Friday, July 31, 2009

Beer Summit; Diplomacy at its best

As promised, the President and VP sat down with Gates and Crowley over a beer to talk out the details of the racially charged incident the week before. I'm not naive enough to believe that this was, as the President stated, just a few guys sitting down at the end of the day having beers. Each had their own motives for being there, and politics and image was probably shared by more than one of them. Gates did have a Sam Adams and Crowley a Blue Moon - I believe those are motivation enough to drop by for a beer :)

I'm glad it happened, however. I think it should be the model for solving other problems, especially racially charged ones. Biden had a Buckler, which is non-alcoholic; it's not the social lubricant of the alcohol that is the key, it's the "regular guys having a beer" that seems to be the key ingredient. It seems to infer equality in a normal, non-threatening friendly situation. It's hard to be really angry with a guy who's popped open a beer and with whom you "clink" bottles with.

This is not to suggest that this one conversation solved all the tensions between these men; they talked, they listened and they came away with a different perspective.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Powell Weighs In (and right well)

See, this is why I really wanted Powell to run for president. He's just so level headed and fair, and a sharp thinker. Guess that's why he's not bothered running for president :)

Anyway he offers his insights into the situation by pointing out where both Gates and the officer could have done better. He also wisely points out that Gates was tired from his trip. I'm a bear when I'm tired after traveling.

I'm still waiting to see how Beer Diplomocy works out. If it goes well, maybe we should try it with Iran and North Korea? (um, might not be the best approach with Iran I guess?)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gates: "Time to move on"

I agree with Gates when he suggests it's time to move on. Everyone's said their piece, made their points, and (hopefully) learned something about race relations in America.

Lesson: Listen and ask questions first. Would have saved Obama from stepping in the poo.

Lesson: Humility and humor can defuse any situation, quickly. Gates would never have ruffled the officer's feathers if he'd simply have laughed off the situation and right away offered to show ID. We all forget keys, locks jam, doo-doo happens. Explain it, laugh, and move on.

Lesson: Some people can be grumpy and indignant, especially when they've returned from long trips. Patience, and a calm attitude seem like an officer's best friends (which Officer Crowley appears to have demonstrated). And when an angry person (any person, black, white, or martian) is demanding your name and badge number, give it to them. If they want to stomp off and make a fool of themselves, no worries.

Lesson: The Internet has changed everything. Government officials can not abuse power (as much) these days without it showing up on the Internet and going viral. People have high definition cameras in their phones, which are Internet connected. We can "live blog" an abusive situation in seconds. Racist cops (I'm sure they exist) will star in their own career impacting show on YouTube.

Lesson: The Internet has changed everything. Be polite. Never know when someone will put that video of "that jerk" on YouTube and everyone can see what a child you are.

Lesson: Delicate one - many of us white people are are tired of being called "racists" by misbehaving and immature people of other races. We work hard and most of us believe in treating everyone with dignity. However, we also are human and react when we are confronted with a 'tude. Chill. Even if some of us have developed a bit of an attitude about "Blacks" there has been a reason. We observe. We learn. We have experiences. It's not the media that has "programmed" me into thinking that drivers who are talking on cell-phones have dropped 50 IQ points and are Mobile Idiots. It's experience. Yet, be patient with us. I believe that most of us really do want to get along better with people who are not like us.

Lesson: Delicate one - if you are Black, there is a history and a struggle that none of us White Folk can ever understand. You have a much harder situation than we do. I can be rude occassionally, mostly with no wide impact. When you are rude people (wrongly) say "Gosh, Black peole are rude." Again - wrong. It happens. You need to be careful of your actions in public since you represent your brothers and sisters in a cause. Think of yourself as a very important ambassador. Gates was a terrible ambassador for both his color and for Americans. Fair disclosure: I'm often a terrible ambassador for my color and for Americans. I'm working it out, you should too.

Lesson: Obama has nailed it 100%. Let's all have a beer and talk it out.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gates arrested; Obama complains

Let me see if I've got this straight - a man breaks into a house. Police arrive and want to know what's up with that. Fact is, it is a black man. In Chicago.* Fact is police tend to take an interest when anyone is seen breaking into a house.

But that's not the part that Obama is calling "stupid". No, it's the fact that the police arrested this man who just broke into a house. From the reported story, it sounds like Gates initially refused to show ID, and got a little defensive with police, accusing them of being "racist".

Again, let me review the facts. (Arrest report here. It's insightful.) A man breaks into a house and is seen - not sure by whom. Police are called. They show up and confront the person they find in the house. Now think about it: How are they to know that this person is the owner of the house and lives there. The only evidence that they have is that this guy was reported having broken into this house. Owners don't generally do that.

