Some Thoughts on Meeting Your Heroes

There’s an old adage that you should never meet your heroes because you will inevitably be disappointed, or something to that effect. As I ponder the people I’ve come to know and in many cases befriend over the past decade, I’ve come to believe the core premise of that statement is fundamentally flawed. We are all after all simply human beings and without our inherent flaws and frailties, raising anyone to hero status diminishes that humanity.

In many ways, I’ve been incredibly fortunate in the course of my life and career. When I was young I spent countless hours pouring through car books and magazines wishing I could be the narrator or protagonist in those tales. After focusing on engine design and vehicle dynamics while studying mechanical engineering, my later work took me off in very different directions which would later prove be very valuable to me. However, throughout the first decade of my professional life, I never really imagined where my path would ultimately take me and who I would know today.

It was only the emergence of blogging and online journalism that opened new doorways that I was able to pass through. As a young reader and engineer I was aware of the many names on bylines and the characters they wrote about. Executives, designers, engineers, racers and writers. In some respects I saw some or many of them as personal heroes that I’d like to emulate.

Now however, as I’m well into middle age, having met many of these people, my view is more tempered. While I’ve obviously never met many of the people that are widely considered truly heroic like Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela or Eleanor Roosevelt, we’ve all heard enough about other aspects of their respective lives to realize that above all else, humans.

This is not meant to denigrate the accomplishments or actions of any of those people. The accomplishments must be taken in context. The context of our limitations and flaws and humans and the environment in which we live. In some cases, that context will serve to further elevate while in others, we’ll find that the accomplishments came about by mistreating those around the person we might have admired.

I’ve been remarkably fortunate in that I feel like the balance in my life has been generally toward the positive people. Despite some of the personal struggles along the way, having the opportunity to know and befriend many of the people whose work has inspired, educated and entertained me over the 40-some years since I became interested in cars has been a wonderful experience and I’m eternally grateful to my amazing wife for supporting me along my path.

But there have been those that I now know enough about that I would never want to consider as friends despite still respecting what they achieved.

Ultimately though, I’ve come to believe that hero worship is not a positive thing and it should be discouraged. It would be better for society as a whole if we all looked at each other in the context of our lives. By elevating people excessively despite the decidedly not heroic aspects, we are dehumanizing them. In that, we lose the perspective that we are all capable of doing admirable things great and small and being better humans.

Let's give Justin Zatkoff the attention he clearly craves

Since Justin Zatkoff was so anxious to get attention when he falsely claimed to have been the victim of a hate crime at the hands of liberal thugs several years back, let's not let the web forget about it. He used the DMCA to get my friend +Mark Maynard's blog taken down the other day in an attempt to cover up his past, so if you are a Reddit user, go upvote the story there.  

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How was taken down in a web-washing attempt by false “hate crime” victim Justin Zatkoff : AnnArbor
**This text has been taken from under fair usage: […

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"there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation."

From a 1967 interview the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau gave to the Canadian Broadcasting Company in 1967 after introducing an omnibus bill in the Canadian parliament that among other things decriminilized homosexual acts between consenting adults.

Despite the passing of more than 45 years there are still those in the United States that proclaim the need to shrink government almost everywhere, except it seems the bedroom.

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File:Trudeau Omnibus Interview.ogg – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Non-free media information and use rationale for Pierre Trudeau. Description. An excerpt from Pierre Trudeau's famous interview regarding the omnibus bill and homosexuality; "there's no p…

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Some excellent thoughts on the possible unintended consequences of the recent movement… 1

Some excellent thoughts on the possible unintended consequences of the recent movement to regulate privacy online.

The cost of trying to ensure privacy could be much greater than just educating people about online behavior in some very basic ways. Let's be clear, if there are things about your life that you want to keep private, don't post them online in any way shape or form. Once something gets online, you can never truly erase it or forget.

Since the earliest days of the web, I've always used my own real name rather than pseudonyms. The stuff I don't want people to know about, I don't put online anywhere, period. There are plenty of benefits to sharing and contributing to online discussions. However, just as in the real world, we must all learn that there are consequences to what we say and do. Think before you speak/post.

We also need to expose companies that might be doing things they shouldn't such as Path uploading address books without notifying users. Thankfully, white-hat hackers and researchers are discovering these issues and triggering changes in behavior.

That said, the development of open two-way communications between consumers and companies has created unprecedented transparency in pricing and service. By using social networks like G+, Facebook and Twitter, consumers can call out companies that might have been unresponsive in the past and actually get improved service.

Let's not let a moral panic prematurely pull the plug on these benefits.

#privacy #socialbusiness

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If businesses had already been social in 2008, would the financial crisis have been less severe and crippling? And will looming changes in privacy rules interfere with the changes that might keep that kind of disconnect between businesses and their customers from happening again?

I was starting to write about Obama's Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights when it occurred to me that perhaps it might have the unintended consequence of disconnecting people further from businesses that might want to breakdown barriers.

One of the toxic and unnerving aspects of the recent foreclosure crisis was the impersonality of its customer interactions, From the shredding of mortgages into small sub-atomic particles to the disappearance of bank employees who should have been tasked to help consumers negotiate mortgage modifications and short sales, the entire process of keeping or losing one's home became one in which the customer (the homeowner) lost control, and the resulting anxiety rose to cataclysmic levels. A side effect of the crisis was that thousands of small businesses had credit lines lowered and pulled at the same time, even though their owners were not in default, in trouble, or late in paying them.

One the foreclosures began, one size fits all solutions based on too little personal information shut down the economy across the country and rippled out across the world.

