Archive for the The Middle Ground Category

Chopped Liver and Paris Hilton

Posted in Environment, The Middle Ground, Tolerance on August 6, 2008 by cheappaper

I never thought I’d hear myself say it and it took only one minute and fifty seconds to happen.  I’ve become an unabashed Paris Hilton fan.  All cheap glamor, shallow videos, bared breasts, and other superficialities are forgiven.

I might have expected it from Lewis Black but not from Paris.  In just 110 seconds, she skewers two presidential candidates, pokes fun at herself, and probably picks up placement payments from Traveler Magazine.  I don’t even care if someone else wrote the video, at least she hires well.

For fans of irony like myself, I am most tickled that the superficial star exposes the superficiality of the so-called differences in the Obama and McCane energy policies.  One is stumping on the short term, the other on the long term.  In truth, no matter who ends up in the White House, real options are going to be severely constrained by global and environmental factors outside the control of both the president and the country.  They both better be trying to figure out how to get divergent interests to collaborate.

So let’s hear it for the chopped liver.  I stand in awe.

If anyone was lucky enough to have missed John McCane’s “celebrity” campaign ad, find it here.

Catch Paris’s reply here.

Healthy Food, Healthy Image, Healthy Fearmongering.

Posted in The Middle Ground, Zen and Modern Life on July 30, 2008 by cheappaper

I know a lawyer who tells her clients that a time comes when the client needs to stop listening to her.  That is, do what’s right and damn the whining lawyers.  The California Milk Processors Board might want to heed her advice.

Got Milk?  Healthy message, right?  Not the message the Milk Board’s lawyers are sending to Talkeetna, Alaska artist Barbara Holmes.

Remember that guy in the cartoon, Snidley Whiplash?  The Milk Board is doing its best to imitate him.  It is bringing a cease and desist order against Ms. Holmes.  It seems that Ms. Holmes embroidered a handful of baby shirts for a church auction.  The fuss you ask?  She hand embroidered each shirt with the message, “Got Breastmilk.”

Her act, according to the Milk Board’s attorneys, is a clear copyright violation.

A nice summary of the situation here.

The website of the local Talkeetna lawyer who is defending Ms. Holmes against the Milk Board is here.

To me, it looks like some healthy stuff had been going down.  That is, some healthy fearmongering by the Milk Board’s legal counsel.

Update: July 30.  If you have more free reading time than me and prefer Hiaku with your intellectual property law, check out the coverage at f/k/a.

Ethics within Ethics?

Posted in The Middle Ground on June 27, 2008 by cheappaper

I have a folder of unread RSS items. I poke through it from time to time. So It was that I found a May 23 blog entry by Daniel Altman.

I like Mr. Altman’s blog. I like his insights on globalization. Consequently, I was disappointed with a note he added to the bottom of his article. He blamed his staff for losing a computer file.

Ironically, the May 23 article focused on the value of socially ethical investing, with allusions to Enron. Is not Mr. Altman’s action in blaming his staff the same type of behavior we saw from Enron’s senior executives?

An organization’s culture flows from its top. Whether it is ethical or organizational behavior, the behavior of an organization’s leaders serve as a template for that of the organization’s employees.

I’ll bet that Mr. Altman’s leadership played a role in the loss of the computer file, even if indirectly. I believe it speaks volumes when a leader, such as Mr. Altman, tries to evade responsibility for an error in his organization. Were there similar evasions that took place in his staff?

C’mon Mr. Altman, step up and take some responsibility. Losing a set of blog comments is an embarrassment but not more. Don’t cower behind your staff. If you lead, they will lead too.

In this case, your actions not only shined poorly on you, they served as a sardonic self commentary on your own article.

The Fall of Rome

Posted in The Middle Ground, Zen and Modern Life on June 25, 2008 by cheappaper

I could enjoy watching flights of hubris if they did not have the nasty habit of landing on top of pedestrians when they return to earth.

I was reading this morning an article on the Bear Stearns debacle. The pundits continue to debate the source of the subprime mess. “Did Bear Stearn’s downfall cause it?,” they ask. “No, it was the other way around,” others contend.

In all the flurry, what caught my eye was a statement attributed to Bear Stearn’s fund manager Ralph Cioffi. Ralph was the manager of one of Bear Stearn’s subprime portfolios. He reportedly earned tens of millions of dollars annually to shepard these monies. When he belatedly realized his funds had failed, he emailed a colleague and stated that he had “effectively washed a 30-year career down the drain.”

