Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's crazy - Part 1

It's crazy

I guarantee that next week's headlines for every major media outlet will include a least a blip about the release of the IPAD3. 

We don't often hear about the latest model of refrigerator even if it uses half the energy of its predecessor.  Auto makers will drown you in commercials in a vain attempt to convince you of the relevance of their product but unless it blows up or spontaneously accelerates it will never make the news.

Let Apple release something, however, and it's a global event on par with the Olympics or unrest in the middle east. 

That's what's crazy.  The next installment of Apple mania has already started.  Technically oriented news sites wrote weeks of columns based on leaked photos of parts.  Traditional media outlets even gave the blurry photos a mention.  All over a tablet.

It's not much better with smartphones either.  Apple has a strong presence in this market but the Internet is lousy with reviews of Android based phones as well.  It seems all the technical innovation is focused on mobile devices.   Apparently we're always on the go and are individuals of such great importance that our every move must be reported.

The average consumer apparently needs all of this mobile convenience just to function.  They tell themselves that a day without a facebook update, a twitter feed or an updated Google plus stream is a tragedy.  Woe to the car rental company who rents a subcompact  whose radio doesn't have Pandora support or an input for an Iphone.

I've been called a troglodyte, the definition of which is:

a member of any of various peoples (as in antiquity) who lived or were reputed to live chiefly in caves

I embrace that characterization.  Why?  Because people who lived in caves didn't bother themselves with things unrelated to survival.  I'm all for convenience but with the advent of ever more powerful mobile devices we've managed to crowd our lives with unnecessary nonsense. 

The arguments are of course the level of communication previously impossible without the technology. Proponents will point to the Arab spring of 2011 and the vital role SMS played in reporting the unfolding events.  I can't argue the contribution but I also don't believe the outcome would have been any different without it. 

The world hasn't changed as much as we are led to believe.  We will still be as selfish or magnanimous as we care to be regardless of our little devices.  Technology doesn't change the world so much as it allows more people to know about it. 

Continued in Part 2

It's crazy - Part 2

I firmly believe that President Barack Obama was well aware of the goings on in Libya long before anyone snapped a picture on their Iphone or sent a text message.  It almost rises to a level of technological arrogance to believe otherwise.

I say arrogance because many consumers look down on those not so enthralled with the latest whatever.  In their mind, how could someone NOT be on Facebook or be willing to spend upwards of $500 on a device that is nothing more than an Internet portal. 
There's even argument as to what a computer is now.  Many pundits believe a smartphone is a computer because of its purported functionality.  If you don't do anything important on it I suppose it could be.  Of course that begs the question of what's important.  Watching movies, updating social media and playing games are largely recreational pursuits none of which fits the definition of productivity. 

Even when one chooses to use consumer devices for work they ultimately diminish themselves by being constantly available and ultimately surrendering their own privacy.  Civilization had no issue with advancing before these devices came along.  In fact it may be hindered because of them.

Small applets that provide everything from entertainment to convenience supposedly make the device rise to a status formerly reserved for their PC.  Look closer and you find that you're frequently working with only a subset of the same functionality saddled with less capable hardware.  It's another case of shiny objects and dulling minds.  Because it's convenient and cool it must somehow be superior even if the end product comes up short. 
So while we busily communicate with people we really don't know and make judgments based purely on superficial evidence I have to question the value.  It seems to me that all we've gained is a tremendous amount of busy work.  

Oh but the Internet is open and free with contributions spanning the spectrum of human expression.  Here's the thing, most of it is crap.  Volume doesn't equal value.  Like the old (flawed) contention about monkeys and typewriters the ultimate result is incoherent babble and monkey feces on the walls.
We're in this incessant upgrade cycle where we cajole and tease each other if we don't get the latest version of a device.  Why?  are we keeping up with the Jones'?  Perhaps.  Is it all a product of a slick marketing program? Possibly.  Or perhaps it's simpler than that.  Maybe once the novelty wears off and we realize that our new devices aren't much better than our old ones we become dissatisfied. 

