Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What to tell the kids about Miley

Contrary to popular belief, the former Hannah Montana fans have not been traumatized by Twerk-gate, and have not turned on their hero, Miley Cyrus.

The character has changed of course, but as the young, out of control, rebel without a clue, she's ridden the wave of her own generation and is now more popular than ever. But her behavior is irresponsible and unsafe, right? Of course it is. So what do you tell youngsters when they see such behavior from celebrities?

Well, what you don't tell them is what kind of music they ought to listen to. That's a proven loser. What you can tell them is that Miley Cyrus has an army of body guards and lives in a fortress. She's an entertainer; an actress. If your average American girl were to behave that way at a party, or a bar, or the mall, or even YouTube, there's a good chance she'd wind up on a "Missing" flyer. You don't want to be that kind of famous.

Friday, August 30, 2013

How to kill a discussion

I was having what I thought was a potentially productive discussion on Facebook when one of the participants said something like, "I don't think all Republicans are racist, but there tends to be racists within their ranks and many who are supportive of such positions." I am not a registered Republican, but I tend to vote that way. However, I was not supposed to be insulted or take offense because he didn't say "all".

This is actually a very common tactic, used for many years by Democrats to insinuate that if you're not with them, you're probably a racist. I know those of you who employ these tactics think you're being subtle or subliminal, but in case anyone wonders why it makes non-Democrats so irate, let me illustrate.

"Many supporters of President Obama and Democrats in general, are child molesters or tend to be sympathetic and supportive of child molesters." Note that the preceding statement is absolutely true and I didn't use the word "all" or even "most". Therefore, nobody should take issue with the statement right? Now if the tactic were to catch on and enough people dropped "child molester" into discussions about Democrats, eventually Democrats would become associated with the molestation of children in the minds of many.

Yes, implying that someone might be a racist, even when you're trying to be clever about it, is extremely offensive and insulting. No, people aren't going to embrace a collectivist agenda because they're afraid you might insult and offend them if they don't (at least not people that matter). So if you want to debate real issues, debate real issues, honestly. Resorting to the kind of tactics illustrated above is just an admission that you have no logical case to make and that continuing the conversation would just be a waste of time.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why would Weiner stop?

Many political pundits and party leaders have expressed amazement at the fact that Anthony Weiner continues his quest for the Democrat nomination in the NYC Mayoral race, despite revelations that he continued to send x-rated text messages to strangers even after resigning from Congress in 2011. I find their amazement puzzling.

Some of the most popular shows on television feature individuals and couples acting like total baffoons. The only rule is that you keep people wondering what you'll do next. If you can keep people watching your antics, you can make a nice living being an outrageous, obnoxious, ignorant clown. What could get you kicked off the Real Housewives of (insert city here)? Only being boring. Even the couple from the New Jersey show who may be facing prison time may well wind up with a whole new show if they ever do go to prison.

Ratings is all that matters if your goal is just to be rich and famous. That seems to be what the Weiners are going for. Mr. Weiner doesn't need to win a primary or an election. He's getting all kinds of free air time with which he can find and build an audience. Even if most people find his antics distasteful, they only need enough to support a decent basic cable rating.

Stepping out of the spotlight at this point would be for the benefit of people who are sick of this story. It would not do anything for the Weiners. He can't embarrass himself any more than he already has. What would be the payoff? On the other hand, the American public has shown a penchant for rewarding dancing monkeys. If you're willing to put yourself out there and have no sense of shame, you too can be a star. It's the new American dream.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Is social media helping to keep the peace?

Before the verdict in the contentious George Zimmerman trial came down, officials were worried about potential backlash from those who disagreed with whatever the verdict would be. They didn't want to see a repeat of the Rodney King verdict riots. They ran a couple of really lame Internet spots urging people to speak out rather than resort to violence and vandalism. Although there were a few exceptions, the reaction was much more civil and restrained than might have been expected. Was that due to these Internet videos? I don't think so. I think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and the like deserve a lot of credit.

Why do people tip over cars, throw bricks through windows and/or set things on fire in protest? They're frustrated that they are unable to reach a significant audience to have their point of view heard. They feel like they are being ignored. It's a pretty sorry way to try to get exposure, but some feel like it's all they can do, so that's what they do.

Now, you have a new alternative. If you have access to the Internet, you can develop a ready audience of hundreds of people in fairly short order. If your point is well made, perhaps they'll even share your opinion with their audience. It's actually possible for an unknown, with no money or political influence, to reach millions, even tens of millions of people, from the comfort of their couch or the local library.  This is a new phenomenon in the history of mankind and I can only conclude that it's going to be a good thing.

Regardless of what you think about the Zimmerman case, people were able to share their thoughts, insights and emotions, not only after the trial, but during it. A national discussion actually took place instead of just a national knee-jerk reaction. In the past, we'd have been fed bits, pieces, highlights of information and then the only public response would have come from politicians, pundits, news anchors and protesters in the streets. This time, everyone who had an opinion or thought they wanted to share was able to do so.

