January 31, 2008

Political Chess…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 4:22 pm

I am bothered by what I heard on the radio this morning. In essence what they said was, and they did not say these words, you are reading my extrapolation, however it is not much of a leap, “a primary vote for Clinton is a general election vote for McCain”.

There are some assumptions here, like assuming McCain will defeat Romney, but you get the idea. In a nut shell, if Clinton wins the primary, the religious right will pour out to the polls to vote, making her all but unelectable. For whatever confluence of reasons, Obama does not inspire the ire of the evangelicals like Hillary does, so he is not going to cause the same problem.

What this means, if I accept the reasoning, is that if I want to see a Democrat in the White House, I have only one choice at caucus. I have to select Obama.

I work for the Idaho State Legislature, and as such am required to be non-partisan in my politics. Therefore I cannot even say which party my candidate belongs to, however I can say who I am not voting for (provided I do not say *everyone* I’m not voting for), so it is safe for me to say I am not currently for Clinton (I wasn’t going to vote for Guiliani either). However, I am upset at the notion that if she were my choice, I might not have a reasonable expectation of seeing her elected.

I guess that is the way the system works. You have to start lining up your choices by what can work rather than what you really might want, and you have to do it months before you actually decide what your choices are.

Good luck, everyone!!!

January 30, 2008

Google.org (yes, dot org)

Filed under: A life worth living,Observations — sbj @ 7:11 pm

So here’s a little scoop you may not be hip to, google.org.  What’s so special about the .org?  Here is their definition of what they are about:

Google.org aspires to use the power of information and technology to address the global challenges of our age: climate change, poverty and emerging disease. In collaboration with experienced partners working in each of these fields, we will invest our resources and tap the strengths of Google’s employees and global operations to advance five major initiatives.

What is particularly interesting to me, is that .org is not a seperate legal entity, nor a non-profit. 

Go ahead, boo, you know you want to. 

I know at first it sounds bad.  However, upon closer inspection it may be good.  It enables Google to earn money from its investments (for example a large investment in esolar, a company specializing in solar thermal power, i.e. renewable green power), money that is reinvested in its .org program, resulting in less need to find money via donations to start initiatives and also more money for lobbying in congress for worthwile causes.  You read that right, a large company lobbying in DC for positive changes in the world.  Kinda cool, huh?

Google donates (or transfers, since its a division of the same company) 1% of its stock and 1% of its profits to .org, which now has a warchest of over $2 billion.  That is a lot of solar panels!!

I’ll be tracking this to see if it turns out to be as cool as I think it might be, but until then, I’m willing to judge the book by its cover and say good job Google, you get it!

January 29, 2008

The Davos Question…

Filed under: A life worth living,Observations — sbj @ 8:11 pm

What one thing do you think that countries, companies or individuals must do to make the world a better place in 2008?

There are several easy answers to this question. For example there is this YouTube clip. Which I personally think is a brilliant response (especially from a world leader).

On the more satirical side (you know me) there is this image I plucked from the Onion, which I think sends a poignant message, about ignorance, over commercialization, and taking advantage of those less fortunate.

Somewhere on our planet, a person dies from a water born illness every 20 seconds. India is particularly effected by water issues, and yet instead of pumping money (or water???) into impoverished communities in that country, we are building call center after call center in the larger cities; in order to increase the profit margins of western based companies. More profit’s means better bottled water, amongst other things… imagine the horror of drinking tap water so that harvested water could be shipped to places on the globe that are in need.

Am I bitter? Perhaps a little. Lets move on.

Pick your region of the world, and you will find poverty, homelessness, poor general health and chemical dependencies. This is true of the richest cities of the United States and in the poorest villages in deepest recesses of Africa, Southeast Asia, etc. And yet, billions of dollars are spent trying to mold, militarily, the mind set and political paradigms of nations around the world. Somehow a political ideology is more important than the welfare of the people living within it? I don’t get it.

