My Apologies, Hillary. I May Be Wrong About Kaine

Yesterday, when I heard the news that Hillary Clinton had chosen Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate, I dashed off a quick, angry, and disappointed post calling him the worst possible choice available.

Secretary Clinton With Running Mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D, Va)A few minutes ago, I finished watching his introductory speech from Miami, Florida. While I’m still not convinced of his progressive credentials, I must say that he brings a lot more intangible value to the Democratic Party campaign than I had originally estimated. And, come to that, he may be more progressive than my first judgment would suggest.

In his first appearance since being selected, Kaine gave a speech that was filled with joy, hope, confidence, competence, and overall good feelings. As a long-time colleague of Clinton’s, he described a side of her that has perhaps been largely ignored, even though he didn’t supply any new information in the process. I guess it was his attitude more than anything else that caused me to question my judgment of him. From his slightly goofy, lopsided grin to his obvious sincerity when it came to serious issues like gun-control and our nation’s defense, he just came across as genuine and sincere in a way Hillary somehow seldom, if ever, does.

That, by itself, may turn out to be of inestimable value to Sec. Clinton in her quest for the White House.

So today, Hillary, I’m withdrawing my accusation of yesterday that Kaine was the worst possible choice. As a progressive, I remain somewhat skeptical, but I’ll withhold judgment until I get to hear more from a man I quite probably misjudged based on too little information and no personal exposure.


Did HRC Just Sink Her Candidacy and Give Us Trump?

I just heard that Hillary Clinton selected Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. As disappointed as I already was in her as a presidential choice, this was perhaps the worst selection she could’ve made.

If there is one easily detected characteristic of the electorate in America today, it is their widespread disenchantment with our badly broken political system. That is a large part of the reason for Donald Trump’s popularity, such as it is. How in the world she thought bringing onto her ticket an even more Establishment Democrat that she is would help her get elected is beyond me. In my view, she has tipped over a number of independent voters who are in fact disenchanted. They will go to Trump now, not out of any agreement with his policies (does he have any?) or particular attraction, but out of revulsion for her doubling down on things as they are.

Even though the Democratic Party platform will be one of the most progressive in the party’s history, platforms as we all know mean next to nothing. They are mere scraps of what used to be paper and is now bits and bytes.

I’m sure the political crap storm that will soon erupt around her decision will be filled with people with the same views as mine; I guess that makes me part of that storm. So be it.

Bad choice, Hillary. Bad, bad choice.

Does Adding Voices to Prayer Increase Its Power?

For those who are interested in following me on a more personal, spiritual level:

You might want to check out my newest post on my spiritual teaching site. In it, I address the question of whether there is a connection between the number of people who pray or meditate for a specific purpose coming together at a common date and time, and the efficacy of such prayers. Just click on this link to read that post.


Suggestion: Don’t Call it Climate Change, Call It What It Is…Catastrophic

climate_talkIn an email today, the folks at Universe Spirit suggested that those of us concerned about the climate on Planet Earth stop using the phrase “climate change” to describe the group of problems that have brought the globe to the brink of humanity’s extinction. They argue that the term “climate change” was injected into the debate by organizations, companies, and individuals who oppose the idea that climate change is real or that humanity is causing or exacerbating the problem. I don’t know the history, so they may well be right. Either way, there call for a change in language seems like it probably has merit.

On the other hand, they suggested changing the phrase to “escalating global warming” or “climate destabilization”. They contended that either or both of those phrases lends a greater sense of urgency and removes the problem from the realm of recurring, naturally caused issues. While I agree that they have come up with two phrases that do sound more critical and urgent than “global warming” or “global climate change”, I don’t think they’ve gone far enough in suggesting that we re-label the debate.

To me, we are experiencing “climate catastrophe” or perhaps, “climate disaster.” Those both to a better job, in my opinion, of addressing the urgency and the unnatural character of the crisis.

So, in response to their request that I take a pledge to stop saying “climate change,” I agreed to do so. I will henceforth refer to it as either “climate catastrophe” or “climate disaster”.

Mediocre Products Marketed Well Defeat Great Products Marketed Badly Every Time

Back in the day, when I made my living as a technologist, there was a saying that floated around among my friends and colleagues and throughout the industry: “Mediocre products marketed well defeat great products marketed badly every time.” We used it most often when scratching our heads over why Microsoft Windoze could possibly be clobbering the elegant Macintosh user experience in the marketplace.

