Category Archives: Politics

The pot calling the kettle crazy

So, I was reading the latest gem over at JMG, which is about this insanity, and figured that I had to point this bit out:

…whines about imaginary victims, rages against imaginary villains and seeks above all else to run the lives of persons competent to run their own lives…

Fundamentalists, be they Christian, Muslim or whatever other religion, are the one’s who have, throughout history, believed in righteousness of their God, who, I would point out, is the Ultimate Imaginary Friend. Religious wars are fought on the basis that one groups UIF is better than the others’.

Fundamentalists, be they Christian, Muslim or whatever other religion, are conservative, yet they constantly whine about their god, their beliefs, their “moral fiber”, and rage against marriage equality, the gay agenda, activist judges, and many other “liberal” causes, and seek to enforce their own way of living on everyone else.

Yes, people who think and act along the lines of the quote are truly insane. I think more of them spend several hours a week preaching about their UIF than spend time fighting for basic human rights.

Nicely done, Hillary

So, Hillary responds to the announcement that clippy Ralph Nader will fuck up your homework run for President again. Could someone just take him out to the woodshed and clear up his thinking?

Anyway, the press, being the fantastic people that they are, told the candidates what had happened to get their reactions. And while none of them are surprising, Hillary did an amazingly clean dismissal of Ralph, with the following (from the New York Times):

She added, “I didn’t know that he had said that this morning. Obviously it’s not helpful to whoever our Democratic nominee is. But it’s a free country and I don’t know what party he’ll run on. What did he run on last time, does anybody remember?

The Green Party, a reporter replied.

“Well, you know his being on the Green Party prevented Al Gore from being the greenest president we’ve ever had,” Mrs. Clinton said. “And I think that’s really unfortunate.”

Without being insulting, or evil, or even really catty, she showed exactly how everyone should feel about this twat.

Leaks of Other News

Wow, talk about an Activist Judge. I don’t know all the details, but I got the basics. And now, I have them to share with you.

Wikileaks.org was set up to expose the wrongs of the world that fools have documented. This would be the Web2.0 version of the parking garage where Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein met with the mysterious-yet-hilariously-named Deep Throat. A repository of some of the shittiest things orchestrated by groups of humans that have caused real harm to many other humans.

And how effective is Wikileaks? I’m guessing you’re wondering that because, well, I’d never heard of it before today, either. Hat tip to The World’s Toughest Programmer, Mike.

Well, apparently the site is so good they’ve pissed off China. And several other questionable regimes. Which is all well and good, because governments deserve that sort of headache.

But Wikileaks didn’t stop there. Hell no. They go after everyone who exhibits snake-like behavior. Including a bank in the Cayman Islands. And in going after the oppressive and corrupt, Wikileaks has become the ultimate expression of Freedom of the Press, which is, you might recall, one of our primary rights here in the United States.

Ah, but never let it be said that bankers aren’t clever bastards, since they managed to buy a federal judge in California. How else do you explain that Judge White signed the order, drafted by the Cayman Islands bank’s lawyers without a single amendment? Judge White is a Bush appointee, so it’s certainly conceivable that he suffers from a whiff of douchedom, but Vice President Cheney wouldn’t even pull this stunt, and that man would kill a puppy for a quarter.

Wikileaks have basically registered under every top-level domain, so you can go to, say, wikilinks.cx. If heavy hands are going to try to use our nameservers against us, we should publish their IP address as well: http://88.80.13.160. They have also promised to step up publication of any and all leaks that pertain to the banking industry, which should very quickly ruin several bastard’s days.

I’m dismayed that this Judge didn’t toss the bank’s lawyer out on his ass. I’m disgusted that this Judge even entertained the idea for a second. And I’m absolutely livid that he signed the order. This guy shouldn’t be allowed an opinion on strawberry jam, let alone a core Constitutional Issue such as this.

Winnings And Losers

Ok, so the Montana Democrats had a contest. I, along with another creative gentleman, won. We each got $50.00, which is a nice round of drinks that I fully intend to have tonight. And while bragging about winning is always fun, there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

You see, not only does my mother work for the illustrious “Brad’s Johnson“, she’s the head of the Lewis & Clark County Republicans. Did I mention I’m gay? Oh, but wait, there’s more.

