Last Wednesday, the day after this year's US presidential election, I posted a statement here I called An open letter to the Republican Party in which I outlined my dismay and disappointment with my own political party, the republicans.
My goal, as much as anything, was simply to get off my chest the things I've been feeling for some time now. Things that make me less and less supportive of both my own party's actions and the actions of politicians in general.
I posted a link to it on Facebook mostly because I hoped a few of my friends might at least take a look. Really, I expected it to end right there.
I couldn't have been much more wrong.
In the five days it's been up, my blog post has been viewed almost nine thousand times. My Facebook link to the post has been re-shared well over 100 times. And, I've been engaged in long and mostly-thoughtful discussions on the topic here in the blog, in Facebook, and via that old standby, e-mail.
I couldn't be more surprised nor, if I had to admit, more pleased.
Because, what I've learned is that I am not alone in my disappointment. Maybe misery really does love company, but with regard to what I perceive to be a problem like this, the only chance of getting it to change is to have a lot of people determined to change it.
And, from what little I can see from here on the second floor in Columbus, Ohio, there is a lot of support out there for a change. Not an Obama change, a real change. A change in the way our government works or, more to the point, doesn't.
I have been heartened by the passion and the support I've seen for my meager words. Minus a few respondents from the far right fringe, there has been an amazingly supportive stream of responses from people on both sides of the aisle.
What this has done for me is confirm what I believe to be the passion in our country for a real change of dialog. A return to a more civil level of discourse and to people with differing ideas working together to find the best possible compromise for our country.
People have been asking me how to make it happen and the real answer is, I'm not sure.
Having said that, I think our country is at the point of almost begging for a revolution of thought. Not a revolution of arms--nothing so radical as that--but a change in the workings of the political system and the way all of us deal with it.
As a practical matter, it would be incredibly difficult to try to create another political party. Look at the Libertarians or, for that matter, the Tea Party. It might actually be that the Libertarians are what we're all looking for in a political party but it's pretty hard to know. With Joe Lieberman as your headline guy, I think it's pretty hard to get a lot of passion going among the millions of people it would take to make a real difference.
More to the point, if the way you win elections is with billions of dollars of support, I don't see anybody other than the two major parties--including the Libertarians--getting that in the short term. But I could be wrong.
Unfortunately, I think it's probably almost as hard to imagine making a substantial change in the Republican party, although I have to say I think they are closer to being willing to consider new ideas than they've been in a long while. But they have a lot of baggage, so I'm less enthusiastic than I'd like to be. Still, it might be possible.
What we need in any workable scenario is a groundswell of support from the people. At the end of the day, that's the only thing that can heavily influence change. Corporations and the wealthy on both sides can pour their multiple millions into the support of whatever they like, but at the end of the day we still have voting, and it's the tally from that which is the final determinant.
I think the timing for something like this is pretty good. If the response to my little blog post is any indication of the pent-up passion out there, and I think it is, it seems like there are a LOT of people ready for some kind of substantive change.
I've been thinking more and more that if there is a solution to this, it may lie in some combination of technology and media. If you look at the power literally sitting in all our hands to communicate widely and immediately through things like Facebook and Twitter and all the rest of it, there is the possibility of the basis for a solution.
Maybe, just maybe, there's a way to leverage the power of these technologies, the masses of people, and the determination that there has to be a better way to work to build an effective and influential base without spending the billions of dollars it took Mitt Romney to lose.
And, I think we need a Rush Limbaugh / Bill Mahr type of media person for sensible government. The problem is, sensible thought and reasonable discourse are not likely to be nearly so entertaining as the ranting and raving of those guys. But it seems like we need someone able to call a spade a spade and to help reinforce the imagination and the will of those who want to see substantive change.
I'm a great believer that every problem has a solution if you can just figure it out, including this one. I'm not sure how one begins such a thing.
I'd sure love to hear your ideas.