In theory, the concept of social business, in which objectives are more closely aligned with customers and silos give way to transparency, should prevent something like that from ever happening again. As the enterprise slowly transforms itself from a hierarchy to a network,and the customer becomes a node on the network, things should get better, right?

I don't know. In the past few weeks, it seems as if the nascent social business initiative might get snuffed out before it even takes hold.

It's difficult not to ask how all the recent discussions about privacy — spurred by the White House's Consumer Personal Information Act and the EU's new privacy rules–are going to affect the fledgling effort toward making businesses, their vendors and suppliers, and their customers more aligned in objectives and more closely connected. Won't the hesitancy of consumers to have their comings and goings on the internet tracked limit what businesses can do to help customers they're not free to get to know? I know, I know, the act is aimed more at advertisers and marketers, spammers and retargeters. BUT…

To some degree, the discussion is a sign of the maturity and scale of online communities. When early adopters came online, they considered privacy a given, even to the point of adopting handles and avatars rather than real names. How you identified yourself on the internet was a choice, almost from Day One. It was in the hands of the user.

But Google and Facebook changed all that, encouraging millions of people to put their real names and actual personal information online in exchange for "free" services. Business models have been built around the use of consumer personal information: advertising technologies, market research, direct marketing, polling, and political campaigns have all used the information consumers innocently put online.

An entire generation has forgotten or never learned that if you want to keep your information private, you should probably not put it online in the first place.

I just wonder whether the gathering of information, and the resulting insights the could come from mining it, could not also be a help rather than just an annoyance.

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The war on drugs as a voter suppression effort

I just came to a fascinating and frightening realization about the connection between Republican voter suppression efforts and the war on drugs while watching Up with Chris Hayes this morning.

For decades Republicans have been working to find ways to stem the influence of the growing minority population in elections. The latest efforts at limiting voter “fraud” by making it tougher to register and requiring photo ID to cast a ballot are the most visible.

However, over the past several decades there has been a hidden and much more insidious scheme going on through the war on drugs by shifting populations to prisons. During the course of this decades-long domestic war, there has been almost no impact on actual drug use while at the same time the number of people incarcerated in the prison-industrial complex for non-violent drug offenses has ballooned by a factor of seven!

Most of those inmates are black males from urban areas. Blacks comprise 12.3% of the US population, about 14% of drug users and 37% of drug arrests! People living in densely populated urban areas are generally more likely to vote Democratic while it seems many of those in rural areas veer toward the right.

The drug war has a couple of different effects on voting patterns. First, just as prohibition triggered violent crime in the 1920s, drugs are doing the same in inner cities now. The result is creating an atmosphere of fear among more affluent urban dwellers even if it’s mostly unwarranted. Republicans prey on this fear with a law and order attitude toward drugs. That can tend to cause voters to shift to the right.

However, the more dangerous aspect of all this is the population of the prisons. Prisons are typically located in rural areas with smaller populations. When the census is done every ten years, the population of a prison is counted toward the population of the region where it’s located even though it’s inhabitants come from somewhere else. However, those inmates are not allowed to actually vote. As a result, when the electoral districts are defined, these rural areas can end up with a disproportionate representation while fewer members of the population get to cast ballots.

So the war on drugs shifts potential voters out of their homes, takes away their votes and gives more representation to those that are likely to vote Republican!

#politics #warondrugs


One of my biggest problems with supposedly pious politicians like Rick Santorum,…

One of my biggest problems with supposedly pious politicians like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and so many others, not to mention the religious leaders who support them is how they like to selectively pick and choose the teachings they will support.

What makes this worse is that all of these people so often stand and preach about how people can't just pick their beliefs a la carte but take all of the teachings or nothing at all.

Santorum and Gingrich are particularly egregious examples of this. University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole lists his top ten examples of catholic doctrine that Santorum ignores, all of which apply to Gingrich. On top of this Gingrich who converted to catholicism is also a serial adulterer and two-time divorcee.

#politics #indecision2012 #hypocrisy

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Top Ten Catholic Teachings Santorum Rejects while Obsessing about Birth Control
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It's long past time for not only judges but lawyers and politicians to be educated…

It's long past time for not only judges but lawyers and politicians to be educated on the modern world of communications and intellectual property. There is far too much muddle-headed thinking and a complete lack of proportion and common sense.

If a judge can't look at a case like Paul Chambers with some reasonable context and immediately dismiss it, they should instantly removed from the bench. Similarly, a prosecutor that would even bring such a case should be fired.

#modernworld #law

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Where are the judges fit for the internet age?
Nick Cohen: Twitter and Facebook are having a transformational effect on the nature of secrecy and access

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When Maggie Gallagher said on +Up with Chris Hayes this morning that she was not…

When Maggie Gallagher said on +Up with Chris Hayes this morning that she was not opposed to "marriage equality" just to "same-sex marriage" that was a distinction without a difference.

How can you have marriage equality if any two individuals that want to be together can't get married. Does she maybe favor polygamy as long as its one many and any number of women?

I applaud states like New York, California, Iowa, Massachusetts and others that have decided that it is just plain wrong to say that two men or two women can't be legally married.


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Saturday's Guests & Suggested Reading (Feb. 11)
Updated Friday Feb 10 @ 3:45PM.
Here are a few pieces to help you get familiar with our Saturday topics, plus a list of guests scheduled to join Chris on "Up" starting Saturday at 7AM EST on MSNBC:
– …

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It's really tragic that religious groups in this country make it so politically… 1

It's really tragic that religious groups in this country make it so politically suicidal for Americans to come forward and admit that they don't believe in a higher power. As a result we get almost every politician feeling like they have to pander to church-goers just so they don't get shouted down by the radicals on the right.

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