Know how I found out I won? Mom got asked in the office if she knew I’d won by someone who’d been contacted by someone else who apparently had read the press release that went out from the Montana Democratic Party on Friday of last week. For the record, she didn’t even know I entered. My guess is that someone from the press called to get a quote from Brad’s Johnson about the contest because it’s a slow news week, Apple having announced the new iPods last week. Even better, the MDP hadn’t even managed to get their site updated as the press release about this contest was the last official duty of their outgoing communications director.

The press release followed by the request for comment to the reporter becomes even funnier because, let’s be real, Brad’s Johnson (nor any other part) wasn’t in the office, which is his normal routine. He might have the title of secretary of state, but he’s never in that office.

Alas, it seems he’s pissed at me. (HA! Brad’s Johnson is pissed! Get it? HA!) He might be pissed:

Whatever the reason, he’s pissed. I don’t care. Frankly, the people of Montana are pissed at him for the poor job he’s done and incredible lack of ability he’s displayed. So let him be pissed at me for my wit. That’s fair, fine and dandy.

However, there are some rumblings that life at work for my mom is going to be rough. And I have a few thoughts on that: I doubt it would come down to such childish behavior, but it might. I know the reason our society is as great as it is, can weather the storms of stupidity that periodically race through our history, and will get through the current debacles that abound, is because we have the freedom to speak our mind. Anyone who thinks that towing the party line is more important than exercising our rights has more in common with Putin than our Founding Fathers. I’m sure everyone would hate to find out that our state government was riddled with that crap, but I don’t know that anyone would be shocked, if only because people tend to already be pessimistic about government.

Anyone who has met me knows that I’m going to speak my mind, no matter what. Client meetings where I’ve been asked “What can you make with vinyl?” have elicited “Ass-less chaps for Pride.” from me with nary a blink or a pause. I have worn a shirt that says “No. Dude. Seriously. Fuck You.” to client meetings, lunches with business people, a school and a church. Freedom of speech is important to me, and I invite anyone who sees that shirt or hears my words to debate me on it. Yes, I’m on the edge, but that leaves more room at the middle for others.

If Brad’s Johnson is bent out of shape (curves left now? odd that) and he wants to debate his benefits against his deficits with me, I’ll gladly meet him at a podium, anytime.

That, of course, presumes he could bother to make it to Helena at some point.

You don’t say.

The oral arguments are over so the Supreme Court is currently deciding the fate of the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case. Regardless of the outcome, we are left with the comforting fact that, once again, the system has proven itself too willing to step into a case. Or, as is my current thinking on public schools, the administration doesn’t have a clue, nor do they care to find one, and so knee-jerk reactions to, let’s face it, creative-yet-disturbing moments by students have become Supreme Court Cases.

I remember when, way back in the day, there was a common phrase here in Montana. Before Bart Simpson enriched us with “Don’t have a cow, man!” we had people calmly saying, “It’s not a Supreme Court Case, chill.” I’ve not heard that phrase in nearly a score of years – 19, to be precise – and it was my 8th grade science teacher, whose name I can’t remember, but whose soft-spoken demeanor yet intense passion for the wonders of world made science interesting. He said it after a demonstration of an electrical circuit caused a student to freak out a bit. Holding hands in a circle, we created a circuit, and to prove this concept, two of us let go of each other and instead held the positive and negative wires from an alternator. The alternator was cranked over, only once and by hand, and produced electricity, and the circuit of teens lit up – one teen to the point of hysterics. But it wasn’t that big a deal, it was not a Supreme Court Case. It wasn’t even painful, just odd. I can’t imagine that he’s still allowed to do this demonstration, but I hope he is.

Which brings us back to the fundamental problem here. We have a student who wanted to test the limits of Free Speech. We have a principal that wanted to further her career, which one would hope would mean educating students better, but the cynical side of me suspects that means not upsetting the status quo.

You can’t expect teenagers not to push the boundaries. That’s just dumb. Anyone who was a teen knows that. If you didn’t push any boundaries when you were a teen, you were either in a persistent vegetative state or you did so many bong hits 4 Jesus that you’ve just forgotten what else you might have done. But it’s a good thing that teens push boundaries, it’s fundamental to learning. Every advance we have made has come about because someone said, “What if?” and didn’t listen to the chorus of people who responded in the negative. The trick, for teachers, is to channel that urge into positive events. I’m currently teaching a bit at the high school I attended, so I know it’s hard, but more on that later.