Dear Sirs and/or Madams,
I am a life-long Republican. The son of Republicans who were, themselves, the children of Republicans. At fifty-five years old, and as the owner of two small businesses, I believe very strongly in the importance of conservative fiscal policies, and that hard work is the key to success.
I believe it's better to get ahead by the sweat of your own brow than by legislative mandate. And, I believe that the greatness of the United States comes in great part from the flexibility and tolerance we have developed as a culture, rather than from the rules we choose to choke down each others' throats.
By being comprised of so many other cultures, from so many other places, the United States is less a melting pot than what I prefer to think of as a wonderful curry. A rich mixture of flavors and textures which might not be intuitively combined but which, nevertheless, coalesce into a wonderful, incredibly flavorful dish.
It is our strength, not our weakness, that we are not all one thing or another. We are many things, together, and it is this broad exposure to others' cultures, to their ideas, and to both our similarities and our differences that makes us different and, in some cases, a little better.
I was taught, and I still believe it to be true, that the American dream is that any of us, if he or she is smart enough, or lucky enough, or works hard enough, can become rich, or successful or, heaven forbid, even grow up to be the President of the United States.
The America I believe in was built on the basis of limited legislative restriction, broad applicability of free will, and the value of hard work. But it has become increasingly obvious that that is no longer the position of the Republican party and, frankly, I am embarrassed.
When did it become acceptable to overtly attempt to insert not just religion, but Bible-beating creationist Christianity, into our government? Yes, many of the formers of our Constitution were Christians but they clearly, and with no room for misinterpretation, made it absolutely clear that no form of religion--including their own--should have any part in our government.
And, when did it become acceptable to limit the rights of American citizens because of who they choose to love? It is apparently the ignorant and inexcusable position of this party that being gay or lesbian is a choice people make rationally, like choosing a car. That they somehow have opted into a much more difficult and persecuted lifestyle just because, I don't know, because it seemed like fun. And that, regardless, those who make that "choice" are somehow inferior or worthy of lesser forms of equality, or of lesser opportunities.
It is narrow-minded thinking of the worst and most damaging kind, and that's why the Republican Party of today has become a national embarrassment.
I can't think of any clearer way to say it.
This party's obstinate insistence on marching in lockstep with the most radical and narrow-minded creationist right-wingers has crippled its ability to represent and motivate the actual, real live citizens of this country. From what I can tell, "my" party is being run by a commission of geriatric white Southern Baptist preachers and they have made the party look ridiculous, vindictive, and idiotic.
I don't think there is really much doubt in most voters' minds that, of last night's two candidates, Mitt Romney is the one vastly more qualified to turn up the wick on our stagnant economy. And yet, he had his hat and walking papers handed to him because, it turns out, most people don't vote based on only one issue.
By being elitist and arrogant, "we" turned off both the middle- and lower-classes who, not coincidentally, constitute the bulk of the electorate. By insisting on the wrongness and inexcusability of gay marriage, "we" not only turned off the 10-15% of the population that is gay or lesbian, but also the huge portion of the population that is young and/or sympathetic to gay people.
By insisting that abortion should be illegal and Roe vs Wade overturned, "we" turned off the women. And, by being passionately against any kind of immigration reforms, "we" turned off the fastest-growing portion of the American population, Latinos and Hispanics.
What I want to know, in all seriousness, is: For what?
When Todd Akin publicly said, "...If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down...," or when Richard Mourdock said, "...even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, ...it is something that God intended to happen," you, the leaders of the Republican party, should have cut them loose. Just said to yourselves, and to us, "they are a cancerous growth on our party and we're pulling all support in a very public way."
If, in response to both of those, Mitt Romney had said, "that is both ignorant and wrong and I cannot endorse someone so wrong-minded," we would have lost those two seats--which we did anyway--but it would have done worlds of good not only for Romney's chances with women but with a lot of others of us, too.
Except, of course, he didn't. Instead, he shuffled around it, no doubt in great part because that's what he was told to do. We still lost the seats, but Romney's actions, by implication, defined him to be as much of an idiot on women's issues as Akin and Mourdock.