Apple Newton

Apple Newton

I was reminded of that observation today when a news item crossed my desk. Strangely enough, it was about one of my all-time favorite technologies that didn’t make it. When Apple introduced the Newton hand-held Personal Digital Assistant in 1993, I was immediately taken with it. I bought an early version. I spent time learning the fairly slick scripting/programming language built to code applications with. I touted it. I loved it.

Oh, there were a lot of things wrong with it. Its size and format were bulky and blocky. Handwriting recognition became the industry’s favorite punchline. Still, I thought it was incredibly promising and I was willing to put up with the rough edges and flaws while Apple nurtured it through its premature release. But, as with so many other technology products of its day, the Newton fell sufficiently short of sales goals that, in a relatively short time, Apple killed it off. I remember a friend of mine in Apple’s research group who collected old Newton’s for replacement parts; several years later, he was still selling them. Obviously, some people found it still usable and useful.

I thought at the time that Apple demonstrated extreme impatience with this stunning new technology. Of course, this was in the days before Apple switched its focus from computing to consumer products, and the company’s financial reserves were much smaller than they are today. Still, it seemed to me then and still does that Apple failed to stay with promising but slow-moving new technologies on too many occasions for a company that touted itself as a research-driven outfit. They did a similar thing with HyperCard, a product that I also fell in love with — and clearly made a fair amount of money from — but that Apple never understood well enough to know how to market it. HyperCard lasted a little longer than the Newton and gave rise to some wonderful spin-off products from third parties (most notably for me the brilliant LiveCode language and environment I still love using). But ultimately, it was orphaned simply because of a lack of marketing insight at Apple.

Today, more than two decades later, I’m not sure we’ve significantly improved on handwriting recognition over what the Newton offered. At least, I haven’t seen any widely used commercial products that demonstrate that promise.

Oh, well. At least I enjoyed this brief trip down Memory Lane.

Jill Stein: A Vote for Me is NOT a Vote for Trump!

As a strong supporter of Dr. Jill Stein and the Green Party of the United States, I spend a lot of my time fielding the duopoly’s inane refrain, “Isn’t a vote for her a vote that makes a Trump presidency more possible?”

Short answer: no. We’ve been sold that bill of goods by the operators of the Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum politicians who are in control. Time to wake up.

Check this video interview of Dr. Stein for a clear and impassioned argument:

Think Produce is Expensive Where You Live? How About $1-K for a Small Bunch of Grapes?

Ruby Roman grapes, grown in Japan and Selling for $10,000+ per grape!

Ruby Roman grapes, grown in Japan and Selling for $10,000+ per grape!

I’m fortunate enough to live on the edge one of the world’s great produce-growing regions, California’s vast Central Valley. So I’m sure I’m spoiled by the easy accessibility and relatively low price of many kinds of fruits and vegetables, particularly when I buy fresh and local.

Or maybe the story I just read really is indicative of an outrageous situation…in Japan. The opening paragraphs of the stunning story:

A bunch of grapes has fetched a record price at an auction in Japan, where the fruit is considered a status symbol.

The bunch of about 30 grapes of the Ruby Roman variety sold for 1.1m yen (£8,350) – about £270 a grape. Each grape is roughly the size of a ping pong ball.

FYI, that’s just over $10,000 for 30 admittedly large grapes. Think about that for a moment. Let it roll around in your mind like…well, like a plump, juicy grape rolling around in your mouth.

This, in microcosm, is an example of the largest human-survival problem on the planet: the cost of food distribution is far, far too high. Japan can’t grow many grapes; it’s a country with relatively little arable land per person. Imports cost a ton of money because of shipping costs, refrigeration, spoilage en route and probably another dozen or more factors I’m not thinking of.

Eating locally grown produce is one way each of us can help reduce the problems of starvation around the globe.

I know I don’t want to pay $10,000 for a snack-sized serving of…well…come to think of it…anything!


Harvard Intro to CS? Free? Sign Me Up!!

I did something rash today.