The Gloden Rule has been watered down (“pun” intended) over the years from “Do unto other as you would have them do unto you” to something frequently more resembling “do unto other before they do unto you”. That of course is a worst case scenario, but the bottom line is that, even in the hands of well meaning people, the phrase has often lost its true meaning. For example, just because you want a tax deduction, does not mean that giving one to someone else is following the golden rule. The phrase should read (for the populace of remedial readers out there, who are unable to distinguish the intent from the letter of language) “do unto others as they would like done unto them”. People (including myself) need to stop thinking that just because one solution works for them, it will be the right answer for everyone else as well.

A friend of mine once told me that he would never take marital advice from a person who had been through a divorce. He felt that a person should not offer advice in something in which they had failed. While I do not agree with this statement in the context in which it was stated. I do think there is something to be said for leading by example, or (since I’m into cliches toda) “Cleaning up your own back yard, before you worry about your neighbors”. The United States is busy promoting the virtues of freedom and democracy all over the world. However, at the same time, many of the worlds nations look at the United States as a failed experiment. Far too many of its citizens are impoverished, without work and without basic health care for these nations to take the US seriously as an international roll model.

So where does this leave us, with respect to an answer? What can countries, companies and individuals, world wide do to improve our planet in 2008?

I would suggest people start looking closely at themselves. Are you a positive roll model and activist for the change you want to see in the world? Write down the five most significant changes you would like to see in the world, then, on the same sheet of paper (or computer document) write down what you are doing about it. If the answer is not more significant than “talking about it” (i.e. in most cases ‘complaining about it”) then you need to change your approach. Work toward having substantive measurable answers to what you are doing to improve each of your issues.  Do all of this with an eye inward and be sure your credibility is intact before extending your goodwill to a neighbor.

A world of countries, companies, and people who are personally accountable to the issues they find to be most in need of repair would have no option but to improve upon itself.

Now, I’ve got some work to do, starting with making a little list…

(and maybe I’ll catch that vid one more time)

January 28, 2008

McCall pics

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 5:40 pm

Pics from winter carnival in McCall… http://www.puntiglio.com/mccall-pics.html

January 24, 2008

War, good god, what is it good for???

Filed under: Observations,mlk — sbj @ 7:56 pm

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood

Obviously, as the world makes technological strides, the military does as well. The world is smaller, the range and accuracy of our weapons is greater, and the detachment from the results of using those weapons is increased as well. As enhanced military capabilities change the nature of military conflict the question must be asked, is the concept of war itself obsolete (mind you, I’m not pondering if it is right or wrong, just if it is obsolete)? It is no longer a test of who is best on the battle field, but rather who is more capable of destroying every living thing on the battle field the fastest and from the safest location. As weapons develop, the scope of “the battlefield” grows. From the relatively small empty plains of the Roman warrior to the inferno of Dresden and the apocalypse of Hiroshima and Nagasaki… we’ve come a long way baby. The question is, what’s next?

I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.”

When I look at the conflict in Iraq (and Afghanistan, I have not, as many have done, forgotten about that little skirmish), I find myself wondering how long we can continue to wage a war who’s legs were knocked out from under it years ago. I find myself wondering what reparations we will have to pay and who will enforce them (none and noone in my opinion), for launching a war under false pretenses and continuing it, for what purposes I’m not sure.

I am convinced that it is one of the most unjust wars that has ever been fought in the history of the world. Our involvement in the war … has torn up the Geneva Accord. It has strengthened the military-industrial complex; it has strengthened the forces of reaction in our nation.

During the Vietnam war, there was a staggering statistic I read, that stated that we spent around $500,000 per Vietnamese soldier we killed. During the same time span we spend an average of 53 cents per year on impoverished people in our own country. Half a million to kill other people, less than 53 cents a year to help our own. This is the democracy and freedom we are warring all over the globe to protect?  Further, can you imagine what the disparity between those same numbers would be now, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Not only that, it has put us in a position of appearing to the world as an arrogant nation. And here we are ten thousand miles away from home fighting for the so-called freedom of … people when we have not even put our own house in order.