So this teen decides that on the day the Olympic torch is going to run past his school, he’s going to put up a message that he thinks, quite reasonably, will get him on TV. And he succeeds in his goal. Having put that much thought into creating the sign, there’s a very real chance that the kid knew he was going to get in trouble. So what happened next was a shock to the aforementioned carrots and stoners. The principal sees the sign, confiscates it, and confronts the student, giving him 5 days suspension. When the student quotes Jefferson on Free Speech, instead of being impressed by the kids knowledge on the subject, or hell, for even being able to quote Jefferson at all, she instead doubled the suspension to 10 days.

I won’t go into why suspension from school as punishment is about the dumbest thing ever. There isn’t enough ice-cream to keep me from blowing a gasket, so that, too, shall wait.

So the kid, armed with the ACLU, files suit. Round one goes to the principal, because it’s a school, and while the kids don’t lose all their rights when going to school, they do lose some of them. Some speech must be limited, after all, yelling “Fire!” in a crowded school is the same as yelling it in a crowded theater.

The kid and the ACLU appealed, and the 9th Circuit, not seeing any smoke, much less a fire, said that not only was the kid unreasonably stripped of his rights, in doing so the principal may be liable for monetary damages to him. So it’s no surprise that the principal, who by now is at the superintendent’s office, appealed this decision to the Supremes.

And the justices are quite overcome with joy on this one. I suggest reading Dahlia Lithwick’s Dispatch, as usual, rather than me trying to sum up her work. Apparently Justice Stephen Breyer managed to hide the fact that he spent his teen years doing his best impression of a rutabaga . I say that because he couldn’t have managed law school and his legal career to such great success if he was a pothead, yet he said that ruling in favor of the student would cause teens to start “testing limits all over the place in the high schools.”

Again, testing limits is how we all learn and create. That’s nothing new, and stifling that instinct is just as bad as letting it run rampant, yet those are the only options that anyone involved with this case can apparently see. Which just goes to show you how bad things are, because some of the brightest minds around can’t see what the sign said, and are off discussing completely irrelevant issues.

This case demonstrates one of the fundamental flaws of the current teaching regime, and it’s one of the biggest. Rather than confronting this student in a positive way, the principal was acted as a power-obsessed and power-corrupted coward and neglected all students, not just at her school, but now, due to the coverage that this sort of thing would obviously generate, at every school. And yes, I lay the neglect at her feet because it’s her damn job to lead teachers, which should mean she can think at least as well as the students. It’s not unreasonable to expect that since the sign got on tv already, she might want to really think about the best way to confront this.

“And how,” you ask, “is that possible? What should she have done?” The only thing she is really supposed to do – use her head.

Instead of suspending the student for 10 days, the principal should have given the kid 10 days to prepare the affirmative defense for his slogan. As in, debate. As in debating against teachers, because the principal would choose 3 teachers to prepare the negative. And the principal would pick the judge, too. And on the 11th day, at 10 am, the kid would debate the teachers. At school. In front of every other student, who would watch through either attending (if you had to) or through the announcement or the closed-circuit TV system at the school.

Now, let’s discuss the pros and cons of this event. Pros first, since I can actually think of a few of them.

  • The kid is required to defend a controversial position in front of his peers, but the peers aren’t able to help in any meaningful way.
  • The slogan is brought before the students not as a rallying cry for the oppressed but as a learning tool.
  • The teachers get to bring out the big guns, go for the jugular (verbally, of course) in a way that, legitimately, showcases their greater knowledge, wisdom and experience.
  • The students see that, rather than just getting a free 10 day vacation, pushing the boundaries can have consequences they really don’t want to face – namely, public speaking, but also being resoundly beaten down by teachers in front of the entire school.
  • Everyone learns that “With great power comes great responsibility” actually is true.
  • Everyone has a chance to THINK.

As for cons, the only real downside I can see is if the teachers aren’t capable of holding their own in the debate. That would suck, but, in my experience, even the worst teachers are always ready with a snappy retort to the smartass kids. In the debate, these teachers don’t have to win, as the phrase is nonsensical. So long as they expand the discussion to include why sometimes it’s better to not say something, or to hold back your free speech, they ultimately win.

And isn’t “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” really “Religion is the opiate of the masses” in disguise?

And now the fun begins!

Does anyone else think that The Washington Madam’s case is going to ruin more than a few of the careers of inner-beltway boys? Pretty much a no-brainer.