So we anxiously await the next product cycle hoping we'll ultimately satisfy an insatiable desire for our devices to meet a need that doesn't really exist. 

I don't believe a tablet, smartphone or even a computer make the world any more connected.  We're just more aware of it on a superficial level.  It's not unlike the World of Warcraft guild member who's recent passing is observed by a gathering of other guild members in an area of the game. 

On the surface it seems an authentic expression of emotion but the reality is that the  mourning is more for the loss of the player than the person.  Outside of the game the circumstances of the human being have no value.  Not unlike the Facebook "friends" or all those SMS messages sent to people that most of the time we hardly know. 

No, it's a value question.  Does change for its own sake have any intrinsic value?  Only if you like circles.  Change without direction or meaning creates an unproductive feedback loop.  We have fooled ourselves into investing the precious commodities of time and attention on things that ultimately have dubious value.

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's a system!

Patrick Norton (of TechTV and Tekzilla fame) and I happen to share the dual afflictions of being both geek and gearhead and I've got the proof in my garage.  While many tech types I know wouldn't know a driveshaft from a driveway I've found the dual passion to be advantageous.
Over the holidays I celebrated an anniversary and it has nothing to do with matrimony or employment  although at times I've felt elements of both of those commitments.

I've owned a 1974 Chevrolet El Camino since December of 1991.  In that time, there's not a system on it that I haven't had to troubleshoot at one point or another.  You can't own a vehicle that long without spending at least  some time figuring out how things work.  Somewhere along the way I came to the realization that the deductive processes I've used to keep it running are really no different than working on an IT problem.  Both involve systems and it's generally the failure of one or more of those systems that causes you an issue.

When you consider that everything that is in any way animated relies on a system or sequence of events to function it isn't a stretch to see a correlation between technology and automotives.  Of course modern vehicles rely on electronics and purpose built computers for economy, reliability and performance but that's not quite the avenue I'm going down.

No I'm after something a bit more basic.  Let me give you a simplified example.

Let's say some sunny morning you go out to your garage, get in your car to go to work, turn the key and nothing happens, we also notice our dashboard gauges and radio aren't working either.  Aside from knowing you're going to be late for work it's obvious that something's gone very wrong.  Most people faced with this kind of event are going to call the auto club at this point but I'm not most people.

If I've got to call someone else to deal with my automotive problems I take it as a personal failure.  So for the sake of my example assume you're weird like me and try to fix it yourself.

Now, we know the car won't start.  So we know there's something going on with the starting system which means we need to figure out what it takes to turn the engine over in the first place.  Starting a car involves a basic set of components all of which must work together to get us to our goal which in this case is a running engine. 

The basics of starting system involve a battery, wires, a starting motor and your ignition.  In my example I said that we turned the key and nothing happened.  Knowing that nothing happens without voltage and amperage from the battery the first test I'd do is to see if our battery was putting out any voltage.  The quickest way to do that is to turn on the headlight switch and see if they come on.  If they don't or they're very dim then you've found the immediate problem, a dead battery or loose battery cable. 

We've narrowed down the problem by knowing how the system works and the function of each constituent part of it.  In my example we know that electricity is vital for the car to start and operate all the accessories like your radio and the ignition system(different from the starting system btw). 

The battery is a vital part of that system and if it's removed the system fails even though the other parts of it still operate correctly.

I know my example may be a bit oversimplified but it's only to illustrate a point.  That being that a dead battery in my example is the failing component causing the system to break down.

It's no different with computers and networking.  It's a system.  Let's give you another example.

Say I finally make it to work, apologize to my boss and go sit down in front of my computer.  I turn it on and I'm greeted with my login page.  I'm able to log in (yes IT guys, assume a cached login) and I see my desktop.  The problem is I can't get to any of my files that live on the network server I use every day.

Now I know it worked when I left work the day before so why doesn't it work now?

Apparently I'm having a really bad day, first the car now the computer...

Again being an IT guy calling in someone else to fix my problem is a point of personal failure. 