I am not without hope for this nation, nor this world. I still believe that we have, in concept, the best foundation for a successful society. It needs some tweaks, and some legitimate implementation, but overall, it is, in my opinion, the way things should be. I do not believe we have gone beyond the point of no return, but we must address how we conduct our business as a leading nation (from an power and economic standpoint) in the world.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace … and for justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

* Thank you Dr King for the quotes and the insight.  They were all from the mid to late 60′s, of course, but are all applicable today.

January 22, 2008

The new generation…

Filed under: Just life — sbj @ 9:12 pm

This morning I was handing out 9th grade class schedules at my local Jr High (yeah, I like to volunteer for things, get over it).  I reached into a stack and miraculously grabbed the schedule of the next student that walked up, complete coincidence.  So I made the crack, “even a broken clock is right twice a day”.  The look of bewilderment in the face of the student was amazing.  She then admitted that she didn’t understand, if the clock was broken, there wouldn’t be any numbers on it at all, how could it be right.  It appeared that the idea of a non-digital clock never entered her conciousness.  Its a new world, friends…

January 20, 2008

Old MySpace blog I was asked to post here…

Filed under: Just life,Observations — sbj @ 11:43 pm

 Unsolicited dating advice…


This is from something else, something far more private and personal, and it has been changed a bit for public consumption. There may be a bit of “life experience” in here that another man can benefit from. I wish I had this insight about 8 years ago, my life would be much different now:

Not too long ago, I was returning from a conference in New Orleans. A few rows in front of us there was a couple. Clearly they had not been together that long, however they were, at the same time, quite “established”. Right in the “zone” between bliss and when the honeymoon starts to come to an end. She was still demonstratively in love with him, he was in love with her… but very “guy like” and distant about it.

As they began to gather their belongings and prepared to disembark there were several times when their faces came close together. Each time, she sensed it and availed herself to him for a kiss. She did not approach him, she simply made herself available. While they were waiting to get out, she put her cheek on his shoulder and rested it there. Emotion and love were pouring out of her toward him. He was focused on the business of getting off the plane. Every time their faces came close and she would anticipate his kiss, my head screamed “Kiss the girl, Kiss the girl!!!! You have no idea what you stand to lose!!!!” (This would have been a great time for the little mermaid sound track to start playing!!!).

There is nothing in the world as powerful as the fountain of love that comes from a woman toward the man she adores, and there is nothing as stupid and entitled as most of the men receiving that love. If you are fortunate enough to have a good woman that loves you… be smart… kiss the girl!

Contrary to popular belief (amongst men), it is not unmanly to show affection to the woman you love. It is appropriate to reciprocate love… or even, dare I say, initiate it!!! It will mean the world to her, and, as luck would have it, turns out to be enjoyable for you as well. When you get the chance… kiss the girl!!!!

He didn’t do it… that’s too bad. As for me, I never intend to miss another chance… whenever I can… I will kiss the girl!!!!

MLK(ish) blog…

Filed under: A life worth living,Observations,mlk — sbj @ 11:33 pm

I am disappointed today.

As I read over MLK’s I have a Dream speech, I realize, that while I know things have gotten better, and I also know things are not what they should be, I do not really know the status of the African American today. I realize that while I preach and pontificate what I consider to be a mandate; treating all people equally, regardless of the color of their skin, religious denomination, gender, sexual preference, etc. I do not really know how far this country and this world have progressed in this journey. For that, I am disappointed.

I had intended to copy the I Have a Dream speech into my blog, then intersperse within it “progress reports” on how we are doing, 45 years later. However, I am unable to do so. I am ignorant of the detailed knowledge I would need in order to do so responsibly. For that I am disappointed.