And, that's just one example of many.
It is long past time for the leaders of the Republican party to wake up, look around, and see what an incredible mess they have created for us all. No longer is this a country driven merely by the wants of rich white men. Today, more than ever, we are a multi-cultural blend of the best and worst the world has to offer.
There is a whole country out there that is about social justice, personal freedom, and the rights of individuals. And, unlike even a decade ago, there is no escaping immediate and ubiquitous social communications throughout all strata of the society. If you're an idiot, it will be found out both quickly and publicly.
The people of this country, as am I, are, on the whole, appalled by the vast majority of the positions and actions taken by this party. We remain moderately loyal, simply because of this party's conservative fiscal policies.
But it won't last much longer.
This party has lost all touch with the people of the United States. I'm not talking about the people of the United States back in 1950, I'm talking about the people of today's United States, and it is high time to re-evaluate and reconnect.
Get to work, boys, before it's too late.
So, maybe I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, maybe everybody else already has this worked out, but I just had what around our office we like to call a "Blinding Flash of the Obvious."
I've done 14 hours of presentations over the last 3 days, to groups that are amazingly enthusiastic. This Lotusphere has people excited. The next release of Notes (8) has people excited. The new version of QuickPlace (Quickr) has people excited. I'm excited about Lotus Connections, the new social networking software.
It's palpable. You can feel it in the air when you walk into the presentation rooms and the bars and the hallways and...well, you get the idea.
But here's the point: Until today I haven't been able to go to any session other than my own. Today I am. Walking out of Bill Buchan's Worst Practices presentation I grabbed a coffee next to Betsy Thiede who was busily in conversation with somebody about an upcoming session on AJAX.
She was considering it, he had been to the first instance of it yesterday and was raving about how great it was. Mind, I was mostly eavesdropping but it was one on my short list. His (enthusiastic) recommendation was good enough for me.
I went. It was good (except I had a very hard time understanding one of the speakers) and got me very excited about a couple of geeky new things. But right then, just as I was using the recommendation to make my mind up, it hit me.
I had the Flash.
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In case you didn't hear, the Ohio School Board yesterday reversed their earlier decision in favor of Intelligent Design advocates and voted to remove language critical of evolution from their mandatory science curriculum. Additional details here.
Intelligent Design, a thiny-veiled cloak around creationism, is only one of several competing "theories" of the origin of life.
Of them, with the possible exception of believing in millions of years of reasonably incontrovertible evidence, I prefer the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory and, were I not so darned determined not to believe in anything, might consider becoming a Pastafarian myself.
At the beginning of this month, Columbus instituted a smoking ban on all public establishments, including bars. As a lifetime nonsmoker and adult drinker, this is very good news to me. I can now enjoy a beer at a local establishment and not go home reeking of smoke. I like that.
But not everyone does.
Hilliard, a Columbus suburb, voted last night to allow smoking in bars and taverns where alcohol sales make up at least 65 percent of their business. There have been similar, though so far failed, efforts to put a loophole like this in the Columbus law, too.
I've had numerous conversations about this with friends, both smokers and nonsmokers, and it often comes down to a predictable argument that goes like this:
FOR: "It should be up to the owner of the bar to decide. It's his business; the government should keep their grubby hands off it."
AGAINST: "Yeah, well, I like to go to bars but I don't like to stink like smoke or to have to breathe it."
FOR: "Fine. Go to a bar that doesn't allow smoke."
AGAINST: "That's stupid. Less than a quarter of adults smoke, so you're saying the 75% who don't smoke should be the ones running around trying to find a safe place?"
FOR: "That, or stay at home."
AGAINST: "That's a bunch of crap. Smoking kills the smokers and people around them. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it. The government ought to ban smoking altogether and be done with it."
FOR: "Alcohol kills people, too. If they're going to ban smoking, they ought to ban alcohol sales, too."