So we know I can't connect to my files on the network.  The first question I ask is can I connect to anything else.  So I open up my Internet browser and wait a moment.  All I get is a blank page that says something like "404 page not found".  Hmm, ok, looks like I may not be on the network. 

There's lots of technical troubleshooting that I'd do in this case but for the sake of simplicity let's say my next step in troubleshooting involves looking at the back of my computer to see if my network cable is connected.  Ha! It isn't.  Apparently my joker friends in IT decided I was going to have an even worse day than I was already having and pulled the cable out. 

I guess I should have known from the snickering when I came in the office.

I reconnect the cable and voila! I can get to my file and the Internet.

The troubleshooting process here was the same as the car. I knew there were constituent parts of a system that have to function if it's going to work correctly. In this case the disconnected wire prevented my computer from talking on the network.

It's not uncommon for me to fall back on my car analogies to solve IT problems and vice versa.  It helps me break down complex problems into their constituent parts.  That or I'm just weird....

Thursday, February 23, 2012

An open letter to Technorati

So Technorati recognizes my claim on this blog but apparently thinks it isn't a blog.  Instead of a rating or Technorati Auth I get this...

Feb 14, 2012. This site does not appear to be a blog or news site. Technorati does not support claiming of forums, product catalogs, and the like. You can review our site quality guidelines at

Read more: /http://technorati.com/blog-quality-guidelines-faq/

So I followed the link and did indeed

Which leads me to this open letter to Technorati.  Since I don't have any other means of appeal this will have to do...

Dear Technorati,

Right now, at this very moment, you are reading....A BLOG!  I'm not offering anything for sale, there are no catalog links or pictures and I'm not aggregating anything.  I'm nobody's portal.

This blog exists for the sole purpose of having a place to publish works that don't fit my IT of Gaming blogs.  I mean how many people really want to read about Barack Obama between articles about Battlefield 3.

Perhaps I've somehow confused your blog crawler or there's a biased set of eyes.  Either way there's nothing here that violates your TOS.  It's the same format hosted on the same blogspot account that my other blogs are.

The fact that it's difficult to contact you to address the issue didn't inspire confidence either. A generic  feedback form was the most I could do.

For myself and no doubt others suffering the same affliction please review your process.



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Everything in Moderation, Politics on the Brink

Article first published as Everything in Moderation, Politics on the Brink on Technorati.

American political coverage is best consumed raw and in small doses free of commercial influence.   I'm not a political junkie by any means so I choose my sources carefully.  Lately it's seems the arguments have degenerated into nothing more than skewed utopian fantasies packaged for traditional media sources.  That leads me to C-span for what I at least believe to be unfiltered political news and events.

The first bit of programming I encountered in my latest consumption was coverage of the Arizona Republican party's Lincoln day lunch and straw poll with guest of honor Rick Santorum, darling of the Tea Party conservatives.

 After his speech the local right wing heroes were paraded up one by one starting with the recently recalled Arizona State Senator, Russell Pearce.  Badly in need of a speechwriter, his poorly constructed message included sexual references and a joke about somebody's scrotum as well as the obligatory "yay for us" message.  No substance there.

He was followed by the equally infamous Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (currently under Federal investigation for criminal abuse of power) who spent most of his time at the podium playing the wounded victim of all those "nasty Democrats."  Not much of substance there either aside from his announcement that he's going to present his report on President Obama's birth certificate on March 1st. In the same breath he proclaimed how he didn't go looking for media attention.   Truly your tax dollars at work.

It's no wonder Arizona was the last territory to achieve statehood in the continental 48. 

Later on I watched part of a program on the Occupy Wall Street Strategy forum where a collection of progressive activists calling themselves the San Francisco 99 percent Coalition spoke of the current ills of capitalism and government in general. 