I am confident that this country is far closer to a “land of the free’ than it was 45 years ago, and continues to move in that direction. What I do not know is whether we have picked up the pace or slowed down the wheels of progress during my adult life. I also question whether this country has taken its “issue” and simply transferred it to another target, outside of our borders. In other words, have we really made any progress, or simply changed those that we oppress? I do not have those answers either, and for that… I am disappointed.

I should know these things, I once did. I once had my fingers on the pulse of bigotry as well as the pulse of human rights. I was once intimate with both oppression and tolerance. These concepts are all acquaintances to me now, the intimacy is gone. I move though my life with a purpose, but it is a narrow and focused purpose. I have a business to run (and with any luck to sell), I have a job to maintain, I have children to raise, and the list goes on. Where I once worked for a cause (or at least to understand a cause) I now just work. For that, I am disappointed.

I still give my little stump speeches on negative stereotypes et. al. to anyone who will listen, but, increasingly, I am preaching from an outdated book. I know this, but I have not done much to update my text. For that, I am disappointed.

When I was a very young boy (probably around second or third grade), my mother told me the story of Ishi. Ishi was what we today would call am American Indian, or a Native American, depending on your level of political correctness. He was significant, because he is believed to be the last Native American to live outside “Western” civilization in California and because he was the last living member of his tribe. Ishi was not his real name, noone knows his real name, because it was taboo in his tribe to say ones own name. As such, he took it to the grave with him. I took that story and ran with it, making Native American rights my cause celeb until I was about 17 years old. Today, I do not remember the name of Ishi’s tribe, and other than water agreements that come through the state legislature (where I work) I am oblivious to what is going on in the world of Native Americans. For that, I am disappointed.

It has been said that social advocacy is a job for the young, the invested, and the soon to be committed. .Meaning, as life goes on, life takes over your time and attention. Sadly, I can see where this phrase come from in my own life. However, I have two children. Fantastic children with brilliant heads on their shoulders. Perhaps next time we are sitting around the living room, I will tell them the story of Ishi, and talk with them about the changes I have seen in the world. I will tell them of Dr King and his speech and maybe together we can forge our own dream. A dream they can track as fervently as I did mine. With any luck, they’ll do so at least long enough to inspire their own children to do the same. Leaving the world a better place than they found it. For that, I am hopeful.

January 18, 2008

The price of gas…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 2:44 am

Tonight, on NPR they did a digital postcard (or some such thing) with a bunch of random quotes from people on the street about the price of gas. To use one of the quotes to summarize most of the responses “its outrageous”. Listener after listener talked about big oil making record profits, and “them” making so much money. I’m not sure if the more ambiguous “them”s were big oil, the oil producing countries, or someone else… probably all of them. However, the comment really struck a chord with me was (roughly) this “I don’t know why they keep raising prices and expecting us to continue to pay it.”

Well, if I may be so bold to answer, in a sentence… the price of gas is what it is, BECAUSE YOU KEEP PAYING IT.

If you want to pay less for gas, use less gas. In the short run, you will pay less money based on volume. In the long term, assuming you are not the only one who uses less gas, you will save money because the price will have to come back to the point where consumers will buy it.

We live (and many of you are pretty proud of this) in a capitalist nation. Supply and demand, ever heard of it? Do I want to pay $4.00/gallon of gas? No, I don’t even want to pay $2.00/gallon of gas. So guess what, whenever I can, I ride my bike to work.

This is no different than the “outrage” about what athletes get paid versus what teachers get paid. In my opinion, as long as you are supporting the athletes wages by watching your team, buying team merchandise, buying sports magazines, etc., you are part of the problem not the solution. If you cannot find the time to attend a PTA meeting, or go volunteer at your school, not to mention voting for a tax increase to pay for those teacher salaries you think are so important, you are part of the problem, not the solution.

The great part of the gas situation is there is a win-win scenario there. For much of what people drive their cars to do, there is a local, walking distance option. Shop local, walk to the store and other places. Don’t go for a Sunday drive, go for a walk. You will not only save money on gas, you could add years to your life. At the very least you will be in better shape than you are in now.

