August 13, 2011

#RickPerry announces: I'm not #gay

Oh, yes, Texas Gov. Tricky Ricky Perry also announced he's running for president.

That said, the old gay rumors, including with a one-time Texas Secretary of State, are one of several that will get resurrected in either the primary season or the general election, should he get that far.

I've actually said before I'd love to see him make it to the general; more than any other candidate, Bachmann's nuttiness about "socialism" aside, there's personal bad blood there.

Anyway, in the general, Texas' great work at creating minimum wage jobs will be an issue. So will the executive of the likely innocent Cameron Todd Willingham.

On the gay rumors, will any GOP candidate have the gonads to do oppo research? Romney has the money to do it, and would most benefit from making sure Perry doesn't pull too far ahead of Bachmann and other tea party faves.

But, if he does that, he'd better be prepared to fight back.

Beyond that, his book of a year ago, which he said showed why he wouldn't run for Prez but which really showed how much he'd do to court the tea party, showed there his social conservatism vs states' rights conflicts. He's already stumbled over this and New York gay marriage. Of course, it's not a conflict that's unique to him; it's one that trips up tea partiers in general, if they care about logical consistency. This would be one for Huntsman to exploit, perhaps.

That said, in both primary and general elections, the phrase, "Haven't we had enough Texas presidents?" may also resonate.

Not a Boomer, not a Gen-Xer

Maybe you feel the same way about yourself as I do about me. I've blogged about this briefly before, and others have talked about this elsewhere, including academics, but various things have me going into more depth now,. They're largely related to the current situation of the American economy, partially related to what I see to some degree as current takes on that situation by different age groups (while trying not to stereotype).

The U.S. Census officially runs the Baby Boomer generation through 1964, so, according to it, I'm in. But, others cut it off at 1960. I agree; I don't feel like a Boomer.

At the same time, especially given that the stereotypical Gen-Xer is the Reagan-worshiping Michael J. Fox of Family Ties, and some societal and technological changes related to that, I don't feel like an Xer, either.

I propose "Transitionals" for those of us born between 1960-69.

Why those years?

On the "negative definitions" side, even the oldest of us are too young to remember anything about Jack Kennedy, or really, even LBJ. The Great Society was in place, as was the rise of a new conservativism, the hippie movement, and the gut-wrenching, society-wrenching backdrop of Vietnam.

But, even the youngest of us in this category were at least entering junior high school by the time Reagan became president. In other words, we spent most to all of his administration in the psychological stage of having entered abstract thinking abilities. We didn't have to see his political claims from a "concrete thought" point of view.

On the "positive definition" side, if not positive in a "good sense," we started growing up during gut-wrenching change beyond that of Vietnam: Nixon's resignation, two oil shocks, the Iranian hostage crisis, and the Carter-Reagan recession, the worst post-WWII shock to America's economy until now. In other words, although we didn't have to worry about fighting in southeast Asia, in other ways, we faced even more crisis, including the "crisis" that America wasn't so omnipotent and that our control of even our domestic economy wasn't so total as we had thought.

There's a "post-Millennial" generation coming down now that faces similar economic shock, coupled with technological change happening at a rapid rate. Will technology be either a bread and circuses, or a hypnotism, that in either way diverts post-Millennials from feeling the crisis? Or will it instead be a catalyst for exacerbating such feeling?

Meanwhile, as a result of the crisis of the 1970s, we've seen the deliberalization of the Democratic party, except for certain degrees of playing to entrenched special interests, deregulation often becoming a fetish, Democrats tacking to the South and more.

That's another reason I don't feel like a Boomer. True Boomers were either in the workforce, or wrapping up college or grad school by the time Reagan came along. Some of them took some this from that recession, but many didn't. That's because in many ways, the "safety net" was stronger then. More than the safety net was stronger, though -- the "development net" was stronger. Things like job retraining, Pell Grants rather than loans for college, government loans rather than private ones, when needed, government-guaranteed, controlled-interest private ones rather than free-floating ones, let alone credit cards, as the bottom line.

There's less margin for error today, whether going to college or going back to college.

I'm a worrier, by genetics in part, I think by womb environment in part, definitely by early childhood issues, possibly to some degree from other things. But, I don't think my observations are out of line.

I worry, and so I scrimp and hoard. I'm a family of one; no kids depending on me, but no spouse/partner to backstop me, either.

I'm a Transitional, with a certain degree of existential loneliness and angst.

But, I suspect I'm not alone.

August 11, 2011

Missing: At least 20 school days

It's clear to me, and to many other people I know, that the single biggest causal difference for America's K-12 educational gap vis-a-vis other developed nations is the 180-day school year. I've had, as a newspaper reporter and editor, more than one school district superintendent agree with that.

All other developed nations have school years of at least 200 days. Now, it's true that students don't "forget" over two weeks of Christmas holidays; hence, here in Texas and elsewhere, a rush to start the school year early, to get the first semester done before Christmas, has faded.

But, they DO forget over two and a half months of summer. That's clear indeed.

Beyond that, there's just the element of total school time. By the end of 10th grade, the average Western European, Japanese or South Korean student has attended at least one full American year of school above and beyond her or his American peers. If you look at the gap on standardized test scores, it starts small and gets bigger from year to year. Cumulative effects of additional schooling offer a quite persuasive explanation of this.

But how to get American schools there, when they're so traditionalist in many ways still, especially on something like this, and unfortunately, so state-by-state based?

Well, I think President Obama should have used, along with his stimulus package, the fiscal policy, of financial carrots for states, for moving states, over, say, a 4-5 year period, to a 200-day school year, or longer. Teacher and aide hiring to go with this would have been very stimulative.