But think about it for a moment – with a list that numbers around 15,000 clients, is it too much to think that just a few, like say less than 10%, could be women? And who, my dear readers, might they be? I can think of a few, but I’m going to hold off for a bit. And I’ve got a big soda and popcorn for the show.

Post Gender Presentations

There has been a lot written lately about gender as it pertains to professional conferences on web technologies. First off was Jason Kottke presenting the question. Then I caught Eric Meyer, the Patron Saint of CSS, who responded with a resounding “meh” followed by John Gruber’s gender-fireball post, and a comment of clarification by Zeldman in the linked list. Truly Eric received the torment he knew he was setting himself up for. Ouchie. And so totally not deserved. I suggest reading those articles and comments, and then coming back here. I’ll wait.

Back? Good. I love discussing gender, because as a gay man in 2007, it’s certainly a topic that provides countless hours of amusement. And frustration. And a couple of attempts to rewrite the U.S. Constitution. It’s also a subject that, when taken out of context, is beyond frustrating, it’s insulting. And that’s where I think this discussion has gone.

If you look at what Kottke presented, yes, there is a dearth of women speakers at web conferences, and most especially those that focus on HTML and CSS. Kottke is particularly off when he says:

…it seems to me that either the above concerns are not getting through to conference organizers or that gender diversity doesn’t matter as much to conference organizers as they publicly say it does.

Gruber goes off into the realm of Title IX, which has, truthfully, done a world or three of good for women in all things. However, he misses the point of Kottke’s piece, which is that things are inequal in a professional setting. Title IX doesn’t really apply there, so going off into the studies of who got educated where and for what is off-topic. Interesting, and well worth reading, but off-topic none-the-less. And don’t think I’m against Title IX, nothing could be further from the truth. We are all improved when everyone receives an equal chance, which is what Title IX was designed to do. And amazingly, considering it’s legislation, it seems to do relatively well.

Notice that I said “everyone receives an equal chance” and not “everyone receives everything equally.” and for good reason. Title IX doesn’t mean that there will be a women’s football team at your local high school, but it does say that for every men’s sport there shall be an equally funded women’s sport. Don’t care what they play, but they get the game. That’s equality at it’s finest. Which is what Gruber was leading up to.

However, it’s not what Kottke was on about at all. Kottke is about specific equality for professional roles. Can’t, and won’t, happen. Not because it’s a bad idea, but because after giving everyone equal chances, what those people do with those chances will be quite unique to each individual, and therefore, we are unable to predict their results in such a way that we could ever guarantee that there is a 50/50 split along the sex lines.

Meyer doesn’t mind this situation, not because he doesn’t want women around or thinks they are inferior, but because he, quite rightly, sees that while there are fewer women there, overall the web is very well represented by both sexes. And, in this case, gender means less than nothing.

While I, having been discriminated against because of an external trait (e.g. who I have sex with) and have had professional roles given to others because of it, I still agree with Meyer. Kottke thinks that having a vagina attached to some of the speakers would improve the quality of the presentation. That’s thinking that a woman who happens to be a mom can only socialize with other moms if all are either a) not drinking, or b) if they want to drink, they must be chaperoned by someone with a penis.

I don’t see how being male, female, white, black, brown, purple, queer, asexual, cancerous, capricorn or a carrot would matter if you happen to also be a professional in the web-standards-meets-development world. I would, honestly, attend a speech given by a carrot if that carrot was recognized as a leader in the field. That’s what professional speeches are all about.

I have a huge problem with people getting so bent sideways in the effort to be politically correct that they lower the quality of the product. I know it’s rough, and I can’t say that I understand why people are racist, sexist, homophobic or just flat out fucked-up, but I do know that for a conference where people are going to learn about a specific topic, finding the best people, regardless of gender is more important than counting the number of XX’s versus the number of XYs sharing their knowledge.

I want more brilliant people, I don’t care who you are or how you fuck. I don’t even care if you do. I want you for your mind, and guess what, Kottke is wrong to reduce the talent and knowledge of the people involved with these events to their gender. Alas, I’m a bit chubby and have a decent set of tits if he truly thinks that physical traits make a shits difference.

[UPDATE] I see that Zeldman has joined the fray with more on his blog, but I disagree that it’s a fundamental part of the conference planner’s concerns. He thinks it’s important to include women, I think it’s more important to not exclude women, and those, truly, are completely different tasks. Oh, and I still think I’m right.