Monday, January 12, 2015

Je Suis Me

With all of the cacophony over the Charile Hebdo terrorists attacks over the last few days (Were the attacks made in the name of Islam? [yes] Did the magazine have a part in provoking them? [yes] Does this mean the magazine is to blame? [No] etc.) It's getting lost that the historic role of provocateur is being diminished in the name of either political correctness or inclusion. There are many reasons society is heaping scorn on publications such as Charile Hebdo and none of them portend a glowing future in terms of freedom of either speech or one's person.

When the New York Times quasi-intellectual, sycophant columnist David Brooks decides he's going to start classifying opinion as either belonging to either the 'adult' or 'children's' tables it's very easy to see where this is going.

All of us, self included, are suffering from an increasingly severe bout of confirmation bias when it comes to our political, and social beliefs. Not only has this reached pandemic status, but we're getting very close to it being a slate-wiper in terms of common sense.  A large portion of this problem lies with our inability to understand the shades of gray in politics and personal belief.

For partisans, it's not enough to be on the 'right side' of an issue, you also have to crawl down the rabbit hole of the true believer to ensure that no variance can be tolerated from the official dogma. If you're against radical Islamic terrorists then it must be said that you're against all of Islam by those who fee that the greatest threat to mankind is white, middle-aged workers in the American system. If you're worried about Americans then, according to those on the other side, you must also be hateful of everything American and a dirty communist who wants nothing more than a return to the gulags of the Stalin era.

While it's easy to lay the blame on social media for this, Twitter especially is a terrible bullhorn for political debate, it's also too easy to overstate the media's role in perpetuating these false beliefs. It is just as silly to paint all conservatives with a broad brush as it is to say that everyone of the Muslim faith is a Jihadist in waiting.  That said, every Jihadist in waiting IS a Muslim, it's just that understanding that distinction is lost on most. Lost to the point that I'm unsure if society contains the self-awareness to get it back.

Instead, I think we're doomed to an ever-diminishing feedback loop where our proclivities of assigning those we don't like to a second class results in an increasingly smaller subset of opinion.

What I would like to see is an acknowledgement that everyone is sitting at the same 'table', whether or not they agree with us or no. After all, opinions are only worth something in minds of those who hold them.  What is important is fact, and reality.

Which is why I titled this post Je Suis Me. I am only me and no-one else. I am not Charlie Hebdo and neither are you. Nor should we be. Our roles in the opinion making process are singular and unique. Whether or not that makes us "trolls" as some might say or "geniuses" as others would point out is entirely the opinions of those doing the labeling.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: The New Mrs. White makes a puzzling statement.

Forgive me if I'm just a little confused about the closing of The New Mrs. White's wish-list for the New Year.

Granted, most of the editorial is the typical left-of-center wish list. Is Houston's economy DOOMED(!!) because of falling oil prices and does this mean that all of those silly oil people will move away? We hope that Texas new elected Republicans will act like Democrats and take out a loan on our catapult to throw large amounts of money at problems etc.....

Fine, I get all that and, to be honest, could care less. As a matter of fact, were it not for the last paragraph I wouldn't be writing about this editorial at all.  It was THAT forgettable.  But then The New Mrs. White wrote this:

New Year, The NEW Mrs. White,

With no heir apparent to Mayor Annise Parker, election season should be a debate about pensions, pot holes and public safety, not a contest to see who can raise the most money.

Wait what?

If issues like pensions, pot holes and public safety are so important then why hasn't tNMW been calling out Mayor Parker for avoiding these issues? Instead of a "focus on the basics" plea to Mayor Parker tNMW has been knocking herself out heaping praise on Heronner for focusing on potty rights, junkets and trinkets.

Of course it's normal for tNMW, and the rest of ChronBlog to yearn for campaigns filled with 'issues' but then gush like pre-teens at a Bieber concert when the latest trinket is unveiled. In a way, this type of pie-in-the-sky editorializing shouldn't surprise us but it inevitably does.

So, as we start 2015 full of hope and promise (and, in some cases, hangovers) and with the desperate yearning of tNMW ringing in our ears (until the next trinket that is). I think it's high-time to renew my wish for the Chronicle and all who work there:

Shutter the Editorial board, get rid of the increasingly noxious political cartoonist and slash the budget for opinion writing. Once this is done clean house on the web-design side and cut the budget for so-called 'lifestyle' reporting. (No more side-boob!!!)

Then redeploy all of these assets to hard news reporting, where the Chron still has some talented reporters working and could do with a whole lot more.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

YDOP: New Year's Resolutions and such.

Given that Thursday is, technically, the start of 2015 and not just another Thursday in a long line of the same, I  guess it's appropriate that I offer up a navel-gazing list of New Year's Resolutions for the 'ol blog.  So, grab yourself some Champagne, a cold beer or a cocktail and let's get to work.....