At a forum held at a San Francisco Unitarian church, guests included: Democrat Rocky Anderson,( Salt Lake City Mayor from 2000 to 2008), Dave Welsh (US Labor Against the War and the San Francisco Labor council), Margaret Flowers (Pres. Candidate and Occupy DC organizer) as well as Tom Gallagher (former Mass. state rep and Progressive Democrats of America . 

The meeting was moderated by Rose Aguilar of KALW Radio and was a veritable gallery of Left wing activists with representation ranging from Democrats to self-proclaimed Socialists.  There was no room for moderates with more than one participant accusing President Barack Obama of being a Republican.  Another audience member overtly suggested the end of capitalism in Toto. 

What was striking in both examples was the extreme viewpoints being offered as a moderate position.  Nothing short of complete capitulation to their ideology would satisfy either assembly.  Should these two groups ever occupy the same room I have no doubt that blood would spill.

It's almost amusing when you consider that both sides basically want the same thing.  Both seek to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.  Of course the most heated exchanges generally concern what constitutes a baby.

There was another program I watched between these two.  It was a discussion with Peter Orszag (Former director of the Office and Management and Budget under the Obama Administration) on the economy and reasons for its slow recovery.  Like any presentation on economics there were lots of charts and references to indicators of one sort or another.  There was one chart I found particularly interesting, however.  The chart showed a relationship between the decline of political moderates and the economy.  It seems there is a direct relationship between political ideology in Washington and the speed and strength of an economic recovery. 

With division in congress rising to a level on par with the first Continental Congress circa 1786, it appears that extreme ideology not only degenerates the discussion but the economy as well.  With the decline in political moderates and the polarization of the two dominant political parties it's no surprise that compromise comes only after brinkmanship. 

Ultimately it seems that extreme political views serve no productive purpose other than to foster political gridlock and sound bites for a depraved mass media.  In a country with a voracious appetite for reality shows that sensationalize conflict it's not surprising that political antagonism is so popular on the news.  Both political camps use ever escalating rhetoric to espouse radical views they can't reasonably hold.

 It's unlikely that extreme conservatives at the Lincoln day luncheon would choose to live in Hitler's Germany any more than progressives at the occupy wall street event would choose Soviet Russia.  In that light, extremism has no merit as "My way or the highway" rarely provides either outcome.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ye shall have a thick skin

"poorly researched article that looks like it was written by an 8th grader."

I guess I touched a nerve. But at least I was hitting the ideal grade point reading level!

That little gem was a response to an article I did on Technorati by an obvious fan of the TWIT network. That's OK  everyone's entitled to their opinion.  Even if it's wrong.

I replied to the comment and actually thanked the reader for it. Kill 'em with kindness or psychological warfare, you decide. At least I know something other than a twitter bot is reading my stuff. Outside of that I really don't care.

I still watch TWIT programming on a regular basis as I'm still of the opinion that it contains some of the best technical content available on any medium. It's also an excellent way to keep up with the pulse of technology trends and attitudes toward them. I won't let that stop me from giving an honest opinion though, even if 99% of the Internet disagrees.

Consider the source as my aunt used to say. When cat videos and angry birds are consistently in the Internet top 10 you have to wonder ...

For my part, I think I've written more than enough about TWIT and unless something major happens I think I'm done with it. I don't like to assault deceased equines.

No, I'm far more interested in the reaction I quoted at the start of this post.

People who post responses like the one above either instantly attack anything that hints at a negative opinion of their favorite whatever or didn't bother to read the article at all and just like to troll comment forums. As a rule I never respond from a knee-jerk reaction be it as author or reader.

Writing is easy unless you want someone to actually read it. So I appreciate the effort it takes to put together an article that passes the muster of seemingly merciless online editors. In that vein I try to be as thoughtful in my comments as the writer was in providing the content.

A courtesy my friend there was unable to extend.

One of the primary rules I follow when I'm assembling an article is to make sure I have something worth saying.

Ok, that sounds stupid but hear me out. There's no shortage of useless prose on the Internet and I don't want to add to it.

When I sit down and try to flesh out something the intent is to offer my own perspective on topics you may or may not be familiar with.