And so it goes. As soon as anything resembling logic starts to show up, the argument almost always seems to degenerate into a theme of alcohol equals smoking and so, therefore, you must have both or neither. It's an all-or-nothing game. I'm here to say, that's a bunch of bull. Yes, alcohol kills people, but nothing like cigarettes do.
You'd think that would be both intuitive and persuasive but the problem is, half of the people doing the arguing don't have statistics at hand and the other half don't want to hear them. Well, my friend, I've come to rescue.
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I just have to tell you this. Of all the blogs I read, my favorite by far is Rands in Repose. He is smart, funny as hell, and can write. I periodically find myself blowing snot-bubbles trying not to laugh out loud.
So, I've just finished reading about the Rands Vegas System, his extensive series of blogs on Everything You Need To Know To Have Fun In Vegas, and I had to pass it on.
It is, in a word, hilarious. And, from me at least, highly recommended, whether you're going soon or not.
I only wish I'd read it before the Lotus Advisor Live week there recently. Alas
I don't know about where you live, but around here (in Columbus, Ohio) college football is a Big Deal.
The news came out today that the United States Supreme Court upheld the lower courts' decisions that Maurice Clarett, Ohio State's former running back, could be prevented from entering the NFL draft this year because he was not yet far enough out of high school.
I will admit to having become a pretty big fan of Ohio State football over the nearly 25 years I've lived here, but I'm not writing this because of the Buckeyes. That it was Ohio State instead of Michigan or UCLA or, well, wherever is just one more fact in the court case. Doesn't really matter.
What does matter, at least the way I see it, is how poorly this young man has been making decisions and what an amazingly sticky corner he has painted himself into.
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Not surprisingly, the father then asked, "What were you watching?," to which the son replied, "All about gay marriage in California."
What was surprising to me was how outraged the father was about this. He was strongly, deeply, incensed the schools would allow this sort of thing to go on and he, himself, went on and on about it at some length.
This is a spirited group, always up for a debate, and that got everyone going. I consider myself a conservative but at least in this regard was the liberal of the bunch.
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I'll admit to more than a spec of skepticism about anyone in politics, liberal or conservative. I'm just cynical enough to think none of our "representatives" really cares a whole lot about us.
They mostly care about them. Selves. And about getting and staying elected. Which means they care about those who give them the money to get and stay elected.
Yeah, I know, it sounds a lot more like a liberal than a conservative to say that but--really--do you disagree? Do you think Bill Clinton was any less likely to screw the populous than, say, Nixon? Or Bush? Or LBJ or Kennedy?
OK, "screw" and "Clinton" in the same sentence brings up a pretty specific set of pictographs, but you follow my drift.
If politicians are motivated primarily by the desire to be re-elected, you have to filter anything they do or say through the sieve of that knowledge. You have to say, how does banning gay marriages or lowering the speed limit or fighting for or against abortion help get them more votes?" Because they're calculatingly Pavlovian.
Ring the bell, get a vote (pant, pant, wag, wag).
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OK, I'll admit it right up front: I didn't grow up as an athlete. Maybe that's not such a surprise.
I wasn't a computer nerd, either (the computers in those days filled whole rooms and used punch cards--too much work for me), but I was into music. With a specialty in saxophones and the ability to play pretty much all the other woodwinds, sports were important mostly because that was the excuse for the marching band and/or pep band to play.
And, while we played a lot of football and baseball in our back yard, the sports I participated in as a kid--and even today--tend to be more individualized than team: racing in many forms--sailboats, bicycles, cars--plus sports like swimming, tennis, golf...activities like that. I am a bit of a loner in many ways but also self-sufficient so I tend to like activities with smaller teams (if any).
Maybe I'm just anti-social.
But I can understand the appeal of team sports. I really enjoy watching college football. I love the NCAA basketball tournament. I'll even watch the World Series (though I have to say, many more baseball games than those seven would be hard to take in the same calendar year).
What I wrestle with is the adulation piled on these team sports athletes, especially football players, from such an early age. I think it's both inappropriate and, well, bad for them.
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