A remarkable statement. A man who has just squandered 1.6 billion of other people’s money and his first thought is to his career and, by extension, his pocketbook?

I would guess that if the pundits paused long enough to meditate on Ralph’s statement, they would find in it the answer to their questions. For I would also guess that Ralph is not alone.

And then it was Obama

Posted in The Middle Ground, Tolerance on June 4, 2008 by cheappaper

I ride a bicycle. I’m just a weekend warrior, which made the kind comments by New York photographer and bike courier Brian McGloin a special treat. What he does is real cycling.

A few years back, I decided to ride my bicycle over the Going to the Sun Highway. This so-called highway is a two lane road climbing through Glacier National Park in Montana. It goes up to the height of land without a break. On a bicycle and in rough numbers, it is 25 miles of nothing but up hill. For me, this meant hours of pedaling. Just pushing one foot down, then the other.

At times, the road simply ground through miles of trees, with nothing more to see. At other times, the road reached singular points of reward: an arched bridge over an impassible gorge or a stone tunnel through a barrier of granite. There was even a small cliff called the Weeping Wall.

What I found most grueling about the ride was that, for much of it, I could look literally miles ahead and see the road scratched into the mountainside, still climbing toward the pass. For all the sweat I’d put in, all I could see was more hill ahead.

At one point, however, I stopped. Focused on the riding as I had been, I had not looked back at the road behind me. I was moved to see how far I had come. Below me lay valleys and forests as far back as I could see. As others who have traveled the road will tell, it is one of the most spectacular sights in the United States. It caused me to pause and reflect that my efforts had, in fact, had remarkable results.

So I got on my bicycle and started pedaling again.

And so I think it is with hate and bigotry too. Let us pause a moment and reflect on how far we have come. Then, move forward again.

Congratulation Mr. Obama. Congratulations to all African Americans. Congratulations America.

Of Communication and Capitulation

Posted in The Middle Ground on May 16, 2008 by cheappaper

President Bush has taken a swing at the presumptive Democratic candidate, by likening him to Neville Chamberlain and the Nazi appeasers. (NY Times but you may have to register).

There are many reasons I find the President’s statements ill advised. I find it especially ironic, however, that Chamberlain’s negotiations preceded a war — and are often credited with causing it. Any negotiations that might take place with Iran now would be negotiations following a war — and one can draw his or her own conclusion as to what caused what.

I know a lawyer who is a professional negotiator. I have often heard him say that “those who do not communicate will litigate.” I accompanied him once when he suggested to a client that communication and negotiation might be in the client’s best interest. The client assailed him as being a “Chamberlain.” His response, which I have carried with me since, was, “I know a thousand respectful ways to say ‘No.'”

I have a hunch that if we do not communicate with Iran, we will end up fighting with Iran. Communication, however, is not the same thing as capitulation.

Sex, Guns, TV, and Classrooms

Posted in The Middle Ground, Violence on May 1, 2008 by cheappaper

Tara Parker-Pope writes too quick a byte on sexual harassment in our schools. One of the comments states,

What boy HASN’T played “Tune in, Tokyo” with the girls in school? Sex is a beautiful, natural act and should be encouraged, not confined into a dark, shameful corner. Let’s work to produce an enlightened, healthy Generation Y.

Tara fires back,

FROM TPP — But the discussion here isn’t about sex. It’s about harassment. And “tune in tokyo” is about grabbing a girls breasts without permission and turning them like they are radio dials. The fact that you think this is just harmless boy behavior is really disgusting.

I think Tara and her commenter both miss the mark. Sex, harassment, violence, and bullying are interrelated in complex ways that we may never fully understand.

I rarely watch TV. Each time I do, however, I see two things in almost all shows: violence and sex. The violence is explicit, graphic, and acceptable. It is most effective when used by the good guys. The sex is usually implicit, seductive, and subliminal. When it is shown graphically, it is usually lustful not loveful.

What a recipe. Take kids aged 12-18, add hormones, and stir a toxic mix of acceptable violence and unacceptable sex. The result cannot be anything but harassment and bullying.

I think Tara’s commenter, for all his misunderstanding, may have stumbled on a better solution than Tara’s violent name calling. I suspect if sex was acceptable and violence was not, the results in our classrooms might be different.