I've got no ego about these things either. I can point to at least 3 articles on Technorati that I've published in the past 6 months that I'd love to rip down and redo. I can't even look at them without cringing. To be honest I feel that way about most of the stuff I post. I'm my own worst critic. That's why drive-by comments like the one at the top of this page don't bother me.

I guess that's my best advice to anyone who writes anything for public consumption. If you believe in your message it'll stand up to criticism and you won't be reduced to tears when someone makes an unkind remark.


Financing Education, another mortgage crisis in the making?

Originally published on Technorati as Financing Education, Another Mortgage Crisis in the Making

Every once in awhile you see an article come up about Federal Student Loan programs and this week I saw two.

Reuters published an article a few days ago suggesting some fuzzy math by FinAid.org's Mark Kantrowitz concerning the nation's total student loan debt. It suggested that Kantrowitz may have overstated the number and was actually more like 610 to 800 Billion dollars. Not quite the 1 trillion dollar number being bandied about but historically large nonetheless.

On the political side Ron Paul (Republican candidate for president) in an interview on Sunday's (10/23/2011) Meet the Press on NBC said, "he'd kill the loan program eventually if he were president". His comments were framed in the context of higher education costs being inflated by government intervention.

While it's refreshing that the magnitude of the problem is coming to light, I've yet to see any real action to change it. Last year as part of President Obama's health care reform act, new student loans were going to be directly administered by the federal government. The goal was to eliminate the loan servicers who are in effect the middlemen of the student loan industry. Their function was to handle the administrative aspects of the Federal student loan programs adding fees and costs to the borrowers total indebtedness as well as to the Federal government.

While a welcome change, the legislation did virtually nothing for current loans. Student loan servicers haven't gone anywhere and as student debt grows it's a sure bet that a portion of that increase can be attributed directly to fees and gaming of the system by both schools and loan servicers.

The issue is that this isn't a fair game; in fact it's got worse odds than a Vegas slot machine. As I look at the overall condition of the economy it's not a stretch to believe that default on student loans is going to be the next financial bubble to collapse taking the government backed student loan program with it as well as the banks participating in it.

The Federal student loan programs were meant to give an opportunity to those who'd otherwise not have it. At its core it was meant to back education loans made by private banks with federal money virtually eliminating any risk of non-payment to the bank.

Let's make this point crystal clear. The bank that loaned you the money is at absolutely no risk of default from giving you a student loan. That's why you almost never had to produce a credit report or collateralize the loan. The Federal government in essence vouched for you.

Of course as it is with most government programs without adequate oversight things eventually went wrong. Private Schools and profiteering middlemen (loan servicers) have been able to game the system with increasing tuition rates and complex loan terms. Banks frequently bundle and sell student loans using the loan servicer as a kind of broker. In my own experience, my student loans have been serviced by two servicers and owned by at least 4 different banks since their origination.
Sound familiar? It should. It's not unlike the packaging and reselling of mortgages or the operation of the derivatives market.

The school's role in this has been to; increase tuition, raise the number of required "filler" classes unrelated to the degree program and in the most egregious cases direct their financial aid departments to promote programs more favorable to their relationship with preferred lenders.

It's easy to say "Caveat Emptor" but then how many of us really understand the terms of our loan agreements or their connection to the financial markets that have corrupted the process.

Once you're in the system you do have certain benefits from having a government backed student loan such as the ability to defer payments due to unemployment or disability. The down side is that you suffer the penalty of "capitalized interest" each time you need to defer a loan payment. Your entire balance is recalculated to encompass the unpaid interest into the principal. Over the life of a loan that can mean as much as an extra 10% to the original principal. Add in the standard 3% to 8% standard interest on the loan and you can quickly find yourself digging an ever deeper financial hole.

With more of us barely getting by, exercising options such as loan consolidation, payment deferment or both becomes more likely. Consolidation can lower payments but your term extends indefinitely. This makes it harder to pay down the principal since the amortization schedule becomes a moving target.

