortex.

Sure, telepathy might resolve some ambiguities.  That said, it will be prone to create new challenges. We all saw “Scanners.” 

I suppose we will have to make do with some form of mindfulness, to hope to see the world as it is (as real or artificial as it may be) and, from there, hear what others are saying as they intend the words to be heard.  Hopefully, that will enhance our understanding of one another.  Thus, while our time is finite, as “tears in the rain,” we might stand a chance at being more connected with our fellow humans (or replicants, whichever you prefer).

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Waste of Time

Two thoughts on a theme – National first and Howard County-specific second:

-        The 2020 Democratic presidential field should be bereft of candidates who sought the office previously.  Invigorated blood is what is needed. Sorry Joe, Hillary, and Bernie.  Grab a seat, Martin. The last three Democrats to win the White House were all first-timers when they sought the nomination (’76, ’92, and ’08). Most of the folks who ran before (and whose names are bandied about as possibilities in 2020) are hauling about heavy baggage, fairly acquired or not.  We can’t waste time fighting old wars.  That said, I am certain we will see a doomed-to-failure sequel from someone.  Unfortunately for them, and the electorate.

-        Turning from national to HoCo news, I am getting more than a little irked at the namby-pamby-ness of the Invisible Campaign for County Executive.  I recognize that September is the time when this battle is likely to be joined but I am seeing Kittleman dominate the earned media space this summer.  It reminds me of how the Clinton re-election effort, oh, excuse me, the DNC spent the entire summer prior to the ’96 GOP National Convention beating the ever-loving tar out of the Dole campaign, defining the Republican nominee before he had a chance to establish his own narrative.  Folks can’t expect to win in ’18 just because they have a D next to their name.  Democrats in HoCo need to roll out a progressive platform, provide a solid rationale for their candidacy that appeals to voters, and show an ability to frame a debate. Right now, it feels like an opportunity was lost.  As former British MP Dr. David Owen said about the struggle over the direction of the Labour Party, “it will have to be a fight of passion and of conviction…we are fed up with the fudging and the mudging, we are fed up with slush and mush, we want courage, fight, conviction, and hard work.” 

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Detroit's Own

No, I am not claiming to be a Detroit native.  Let us be clear about that.  I was privy to far too many conversations in college that went something like this:

Me: “Where ya’ from?”

Person A: “Detroit.”

Me: “Oh, really, which neighborhood?”

Person A: (eyes averted/floor-gazing, shoulders slumped) “Um. Sterling Heights.” [note: not Detroit, not even Wayne County]

Today’s post is about a singer-songwriter, born in Detroit, Sufjan Stevens (as we rapidly approach the alliteration event horizon).

Specifically, his work entitled: "The Dress Looks Nice onYou,” the lyrics to which are:

I can see a lot of life in you.
I can see a lot of bright in you.
And I think the dress looks nice on you.
I can see a lot of life in you.

I can see a bed and make it too.
I can see a fireside turn blue.
And I can see the lot of life in you.
Yes, I can see a lot of life in you.

When the world looks back.
When the face looks after that.
I can see a lot of life in you.
I can see a lot of life in you.

I can see a lot of life in you.
I can see a bed and make it too.
And I think the dress looks nice on you.
Yes, I can see a lot of life in you.

Not the most complex tune.  Yet the ethereal sound works extremely well with the simple, wistful lyrics.  The coexistence of hopefulness and melancholy imbues the song with a sense of authenticity; who among us hasn’t stammered our way through a conversation, trying to express precisely how they feel…and yes, sometimes, falling short.  So we try to connect on a basic level, "I think the dress looks nice on you" and we hope that the listener understands what we are attempting to say, even if the speaker is unclear in their own mind.    

Something I wanted to share on this rainy August morning.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Monday, July 3, 2017

“Time Passages”

Happy 4th of July Eve.  Before I launch into the main course, some quick notes on the calendar to infuriate some and delight others…mostly the former.

1)    We are less than one month away from Back-to-School Sales.
2)    In two months and change, the Detroit Lions will begin their march to their inevitable Super Bowl victory.
3)    We are approximately 10 weeks away from the first Christmas displays being assembled at Macy’s.
4)    In roughly 100 days, we will be reminding ourselves to pick up extra candy, for the Trick-or-Treat crowd, bien sur.
5)    In about 51 weeks, Marylanders will be watching primary election returns.  Which reminds me: gubernatorial campaign X, don’t forget to email me back on that question.  Thanks in advance.   

Back to the subject of time.  Of late, I have been watching a number of documentaries featuring British politicians who had their heydays in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.  Tony Benn, Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Dennis Healey, Michael Foot, and others.  Most of the documentaries were filmed in the 1990s and 2000s.  One fascinating recurring theme has been to extent to which score-settling has been prominent in these programs.  First, kudos to the BBC for the exceptional interviewing and editing work.  Second, it is evident that these men, and it has been monochromatic in terms of gender and ethnicity, were not content to be Lions in the Winter.  Each of them were still actively extolling the virtues of their policy positions while chastising their opponents for any number of failings (political, personal, etc…). 

Perhaps it was because none of these individuals ever made it to the highest rung of their chosen profession (Prime Minister), that they were each still striving to secure their legacy and ensure the best possible entry in the Great Book.  Of course, being freed from the obligation to be diplomatic helped.  To that end, the candor level was mile-high and rising, which makes for engaging viewing.  Beyond that, the erudition of those interviewed - in general – was impressive.  Jenkins and Foot were accomplished authors.  Healey was bright with a razor sharp sense of humor.  Benn was a gifted orator. Dr. Owen is a genius, just ask him.

Regardless of the ideological differences between these figures, and the personal animus that would occasionally make itself felt when one politico was asked to comment on the motivations, actions, or foibles of another, the viewer cannot get past the intense feeling that these were Serious People who could be entrusted to contend with Serious Problems.  Yes, they were all ambitious and no, none of them were close to perfect.  That said, a media and policy-attentive American in 2017 would look at these individuals and wonder, where are our titans? 

And time continues to pass.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.