Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The "Specter" of a Continued Moderate Shift

We're skipping Tune Day today as there are more important things to cover. Primarily, I'm discussing Arlen Specter's shift to the Democratic Party.

I will let Sen. Specter's statement start us off:

"Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."

And there it is. What I've been saying for the past two years, in essence. The GOP has moved extremely far to the right. Taking hard-line stands on social issues such as banning gay marriage, abortion, all manner of drugs, safe sex education and countless others while, at the same time, closely aligning itself with ultra-conservative, evangelical Christianity has created a party that cares very little for any sort of compromise.

Honestly, there is nothing in current Republican rhetoric that gives a damn about anyone who raises any sort of objection. Meanwhile, moderates like me have been labeled "liberal" even though we see our ideas as centrist compromises. We moderates seeks to find ways that we can all live and let live and we know that means that we all have to give - sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

I've tried reasoning this out with Republican friends and family members, but the conversation nearly always ends with "Well, I think [flashpoint issue] is terrible and no one should be allowed to do it and I will vote to make sure that's the case." Great.

Around election time, I got really upset about this. Imagine telling one of your family members or close friends - someone who you are supposed to care about - that, essentially, you don't care if they're happy with their lives.

That, friends, is the current Republican method. And when someone defects, like Specter, the DrudgeFox machine goes into high gear to try and destroy the "traitor" against the party.

Well, now... it looks like the joke is on them. We're now seeing the GOP isn't some silent majority (last fall's elections proved that). We're seeing them as a small isolated group of far-right idealists, as crazy as the ultra-liberal PETA protesters and equally unwilling to bring people to the table and do the hard work of trying to come up with plans that we can all live with.

That's not good at any time, but in this kind of tough economy, where we all could benefit from hashing out differences, the GOP has shown, through their unbending congressional "no" votes to their rhetoric, that they're not interested in that.

We moderates and Democrats may not have the silver-bullet solutions (as the GOP is always happy to remind us), but at least we know we live in a complicated world where we need things aren't as cut-and-dry as the Republicans want it to be.

And, really, at least it's still OK for Democrats to not vote along the party line. I bet Arlen Specter is thrilled to know he can now vote his mind and not get ripped on cable news for a week.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Epidemic! Tune in at 11

One thing they teach you in PR... the news sets the agenda. And, I am of a mind that we should think of that more when we consumer the news.

Please bear in mind that I hold all types of journalism in high regard. By seeking out a variety of news outlets and viewpoints, I feel like I gain a better understanding of the world and the view of others. Today's richly diverse media world - with an emphasis on user-generated content - offers more opportunity than ever. All this said...

I cannot believe the sudden furor over swine flu. And I think it's all because of the news.

Friday is a notoriously slow news day. And this past Friday, the Drudge Report - possibly the most comprehensive news-gathering outlet that throws all judgment aside simply for sensationalism and right-wing pandering (and to great success, to Matt Drudge's credit) - threw up big red-letter panic about swine flu spreading... clearly to kill us all. The only surprise was that it didn't blame Obama for the outbreak (though I imagine we'll get to that this week).

Fast forward to tonight... and swine flu is here! At least you'd think so. You cannot escape reports on this. It could become a worldwide epidemic! It could kill thousands!

Mainly, though, for any number of advertiser-supported news outlets... it could raise our ratings!!

We all have to remember that news outlets, in this day and age need eyeballs. 24 hours a day. Take it from a former newsguy... it takes about 15 minutes to read a news story and then go read a few more to add depth and perspective. That's it. You don't need another 45 of people saying "what it all means." Especially if those folks are simply angling for book deals or, as some say colloquially, talking out their backsides.

Bottom line... we can remember the SARS panic. We were all at severe risk, you'll recall. And you know what? Nearly no one died and I have yet to meet someone who contracted the disease.

Could we be at the cusp of a flu epidemic? Absolutely. The magic of this, though... we're always at the cusp of a flu epidemic. It's the flu. It has never been cured. And people die of influenza every year.

I don't mean to be cynical, bu I lived in NYC for SARS and the annual mini-panic over West Nile virus. From what I can tell, contagious makes for great TV - and leads to a lot of people panicking.

I am sure the makers of Airborne will be doing a brisk business this week. Me? I am going to ignore the hype. I'm going to take my vitamins, continue to wash my hands when they are dirty enough that I feel they need washed and try to keep myself in decent shape.

Like always. And, ask my wife... I apparently do something right. I only get sick once or twice a year. And it's almost always a cold.

Friday, April 24, 2009

There are barely enough miles in Delaware to charge for!

Have you driven from Baltimore to Delaware lately? No? Good for you. Because they have JACKED the tolls on I-95 to a point where I think I may bike the 90 miles or whatever next time.

The Maryland toll is up to $5 a car and the one at the Delaware line, easily the worst tollbooth in the country is now $4. This is what it feels like:

I find myself very suddenly hoping the NC Turnpike Authority concentrates on Raleigh for many, many, many years before touching my Charlotte highways.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tune Day: Not Classical, But Maybe Classic

I'm not very smart, so it took me until Daft Punk's Discovery for me to see the similarities between "techno" and classical music. Songs with a variety of layers, instruments (and by that I mean anything making a noise) and themes-counterthemes that established by songs. I've often been surprised how some who love traditional classical music don't get into electronic music more. I guess, for some people, it's more about how the music is being played than how it sounds.