I signed up for a class through Harvard College and the school’s online presence at edX. That surprised me a little because I’m already in the middle of four college-level classes through Great Courses Plus. What was more surprising — astonishing, in fact, to those who’ve known me very long, is that the class I enrolled in is Harvard’s famous CS50 course, “Introduction to Computer Science”. The surprise? The course uses the C language, against which I have been an ardent battler and which I vowed more than once to go to my grave able to say I’d never learned it.

I even rented (whole other cool story) the recommended text for the class.

So why did I do this? Particularly after learning it was taught primarily in C and involved a series of non-trivial projects the instructor says should take 10-20 hours each to complete? Honestly, I did it because I’ve always felt my programming and scripting skills were never going to be better than good to above-average unless I had a deeper, more formal understanding of programming and algorithms. Yeah, I’m 71 and retired. Nope, I don’t plan on re-entering the job market and certainly not as a coder (clearly a young person’s game). But I figure I have a few good years left and I might as well learn as much as I can now that I have the leisure to do so and no deadlines to interfere.

Besides, the most popular class of any kind at Harvard? And free? (I don’t need the verified certificate, but if I did, it would only cost me $90.) Just couldn’t pass it up. I may find I hate it before I complete it. No harm, no foul. I may find I just don’t have the aptitude to learn C after experiencing far more verbose object-oriented languages like Smalltalk and LiveCode and decide not to “waste my time.”

But somehow the notion of wasting time while learning is a bit of an oxymoron.

Wish me success!

Jill Stein Makes Ballot in Illinois

Dr. Jill Stein, my personal candidate for president of the United States in 2016, has met a really difficult challenge and qualified for the November ballot in Illinois. In some ways, this was the most difficult ballot access challenge for her — or any legitimate third party for that matter — ever. Not only is the bar far too high in Illinois, but there was such competition this year that even a smallish army of volunteers couldn’t collect the requisite 25,000 signatures in the 90-day allowed window. This meant she had to raise tens of thousands of dollars to put paid petition signature gatherers in the noisy field.

And she did it!

She’s gaining ballot access ground elsewhere, too. A judge in Pennsylvania agreed with a complaint filed by Jill’s team that challenged the 25,000-signature requirement in that state as onerous, dropping it to an easily achievable 5,000. Next state up is Georgia where she needs 7,500 valid signatures but is shooting for 15,000 to cover possible challenges.

Sure, she’s highly unlikely to win. But she can’t win if she’s not on the ballot! Every fair-minded voter, regardless of party affiliation or candidate preference, ought to be in favor of far easier ballot access, meaning more choice in November.



Tempted to Go Green? Don’t Worry. Protest Votes Only Impact Close Elections

Hillary & Jill

Hill & Jill

As a committed supporter of the Green Party and its presumptive Presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein, I’ve been talking her up among my progressive friends of late. Most if not all of them are impressed with the Green Party’s platform and positions on key issues, particularly on foreign policy and climate change where the progressive community clearly and correctly sees Hillary Clinton for the hawkish corporatist that she is.

But most of the people I’ve been talking to Have expressed concern that they may be casting a “protest vote” that could tip the 2016 presidential election to the Republican party and its presumptive nominee, the utterly detestable Donald Trump. Generally, I counter that concern by pointing to Jill’s observation that voting for the lesser of two evils still produces an evil. She urges her followers to characterize a vote for her as a vote for the not-evil, the positive, the true progressive position all of us say we want.

It occurred to me yesterday that there might be a stronger and more convincing argument on this point. If you stop and think about it, popular vote never elects the President. That takes place in the antiquated and inexplicable Electoral College. In all but two states, Nebraska and Maine, the candidate who receives the most popular votes is awarded all of the state’s Electoral College votes. This means, among other things, that a third-party protest vote only has potentially disruptive results in a state where the outcome is within a few percentage points. In states where the outcome is certain or close to it, it’s not rational to consider that a third-party protest vote could alter the outcome in the final analysis.

So I want to say to my friends here and in the so-called real-world that unless you’re in a battleground state with a close outcome in November, you should vote your conscience, not what the duopoly tells you to do. If, on the other hand, there is solid objective evidence to suggest that voting for the Greens or any other third party could realistically result in the victory going to the worse of the two major party candidates, then and only then would you be justified in holding your nose and voting for Hillary Clinton.

Sorry, but there’s no justification at all for voting for Trump.