This is no trivial development. Conversation on the Internet, among normal individuals without marketing managers, handlers and experts has already toppled governments and made or broken companies. The ability to manipulate the masses by restricting information flow is rapidly diminishing. This is good news politically, socially and economically. It doesn't mean we're all suddenly going to get on the same page, but it does mean we can all be working with much better quality information. Better input means better output. Viva la Internet!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

What's wrong with kids today? Are you kidding?

While watching the ORielly Factor tonight, I heard Bill and the panel discussing the plight of a teenage beauty queen who had to give up her crown because she had made a porn video months earlier. The discussion turned to how kids today have gotten to the point where they can't seem to recognize the potential consequences of bad decisions. Are you kidding?

We have made celebrity millionaires out of the Kardasians, The Real Housewives of Whatever, the Jersey Shore crowd. Honey Boo Boo's family makes more money in one episode than many people make in a decade. Politicians and their well connected friends make their fortunes in back room deals and lying to and manipulating the rest of the population. Do you think the kids don't see all this? The whole notion of personal responsibility has been demolished. Everyone is a victim of their circumstances and it doesn't take much imagination to spin any set of circumstances into an excuse.

How can kids or anyone else foresee the consequences of bad decisions when there don't seem to be any bad decisions? In reality there is still some reward in being a decent human being. That is that you get to walk around with the knowledge that you're a decent human being. Personally, I think spending our grandchildren's future earnings on Chinese wind turbines is a much more serious moral offense than making a porn video, but in any case, the kids are clearly not the problem. Many may work things out okay on their own. But the fact that they have to work it out on their own is our fault, not theirs.

Sequester madness

About 18 months ago, when Congress and the White House were not able to agree on a plan to deal with the budget deficit and the national debt, they gave themselves a deadline to come up with a plan, or automatic reductions in the proposed rate of increase of about 2% would kick in. The deadline is tomorrow, and no deal is in sight.

Keep in mind, this is not a 2% cut in spending. It's a 2% reduction in the proposed rate of increase in spending. Spending goes up in any case. In typical big government fashion, the first cuts being considered in what's been deemed "the sequester" are those that will cause the most pain and get the most attention. The politicians who make their living doling out increasing amounts of your money want to make sure you never consider hampering them again.

They're not proposing cutting out team building trips to Las Vegas, or Hawaii. They're not proposing eliminating studies of the behavior of fish or ketchup flows. They're not considering selling vacant buildings or unused land. We're still going to send fighter jets to the Muslim Brotherhood. Everyone in D.C. still gets a raise.

No, the cuts that have been promised are more along the lines of letting prisoners out of detention, laying off school teachers, not paving roads, laying off air traffic controllers, moth balling air craft carriers and more. You're going to be severely punished for your insolence. How dare you suggest the government curb spending!

If you ever had any doubts about the government's insatiable appetite for more money and more authority, just turn on the news. No matter how much they have, it's never enough. There is no cut or reduction in the increase that is not "draconian". When you have to give up 2% of your income, as every worker did this year when the "payroll tax holiday" expired, that's no big deal. Suck it up and pay. When government is asked not to increase their spending quite as much as they had planned, that's insanity.

The politician's behavior is not surprising to me. They're just doing what they've always done and will always do until the people say enough, and give them the boot. The more ominous thing is the reaction of the people. If you believe in the pollsters, most people are okay with this. They seem to think that turning over everything to central authority will make their lives better. Can you point to a single example in the history of the universe where that turned out to be the case?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Computer Universe

A couple years ago I posted a Thank You to Rich Terrell, a NASA scientist who espoused the view that the universe is really a virtual environment. I was happy that someone with some scientific credentials actually came to the same conclusions I did, using the same bits of evidence.

Thank You Rich Terrell

His two most compelling points are the existence of quantums (limits on how small things, energy and time can be) and the fact that humans aren't that far from being able to create a virutal universe. If we can do it, how hard can it be? Here's a bit of a post of mine on a different forum that adds another element.

"He makes a fairly compelling case for the universe being a computer like environment (although he loses me when he gets into the "our future selves" bit) I have a third bit of evidence. Empty space.

The notion of empty space has always baffled me. Space is measured in length, width, depth. But if there's nothing there, what are you measuring? Why would it take any time for a photon to travel from point A to point B if there is nothing between point A and point B? What would it be travelling through. It's like a balloon filled with nothing. It makes no sense. Yet, there it is.

However, in a virtual environment, you don't need to record the space. Space can be empty. Just as with a compressed audio file, you don't have to record the silence, just the dimensions of it. With the old vinyl format, you had to physically represent the silence.

This is the only way I can make sense of empty space. Either there is something there that we cannot detect for whatever reason, and it's not empty, or it is empty, which means it's virtual. It's just an instruction, telling particles or data how long to wait before appearing in the next pixel."