 Most consolidation and income sensitive repayment programs try to front load the loan so that only interest is being paid for most of the loan's life with principal payments only applied much further down the line.

This sounds familiar as well, it's not unlike like the interest only mortgages being written before 2008.

There's no end to the traps a borrower can fall into and I won't even get into the dire consequences of default on a student loan. While recent changes help new borrowers, something needs to be done for those already encumbered by a corrupt system.

I'd suggest that after 10 years of repayment history that no more interest can be charged and all payments go directly to the principle balance of the loan. I'd also outlaw capitalized interest as it's a hidden extra cost which is unjustifiable due to the simple fact that the lender still receives interest payments and has no risk. I understand fees to offset risk and that's fair. A government backed loan offers no risk which raises such fees and practices to the level of extortion.

Regardless of who's talking point it is, nothing real has been done for those truly affected. Until it is nothing being said has worth outside of today's 30 second sound bite

The Sin of Driving And Cheesburgers

Originally posted on Technorati as The Sin of Driving and Cheeseburgers.

I'm a criminal....

At least I would be if I were in California...

You see last night I was kind of rushed for time. Instead of taking an hour to get my dinner from a box that once lived in my cupboard I decided to hit Burger King on the way out to a client site.

Now I've done this before but I've learned which fast food fare I can wolf down without worrying about the distraction of actually eating it. For one thing, forget about anything from Carl's junior or anything that takes more than one hand to stuff into your face. I also make sure that should my selection decide to disassemble itself, it won't require me to take my eyes off the road.

I do most of my driving at night with light traffic. Stick me in a rush hour and you won't find anything more substantial than a pint of milk in my cup holder. After all we do have cup holders for a reason.
Yes, I too have suffered the distracted soccer mom with a phone growing out of her ear. I've tolerated the tone deaf teenager too distracted by the 1000's of decibels shaking the earth to notice that the traffic light has changed twice.

Distracted driving is a bad thing and you'll never convince me you can text and control an automobile any more than you can drive your car while standing on the roof. The question is, what constitutes a distraction. It seems the law isn't quite sure either.
While there's no law that explicitly cites driving while eating as a criminal offense ( or even a misdemeanor). Many state and municipal law enforcement officers are empowered to stop any driver for activity that the officer deems as distracting. In the case of California my trip through Burger King could cost me $1000.

This isn't the first time we've heard of enforcement of vaguely defined laws. In Arizona, for example, an officer can stop and cite you if he feels you were driving aggressively. Aggressively isn't well defined so anything from extended middle finger to ramming the car in front of you applies. Better keep that bird caged!

It seems that we see an ever increasing volume of laws designed to punish us for what we "might" do. Speed enforcement cameras, distracted driving laws and various statues aimed at limiting free speech fall into this category.

It may be 28 years late but Orwell's concept of "thoughtcrime" may be coming to pass after all. I'm sure the argument for the vagaries of such laws is that they'd be unenforceable otherwise. My response is simply that if you can't define the offense then there isn't one.
Here's a compromise. Those whose driving is distracted by other activities will be obvious. Other more well defined laws will no doubt be violated during the process. Pull them over for those offenses and if the behavior is egregious enough to merit it, then cite them for the distraction as a secondary offense.

The difference here is that we're punishing an actual offense, not the possibility of one. If we all were prosecuted for what we might do we'd all be in jail.

In the end there's no real motivation to have laws like this other than revenue when a citation for texting can cost you $145 while eating can cost you $1000. The argument of safer roads is a straw man meant to distract a fearful public from the real objective.

It's another example of cash starved governments preying on a population seemingly bent on abdicating personal responsibility. All for the sake of false security.

Yes, cheer as you roll by the well dressed man in the sparkling BMW who flipped off the driver of a subcompact who dared cut him off. Chuckle as he vainly tries to explain his plight to the officer busily scribbling in his ticket book but ask yourself what have you lost.

By the way, while you were watching the BMW guy....You were distracted....

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A softening of Santorum's image?