Yes, we've all forgotten our keys and had to resort to extreme measures. But if you've just broken into your own house, you know - you know - that you've just done something that could look suspicious. If the police show up, a little humility and humor would go a long way. "Yes officer, I just had to break into my own house. Forgot my keys." And then the next part would be crucial to defusing the situation: "Here, let me grab my wallet and show you my ID that has my address and my picture on it."

The police would have seen his picture, checked the address. They would have seen the sheepish, borderline embarrassed look of a person who's just gotten caught doing something very human, and the whole thing would have been over. "Thanks for coming out, officer." It doesn't sound like this is what Gates did. Instead, this personal friend to the president and Harvard scholar thought that the police should have simply believed him with deference and left - by following proper police procedure which they would have done for any color man Gates retorted was that the officer was a racist.

CNN is running their "Black in America". Guess what. Being black in America means that you have to live by the same rules and endure the same discomforts that the rest of us do. That includes the requirement to be humble and compliant when police confront you after you break into a house.

Final observation: Had this man who broke into Gate's house not been Henry Louis Gates Jr., scholar and owner of this house -- had it instead been a white guy coming to steal his TV, and had police come out and simply taken his word that this was his house. What then would Obama had said? Would the police still have been accused of "racism" for leaving the white guy there? Would they (properly) have been called "stupid" for having not followed proper police procedure and allowing a thief to run free in Gate's house? Of course. Fact is, the police had to insist that Gate show them identification to prove that he lived and owned that house because that was police procedure. They need proof that this was not an illegal situation.

If you actually read the arrest report it is very obvious that the police officer was ambushed and immediately "race baited" by a belligerent Gates. I've seen this. I've experienced this. Gates acted arrogantly and improperly. He deserved to be arrested. Obama, by defending him, deserves to be criticized. While there are many examples of racial inequity in America, this is not one of them. Instead this is simply bad behavior by an arrogant Harvard scholar who thought he was above the law and should be treated with deference due to his connections and position. Were this a white guy doing the same to a black man the outcry would be deafening.

Update: Cosby aka, used to be funny weighs in. BTW, He makes a lot of sense, though his "defense" of the President speculates too much.
Update: Whitehouse to People: Er, what The President meant was...
Update 7/24: HuffPo covers it. It's surprising to Obama that this is exploding like this. Naw, ya stepped in it dude, er, Mr. President Dude, Sir.
Update: CNN Editorial: She gives good insights drawn from both her experience and academic background into the situation law enforcement finds themselves in.

I imagine Obama was, as reported, very surprised at the reaction. He never imagined that we'd react to his reaction in the way we have. And here I thought it was usually the V.P. that steps in poo.

*(I actually tried to find crime statistics by race. I found crime statistics. A Crime Risk Index was illuminating, showing how much above the national average many of the categories of crimes were, including robbery. I also found a breakdown of the Chicago crime by many factors (I'm sure Boston stats could be found too). Race was not one of them. It seems that some feel that the collection and publishing of crime statistics by race is a form of racism. I would disagree. Facts are facts. If the common racist misconception that black men commit a disproportionate amount is crime is wrong, publish the data proving this.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Stunning video

This video on Vimeo is very cool - very well done, creative and has a touching story line. Definately watch it through to the conclusion.

Large drives; larger problems

Computer drives are getting cheaper for more; in fact you can buy a 1 terrabyte drive for about the same cost of a night at the movies. It's easy to simply add files without thinking since there is so much space. I find myself wondering where all that space has gone.

I've been using FolderSizes to manage my various disks and really like it. This one is a commercial product - I tried some of the freebies and this case you seem to get what you pay for. The Pro is $50 and the personal version $25. Personally I've found it well worth the cost.

The main feature that I like is its most direct - it shows you how much crap you have in your folders, organized by size. This is where I find the most surprises when I first scan a drive. It's when I remember "temporarily" backing up all those files to that folder that I forgot to remove when done.
The Pro version can be used to monitor network drives and include handy features like scheduling to scan drives during off-time. A nice feature is that when you find a folder that has files of interest, you can delete them right from the FolderSizes interface; I don't usually do it this way because it wants to move the files to the recycle bin (there might be a way to change that - haven't looked.) But what's nice is you can also pop up a windows explorer window with a right click menu.

It might be trivial, but one of the best features about it is that it feels and looks professional. It is quick, does stuff in the background has a nice layout and nice set of features and is stable. Some of the free ones felt clunkie, crashed and were slow. This one looks like a great software package written by a single programmer, but done well.

Update: Ok, not a single developer working out his garage any more. Seems business is good and according to Mark Richards the chief nerd they now employ a number of developers to work their magic.

Swedes fund solar panels

Seems a government sponsored program to pay for up to 60% of the investment cost of installing solar panels is more then twice as popular as they projected. Wonder what would happen here if, say Georgia, funded the same?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

OMG R we this dum?

Say it ain't so, we just can't be this (um) uninformed, can we? I'm moving to Ugoslavia...

I demand a fence be built for our safety


er, maybe not...