Let's say an even 200 days, over six years. Add four days for each of two straight years, take a break, then do it again for three straight years. That "break year" would give states and textbook writers time to fully revamp for a longer school year with curricula, number of courses offered with the extra days of a longer year and more.

On the stimulus side, a longer year would mean more need for substitutes, and to help teachers out more thoroughly, a call for more teachers' aides.

Beyond that, it would put the educational focus where Obama should be putting it: K-12, not trying to get more people to go to college when many careers don't need a four-year degree, and also, not trying to get more people to go to college without more cost containment.

August 10, 2011

America 130 years ago and today

We have many of the same political situations, though for totally different reasons.

Starting with the 1876 presidential election, we had five consecutive elections where the winner failed to get a majority of the popular vote. Hayes and Harrison failed to get even a plurality; Garfield and Cleveland, both presidencies, got a plurality but not a majority.

Clinton won on plurality twice, thanks to Ross Perot. George W. Bush was a minority president his first election, then won a narrow majority. Obama had a bigger majority, but, if he is re-elected, it won't be by that margin, in all likelihood.

There was also the fact that many people felt the two main parties were neglecting them. But, it wasn't over a call for "centrism." Rather, radical (white) populism, prohibition, and other people-based special interest parties arose.

At the same time, relative to those days, both mainstream parties were "money heavy" in their politics.

But, eventually, third parties then forced transformation in the Democrats, to nominate Bryan in 1896, which led to TR getting the GOP's Veep nod four years later. Maybe there are slivers of hope for today.

August 09, 2011

'No regrets'? I have plenty in my life

Time and time again, I hear people claim they have no regrets about how they’ve lived their life up to this point.

Taken literally, that means to me that they’d live their entire life the same way if they had a chance to live it over. Really?

There’s three problems here, as I see it. One is viewing “good/bad” (in a growthfulness, not a moral sense) as two polarities, not a continuum. The second is “no regrets” is imprecise, and probably doesn’t mean what it literally says in such cases. The third relates to the first second and impinges upon issues of free will.

The first issue? I believe life, and life issues, can be more, or less growthful. Even ones I regret going through because of bad decisions on my part. (Although I may guilt-trip myself, I can’t honestly be regretful about issues where my range of choice was constrained, or I was reacting to a bad decision/choice by another person; that’s the free will angle.) So, “regret” isn’t totally a bad thing. If I can look back, and see something to learn from the situation, to see how I didn’t handle it as well as I could have, or as well as I could have with more knowledge, then regret’s not bad.

At the same time, that “more knowledge” is another key. If there’s no way I could have known more at the time, whether conscious or unconscious knowledge, that is that. I’ll get to that more in a minute, too.

The imprecision of language? This is one of the few areas where I have fairly substantial agreement with Plato, with the caveat that I don’t limit myself to writing as a way of allegedly obscuring, or even bending or destroying meaning. Oral communication, contra him and the pre-Upanishad Brahmin priests of India, can be manipulated just as well, even when in a mnemonically-driven sacral structure.

I think what people really mean is, “I don’t have any regrets about past actions to which I am too attached.” That’s much healthier – if true. But … maybe it isn’t always true?

Maybe it isn’t so bad to retain a modicum of regret as a learning tool NOT as a “kick myself” tool but as a learning tool.

Finally, there's all sorts of free will aspects.

To the degree free will even exists, it may not exist on a conscious level. To the degree it exists within semiconscious subselves, it's constrained by past elements in our lives and how they've shaped the psyches of those subselves, as well as the fictitious unitary self that claims to be in the driver's seat. The idea of regret may be the right idea in one sense, but not at all in another sense. How can we regret an action that was not undertaken or done with full freedom? There may be a partialness of regret, but, can there be anything more?

August 07, 2011

Take THAT #TigerWoods

Another blech round at Firestone for TW, even as Adam Scott, Steve Williams looping for him, runs away with a final-round 65.

Add in that Stevie, not just Adam, gets interviewed by David Feherty, and it gets better.

Then, top it off with Williams calling it "the greatest day of my life," and we've got fun.

ESPN has more, on the crowd chanting Williams' name and more.

I will agree that Williams could have made the win less about him and more about Scott. Nonetheless, CBS stuck the mike in his face, surely expecting "something." When's the last time you've seen a caddy get an interview, after all?

Meanwhile, in the past, when Wooods has cut somebody out of his entourage, with the possible exception of Fluff Cowan, there's been no chance for payback. Now there is, and I suspect Williams is nowhere near done. Maybe he can borrow the "Tiger Who" hat from Vijay's old caddy?

Speaking of "done," why didn't Tiger just hang it up for the season, rather than try to ramp up his year-end season?

Three things, interrelated, I suspect, with the last the biggest.

One: Missing the limelight.

Two: Not wanting to slip too much further in the rankings.

Three: Money.

We don't know for sure how much he settled on Elin, but it wasn't nothing. There's been rumors about just how much he owes in property taxes on his McMcMansion. And, sponsors continue to drop him as a pitchman.

So, weirdly, yes, but like an NBA or NFL star more stereotypically running out of money, Tiger may be, if not strapped, at least tight.

That said, he still has to make the cut at the PGA this weekend ahead. If he doesn't, he doesn't qualify for the FedEx cut, he makes no money for the rest of the year beyond the silly season, he falls further in the world golf rankings, and gets smaller in the limelight.

As for "where he's at" on the course, it's clear he's still struggling with the putter. No, it's not yips, but how long before this is a long-term problem?