Originally published as A softening of Santorum's image? on Technorati

Over the weekend news broke of a dramatic turn in the health of Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum's 3 year old daughter Isabella.  The New York Times reports that  she was suffering with Pneumonia which is likely a complication of a genetic disorder she's suffered since birth called Trisomy 18. 

The condition results from extra copies of chromosome 18 during embryonic development.  This causes a multitude of health issues including birth defects and serious life threatening medical conditions. 

Santorum has continued with his campaign Monday afternoon after his daughter recovered from the bout with pneumonia giving an address in Missouri with other events planned through Tuesday.

According to reports, Santorum's daughter has been a centerpiece of his campaign and when asked why he'd run with a daughter in such a precarious condition his response was his belief that the Obama health care plan was  "a threat to those like Bella, “on the margins of life.”

The story has been picked up by most news outlets with a piece by the Headline News Network discussing Isabella Santorum's tribulations over the weekend with accompanying soft focus still photos of the candidate with his daughter and light discussion of Trisomy 18 afterward.

As one of the more hard line conservative candidates seeking the 2012 Republican nomination Santorum's views have been seen as radical by some with quotes such as the following from early January;

Or in an April 2003 Associated Press interview on his beliefs on the right to privacy.

"And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold — Griswold was the contraceptive case — and abortion. And now we're just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you — this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family."

205747_ $25 off orders of $100 or moreSantorum's recent showing among Republicans has been poor with the attention focusing largely on his rivals Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Whether he's seen as too radical or just ill-spoken it's unlikely the Santorum campaign can sway enough support for the nomination.  That begs the question of why he would continue on especially when his daughter's condition has been so precarious. 

Santorum has been quoted as saying a primary reason for his campaign is his daughter yet his political positions extend beyond her birth.  As the family values candidate Santorum has been quoted as saying that nothing was more important than the family.  Which makes it somewhat confusing that faced with a less than successful presidential campaign he would choose to return to it so quickly after his daughter's recent bout with illness.

With his daughter at the centerpiece of his campaign these actions seem out of step with his position.  No supporter would hold it against him if he withdrew to attend to family issues.  Still this most recent turn of events will cloud,  if at least temporarily, more radical aspects of his career.  There's no denying the effect even if the observation borders on the tasteless to some.

Soft focus press photos aside it would seem that his daughter's illness may have brought a softer focus to his campaign with extreme positions forgotten at least for now.    

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State of the Union 2012 (Updated)

Funny how a year later almost nothing has changed...
Item's in parentheses are updated information.

Originally published on Technorati as State of the Union 2012.

At least nobody shouted "You Lie!" during the speech.  
Still, it wasn't difficult to distinguish party affiliation during the hour long oratory.  Most Republican's remained seated for most of it with politely folded hands and a 10000 yard stare.

With at least a cursory level of decorum on display in the House chambers last night we witnessed the 2012 edition of the State of The Union with President Barack Obama presiding.

The economy took precedence as the primary focus of the speech with new tax incentives for companies that create jobs domestically while removing them from those that create them elsewhere.    A new investigative unit called the Trade Enforcement Unit is charged with investigating unfair trade practices and monitoring the flow of counterfeit  and unsafe products into the U.S.

Free trade agreements between the U.S. and South Korea, Colombia and Panama were also touted as helping to increase trade and move American products into foreign markets.
(During the election these agreements that had bipartisan support in both houses were used as political barbs by the Republican party)

The president also encouraged private/public partnerships to retrain unemployed workers for technical jobs that otherwise remain unfilled.  He went on to cite the example of a single mother displaced from her job as a mechanic in North Carolina.

" Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic. Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College. The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training. It paid Jackie’s tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant."
(This initiative has gone nowhere sacrificed on the altar of the year's budget wrangling)

The cost of higher education was also addressed with an admonition to post secondary institutions to keep tuition costs down or risk the loss of public funding. 
(A great idea but a toothless mandate although new Federal student loans are no longer administered by private servicers.  Pre-existing loans have seen little to no change)

There was also mention of the need to address immigration issues regarding foreign born students studying in the U.S. who are deported because of their technically illegal status.  The President used this as an example to highlight the need for immigration reform.  From the Speech,

 " The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now. But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan (It did) , let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country"

291912_Nexus 7 Tablet. We Sell That, TooThe President also encouraged support for small businesses by allowing easier access to financing and tax incentives for providing better wages and job creation.  He went on to propose the elimination of unnecessary and cumbersome Federal regulations exemplified by the example of dairy farmer's requirement to comply with federal regulations regarding cleanup after a milk spillage because milk was classified as an oil. 

He went on to mention the need for investment in renewable energy and cited support of domestic exploration of energy resources.
(So long as oil, coal or natural gas is considered renewable, there isn't a problem for conservative lawmakers.  Public investment has been largely blocked by congressional deadlock)

The President also called for investigation of risky and abusive behavior of those in the financial industry by  a new Financial Crimes Unit under the supervision of the Attorney General of The U.S.
(Apart from heated questioning of mortgage bankers during Senate hearings, this too was largely a toothless mandate)

In his speech he highlighted the need for cooperation across party lines concerning budgetary and tax fairness issues.  The President also proposed a ban on insider trading for members of congress to curtail the influence of business lobbyists on politicians. 
("Fairness" is apparently an ambiguous term even a year later)

The measure would prevent members of congress from owning stocks in companies that they have a direct influence over or from.
(This did get through congress)

Recognition of the Military's success in eliminating Osama Bin Laden  was mentioned when the President said,

 "For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country."
(Even conservatives had to admit this fact but the political machine did its best to bury it)

The President also stressed  the need to support returning Veterans with funding for the VA and tax incentives to employers who hire veterans returning from service.
(Current budget negotiations still have VA funding on the chopping block.  A number of private funding organizations have sprang up to try to fill the gap)

As with any State of the Union we've come to expect a high level of political ideology and a wish list of associated ideals from the Executive branch.  Regardless of the motivations that craft the annual Presidential address it's understood that most of the admonitions will not come to pass. 

146032_Stylin' Trucks Brand Logo 120x60The Republican response to the speech from Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, for example,  was either diametrically opposed to the majority of the content or focused on election year political rhetoric.   A notable quote from the governor, "  he cannot claim that the last three years have made things anything but worse:"
(Neither can you you governor)

For the previous 4 decades the ideologies of both political parties have prevented true bi-partisanship. The result had been either congressional deadlock or biased legislation in favor of the ideals of the party in power.  

Unfortunately we are a nation of strong ideologies with political parties locked in a battle between the 20th century's New Deal and the 19th Century's industrial expansion.  Both have their merits and deficiencies but neither  is compatible with the other.  Unfortunately, more often than not this makes for an environment hostile to compromise that no well crafted oratory can overcome.

If the State of the Union serves no other purpose it at least exemplifies the constituent components  of the ideologies that prevent progress. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Piling On

I recently received a link to a story on the Gawker site concerning Leo Laporte shortly after posting my articles in the "Beware your Heroes" series.  Apparently I've misled some readers concerning my intentions so I'll outline them here.

In those articles I detailed my own personal beliefs gathered from my own personal experiences and observations of the TWIT network and Leo Laporte's professional role in it.  Any conclusions drawn stay within that context.  

Let me make this absolutely clear. 

My posts weren't intended to exact a pound of flesh for some perceived wrong.  I make no claim to being a journalist but for the sake of my own integrity I would not engage in yellow journalism.

I have no interest in sensationalism or character assassination even though my observations in the series may seem harsh.  It was by no means a joyful task but it was one I felt was necessary to shine light on what I perceive to be very real concerns for TWIT.  It serves no other purpose.

I will not entertain any topic outside of that context.  

I appreciate the interest in my blog but know that I do not intend to turn it into an Internet tabloid.  If you've come upon this blog hoping to find the latest dirt on your favorite Internet celebrity I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.

With that I consider the matter closed.