That said, I can absolutely understand that it is something of an acquired taste to sort through the tweaks and bleeps and train your ear on the themes and melodies in the music of someone like Dan Deacon.

I have read very little on Mr. Deacon. I know he's based in Baltimore. Apparently, his live performances are quite the spectacle. What I know for sure, is that his new album Bromst is absolutely one of the better records I've heard this year. And it's every bit complex as a symphony.

Snookered - Dan Deacon

Thursday, April 16, 2009

If only he had asked her for a coffee...

You know, I'm all for being served now and then. Especially at hotels. I love picking up the phone, calling the front desk and having someone address me with a "Mr." in front of my name. I can totally understand why Matt Damon used to check into hotels under the false last name "President." After all, every room service call was answered by someone going "Yes, Mr. President?"

That said, there is a line between where others must serve us and where we must roll up our shirt sleeves and make some things happen. For instance, the airport this morning:

Flustered Man, running up to gate: I'm not sure where I need to go, I'm flying to Chicago.

Gate agent: Well, what's your flight number?

Flustered: Umm... (gets boarding pass) I... oh no! I gave them the Chicago boarding pass when I got on my first plane this morning! How could she have missed that?!

Agent: Well, what's your reservation number?

Flustered: I don't know, you figure it out (shoves boarding pass to her).

Agent: Oh, you're leaving from gate C17. You need to go back up the stairs and down the C concourse.

Flustered: Oh I can't make that... I don't have time to get over there...

The problem was, see, he had plenty of time. In fact, he had 30 minutes. To get himself a distance of no more than a quarter mile.

So, the gate agent, in her ever-so-polite method, tells him she'll call for a cart. And this guy... this guy, goes "Oh they won't take me because they see me and don't think I am handicapped and they tell me to walk."

Yes, I'm sure they do since they're not allowed to do that. In fact, if you want a ride, and they have room, they have to give you one.

In the meantime, Flustered Guy is moaning about how if he doesn't "make this flight I'm so screwed." This, friends, is where I went from annoyed by the guy to flat out angry at him.

I'm sitting there thinking, "well, buddy, if you're so screwed, get on your horse and get to your gate. Don't sit at my gate all day whining that you cannot possibly make a flight that leaves in 30 minutes from a gate a couple hundred yards away."

And especially don't lay your problems at the feet of another gate agent who is trying to do her job, at her gate. Not serve as your personal assistant and whipping post.

Eventually the man was on his way... wasting 10 minutes with bellyaching. And those of us about to board? We all gave this gate agent our sympathies.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I mean, they already place a "heavy" tag on checked bags...

Apparently, Delta, Continental, Southwest, JetBlue and a handful of others are already doing this, but I didn't know...

United Airlines will begin charging obese passengers for two seats if they get bumped from a full flight due to not being able to fit into one seat.

This is absolutely and interesting bit of news. After all, take it from a seasoned traveler: this is an issue. But don't take my word for it... according to a United spokesperson: "Last year we had 700 complaints from passengers who had to share their seats." Meaning you're enjoying your window seat when suddenly your thigh is being used as a supplemental cushion by some large person.

Yes, I know... airline seats are small. But no smaller than seats in a stadium. And most airplane seats I've encountered are bigger than those on public buses/subways. So let's not blame seat size.

So, how will the determination be made? You can tell United has lawyers, put it that way:

Under the new policy, obese passengers -- defined as unable to lower the arm rest and buckle a seat belt with one extension belt -- will still be reaccommodated, at no extra charge, to two empty seats if there is space available.

If, however, the airplane is full, they will be bumped from the flight and may have to purchase a second ticket, at the same price as the original fare.

That sounds pretty legally solid.

I can feel for folks who have thyroid conditions, but let's face it: those folks are the minority. America has become fat. Dangerously so. And as someone who goes to the gym five days a week - and is active every day - I'm glad to see that there is some resistance to accommodating people's unhealthy habits in these sites of situations.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tune Day: Lost in Seattle History

Since the 1990s are cool again (see: re-release of Pearl Jam's Ten), I bring you a track that has been missed by the Seattle-scene historians. Just consider:

  • You've got Alice in Chains in one of their mostly-acoustic EPs
  • You've got Chris Cornell offering a guest vocal
  • You've got Mark Arm, lead singer of Mudhoney
  • You've got a song like none other from any of these bands
Here's "Right Turn:"

Right Turn - Alice In Chains

Sunday, April 12, 2009

When Zombies Attack...

...this blog is here for you. Even when I haven't had time to blog, zombie news is news of importance and must be noted. CNN, please take us away:

Woody Harrelson defended his clash with a photographer at a New York airport Wednesday night as a case of mistaken identity -- he says he mistook the cameraman for a zombie.

Uh, huh. Go on...

"I wrapped a movie called 'Zombieland,' in which I was constantly under assault by zombies, then flew to New York, still very much in character," Harrelson said in a statement issued Friday by his publicist.

"With my daughter at the airport I was startled by a paparazzo, who I quite understandably mistook for a zombie," he said.

I'm not sure what to believe. Every time I'm at LaGuardia, I think I see a zombie. Anyhow, keep this in mind the next time you plan a surprise party for Woody Harrelson.