The reality, folks, is that oil companies don’t set gas prices, we do, every time we pull up to the pump.

If you want to change what you are charged for a gallon of gas, do something about it.

January 9, 2008

If only the goose/gander thing were true…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 8:23 pm

This article appeared in yahoo sports today. In the piece, a (female) Golf Chanel announcer said that other golfers should “lynch Tiger Woods”.

First of all, I could not agree more with the premise that this kind of statement, even in jest is unacceptable. I no more advocate support of Ms Tilghman than I did of Mr Imus, or others who have, through their words or actions, furthered the cause of bigotry by perpetuating negative stereotypes.

Having said that, until women are not constantly evaluated by their sex and appeal, I really think people should take a look at the bigger issue and clean up their own back yards if they are going to comment on those of their neighbors. See comments #7, #9 and #10 at the end of the article, for examples. I have not looked at the other 12,266 comments present when I posted this one, but I imagine the ratio of sexist comments does not change much.

I do not understand why it is okay for one group to be openly bigoted while others are persecuted for anything they do. How many times in various message boards across the internet have you see that a team was “raped” in a trade? Somehow that is okay, knowing what kind of effect being raped has on the victims, but saying someone should be lynched (in the same light-hearted non-literal context) should result in someone being fired immediately? How many baseball players have “pet” names given by their “fans” that change the gender of their names (Changing Ramon to Ramona, or simply calling them “a skirt”, for example) in order to indicate that they are inferior by way of not being manly enough. How can a person use an entire gender (or race) as a stereotype and then get upset when someone does the same thing to one of your heros.

Pot, meet Kettle, Kettle, this is Pot.

PS – Yes, there is a big difference when a white male does it. We (I am a white male) are the majority. We have all of the advantages. All of the negative stereotypes that exist are in our favor, and perpetuating them is perpetuating our role as leaders of our little world. So, it is not the same when I do it. If a black man wants to call another black man his “nigga”, that is his business. If a woman wants to call another woman her “bitch”, that is her business. I’m not saying I encourage it, or even that it is a good idea. However, if I elect to do the same thing, I effect everyone, because I am reinforcing our unspoken caste system… in my favor.

PPS – This just in :)

January 4, 2008

Movie Review – The Great Debaters

Filed under: A life worth living,Movie Reviews — sbj @ 9:02 pm

This movie is, of course a formula movie based on real life. Think To Sir With Love meets Rudy, or some such mix. On one hand you have a great story of an instructor really reaching his students, on the other you have the pursuit of competitive excellence. All based, somewhat loosely, on a true story (the “big” debate was not, in real life, against Harvard, it was against USC… but somehow that just does not have the same ring to it).

Denzel does a typically good job as the debate coach. Having watched both recently, he is certainly better suited for roles like that in American Gangster (review coming soon) than this one. But with the added “twist” of the labor dispute he got to show off his chops in more than one way.

Really, all of the casting was good and the performances are strong throughout. Some of the debating was very moving (even if there was a little too much emotional appeal than would stand in a normal debate).

I took my 12 (13 in 6 days) son to see this, as I do all movies I think he can learn lessons from (this was a good year for them, Amazing Grace and The Perfect Gift come quickly to mind), and he got several good points from the movie. Mostly regarding the ugly face of bigotry and admirable quality of perseverance.

I highly recommend this movie, especially if you have children (over a certain age as the racism and some of the more graphic scenes are not appropriate for young viewers).

A solid 5 out of 6… go see it!!!

Post Christmas…

Filed under: Just life — sbj @ 8:51 pm

What a ride!!!  I have been absolutely inundated at work and at home since Christmas, but I think I am back now.  In the next few days look for a few movie reviews (The Debaters was fantastic, National Treasure, eh), more “good” news and, well, just more.

Happy New Years everyone!!!

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