1. Give this editing thing a try. - If you're a reader of this blog you know that, too often to be honest, I'll post things on a whim and then go back and edit them for clarity.  If you read my Houston 2015 Predictions Post earlier this morning go back and re-read it now.  Typically, when I do this, it's only to clean up readability and what-not. If I make substantive changes I note them at the bottom of the post and try to use strikethrough to make it all more traceable.

In 2015 I resolve to try and edit things more tightly before I hit the publish button.  As usual however, there's no money in this blog so you're really getting what you've paid for. If you find something egregious just leave a comment and I'll correct and give you credit.  For your editing assistance you'll be paid exactly the same as I am for writing this blog.  Go ahead and spend it all in one place.

2. Don't partyblog.....ever. I am not now, nor have I ever been a fan of partyblogging. The only thing worse is blockquote blogging.

In 2015 I resolve to try and never, ever write a post that is nothing more than a glorified press release for either a political party or political candidate. The one exemption to this is if I specifically note that I'm reprinting an e-mail or some other form of communication (with permission of course) that is a rebuttal from a politician to something I write.

3. More Video. - Because I think it provides a classy feel to the joint.

In 2015 I resolve to try and incorporate more video clips into my blog(s). Not only 3rd party (with proper attribution and within the bounds of fair use of course) but also, possibly, personally produced stuff as well. Don't worry though, I also resolve to make sure that I'm on this video as little as possible, if at all.  I respect my remaining reader base after all.

4. Podcast, a lot. I am a big fan of what they are now calling "Internet Radio" which is really a live podcast which is then recorded and saved online in traditional podcast form. Given that this technology is many years old I think it's high-time I get off my tookas and bring things up to the 00's here.

In 2015 I resolve to incorporate a podcast into my blogging. Fair warning however, this will not be a politics only podcast and will probably run the gamut from Houston issues, to food, drink and sports, with a big nod toward my love of sports betting, poker, sports, Michigan football and travel.

5. Don't sell out. Don't ever sell out. For almost 10 years now I've been blogging/livejournaling on various platforms and various blogs. I've, for the most part, kept this blog as an independent voice.

In 2015 I resolve to do everything that I can to not allow myself to be infected by the fatuous optimism that uncritical thinkers possess.  The question is not, nor has it ever been, whether the glass is half full or empty.  The question has always been "Who in the blue hell has been drinking my beer?"  Some people think that this means I have a sad life, or that I'm perpetually angry.  Those who know me understand that this is the far from the truth.

The fact is that I find humor and heart in #BadPolitics, #BadSports, #BadBusiness and especially #BadMedia.  While I want everyone of these entities to just get better I also understand that it's easier to sit down and write about the bad while ignoring the good.  I hope that I will never stop giving my ideological opposites credit when they strike upon something that is right, nor will I ever stop criticizing when my ideological fellow-travelers do something wrong. As always, if you don't like this blog I encourage you to go find another in which you do. Or, even better, go start your own local politics blog and get your well-reasoned, logically flawless point of view out in the open.  The more attention paid to State/Local issues the better.

6. Drink more (with y'all). In my early years of blogging there were blog meet-ups on a fairly regular basis. These were fun, bipartisan affairs that usually ended with all of Houston's problems solved on the back of a cocktail napkin that inevitably had beer or wine spilled on it and was thrown away.  That said, it was great meeting the people and putting names with faces.

Unfortunately, none of it stuck. As blogging became more party-centric and more "official" certain bloggers decided that the free exchange of ideas was less important than talking and meeting with the other side over oat-sodas. While I think the true bi-partisan blog meet-ups are a thing of the past (too many members of the InterLeft are bitter, partisan hacks who refuse to meet with the bitter, partisan hacks on the right) I do think there's still a chance to return to the social atmosphere that made blogging more fun.

In 2015 I resolve to establish and host blog meet-ups on a regular basis. While it's true that, in the beginning, these meetings might be nothing more than me sitting at a bar, watching sports and drinking a beer, I'd like to think that, eventually, one or two people will show up and the beginnings of a local blogging discussion group can begin to form. I'll make my first announcement some time in early January, at an as yet to be determined bar on the West side of Houston. I've got some early candidates in mind.

And Finally......

7. Free the comments! I admit, in 2013-2014 I've taken a negative view on comments. If you read the comments section almost anywhere you can see why. 

In 2015 I resolve to restore my comments to a more open status to try and foster communication across the blogosphere rather than to maintain this closed system.  Ironically, as I shut things down my readership numbers have gone up so I'm not sure how long this is going to last. I sure want to give it an honest 2-3 month effort however and see where we stand.  Maybe there's hope for comment sections, maybe not. I don't think that this little blog will be the ultimate arbiter of that argument but I would like to do my part.

I truly hope that everyone is not too hung over this morning and that you all have a wonderful and prosperous New Year and that the good far outweighs the bad for the remainder of 2015.