Life Goes On

12 03 2007

This last (half)week is in the running for worst of the year… already. There must be a song out there that illustrates how I feel right now. When I’m having a bad day, I always think of the book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst. Alexander has a series of awful things happen to him in one day. As I recall, he gets gum stuck in his hair, has to visit the dentist and had to face a number of other horrible things. In the end, he decides the best thing to do is move to Australia. I’m not sure when (or how) it gets happy, but for me, the moral is that as shitty as it gets, tomorrow is another day to make a change and to live differently.

My Example:

  • Thursday: parted ways with latest girlfriend (broke up, her choice)
  • Friday: worked 9 to midnight shift at quasi-fast food job
  • Saturday: early morning, hung out at a party with my sister and three friends. was as fun as could possibly be considering circumstances until I chipped front tooth on 40oz while dancing. fun resumed shortly thereafter upon consumption of more of the contents of said 40oz. went home and slept. woke up still tounging chipped tooth. did dishes with overall pointless day that should have involved studying for genetics exam and nursing assistant quiz. accepted offer from fruit stand guy to start at fruit stand on Monday. studied at coffee shop for genetics exam.
  • Sunday: went to work at quasi-fast food restaurant at midnight to work until 3am (bar time shift) which turned out to really be 4pm due to daylight savings time. got out at 4pm, went to sleep at 6am due to coffee consumed at 11pm. woke up at 12pm. got out of bed at 2pm. began studying for genetics exam around whenever. never really studied hard. went to bed by midnight.
  • Monday: woke up at 6am. note this is same as bed time on Sunday. worked at fruit stand… a positive, enjoyable experience. went to genetics class. took genetics exam at 2pm because nursing assistant class interfered with evening exam time. maybe actually did ok on exam. had another quiz in nursing assistant class. did well. here I sit.

The week actually did improve a little, despite a lack of sleep. I don’t mean to oversimplify my breakup. It’s much more complicated than presented, but the story isn’t meant for public eyes.
Three items more interesting than my current personal dilemmas:

Gerald Cox of the Badger Herald wrote an interesting piece on Burak Obama, Sen. Joe Biden’s “controversial” comments on him and why people love him so much. I like Cox’s writing, as he’s often insightful and doesn’t jump to crass conclusions.

DePauw Cuts Ties With Controversial Sorority

Delta Zeta at Depauw just helped ruin the Greek image further. Thanks a lot, girls. I’d call you women if you acted like them. I wonder how such a governing body could cut so many people loose. Did they get a majority vote on all of those women? I admire the women who resigned after the fact, too. (Note: this has so much to do with a recent post of mine on college narcissism.)

From In Moderation: the very first (design of an) Apple Computer. It was called the Apple I and 200 were made in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Ronald Wayne and Steve Wozniak. Jobs needs no introduction, but in case you didn’t know, the less famous Wozniak helped found Apple, then moved on and Ronald Wayne was a “third founder” who is hardly know, though I heard him on NPR recently. Funny, I remember using Apple IIgs’s in school, but I never stopped to think that there might have been a I at one point.





College students narcissists? No way…

27 02 2007

A researcher at San Diego State recently released a study on the self-centered attitudes of college students. Some interesting excerpts from the CNN.com story:

“As an example, Twenge cited a song commonly sung to the tune of ‘Frere Jacques’ in preschool: ‘I am special, I am special. Look at me.'”

Who knew?

“‘Current technology fuels the increase in narcissism,’ Twenge said. ‘By its very name, MySpace encourages attention-seeking, as does YouTube.'”

Agreed! Consider Facebook, the second most popular social networking site behind MySpace. People get truly competetive about how many friends they have and what their pictures say about themselves.

“Kari Dalane, a University of Vermont sophomore, says most of her contemporaries are politically active and not overly self-centered.
‘People are worried about themselves — but in the sense of where are they’re going to find a place in the world,’ she said. ‘People want to look their best, have a good time, but it doesn’t mean they’re not concerned about the rest of the world.'”

I both agree and disagree with this statement. People do care about their place in the world and how they can help the world, yet there are outstanding deficits in political activism and social responsibility among college students. As an example, my fraternity, of which I am now an alumnus, constantly talks about volunteerism and community service as an important aspect of what they do, yet they’re becoming increasingly focused on character and resume building for their future careers instead of on the problems that plague society or on political awareness. The one great exception that I see is Humorology which, though it has an intensely competitive face, really raises a lot of money for Camp Heartland and the Chris Farley Foundation.

As an aside to this whole deal, Todd Gitlin writes often about how our generation (am I Gen Y?) is not activist in the manner that the Vietnam protesters were activists. (In my mind, I imagine all of the University of Wisconsin’s relics of a protest era: 60’s-designed building made like fortresses, the Mifflin Street Block party and fences over some campus windows. But I digress.) Instead, we are affecting the world through our purchasing power. We buy fair trade coffee when it’s offered alongside free trade coffee, we choose to buy the red “AIDS relief” ipod instead of the others or we click a button to donate money during the holiday season while making our Amazon purchases. Some may pish-posh the idea of making a difference a few dollars at a time. I did at first, but yesterday, I saw a sign on the wall of the Espresso Royale Cafe on State Street showing pictures of all the children who have been helped directly by money from consumers. That really stuck me. If I ever find the specific article by Gitlin, I’ll put it up!





Good God!

30 10 2006

Whether pro/anti-war, pro/anti-abortion, etc., don’t vote for Paul R. Nelson for Wisconsin Congress!!!! This was nationally featured: http://nelson.sitebuilder.completecampaigns.com/common/media.php?id=6442 .

Update (2/25/07): I have since heard this referred to as the worst negative advertising in campaign history. I think it made the Daily Show.





Bush vs. Conservatives

30 10 2006

The backwoods folk are beginning to doubt Bush

The American humourist Will Rogers once described his political position thus: “I belong to no organised party. I am a Democrat.” It captured the undisciplined, chaotic, often hilarious internecine battles that have plagued the party. The astonishing aspect of the current intense election campaign in the United States is that this time the roles are reversed. On the eve of an election it is the usually disciplined, on-message, obedient Republican party that is at war with itself.The polls don’t help. They suggest an imminent drubbing, and the newspapers and blogosphere have been full of what are termed “pre-mortems” or “precriminations”. When a ship looks like it’s sinking, it gets harder to enforce discipline. But the Republicans are coming to terms with the fact that their very success in expanding their party over the past two decades, compounded by the pressure of what appears an all but lost Iraq war, has led to fractures they can no longer paper over.

 

I’ve been travelling across America these past two weeks to battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as Illinois, Wisconsin and California. The anger at Congress is palpable. But what’s most striking is where it’s coming from: not so much from Democrats as from restless conservatives and Republicans.

A group of conservative intellectuals recently wrote in a liberal magazine last month that the Republicans deserved to lose. The intellectual titan of American conservatism, William F Buckley, has called the Iraq war a failure, and attributed it to the lack of a coherent conservative governing philosophy in the Bush White House.

On the ground, the rhetoric is even more intense. Republican Senator Mike DeWine, battling to win the key state of Ohio, said that Donald Rumsfeld “would not be my secretary of defence if I was the president of the United States. He has, you know, made huge mistakes. And I think history will judge him very harshly”.

In another critical race in Tennessee, the Republican candidate Bob Corker has disowned the Bush strategy of “stay the course” in Iraq. Voters guffaw when he repeats it.

Incumbent Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has said she would never have voted for the Iraq war if she knew then what she knows now. That’s in Texas, where she isn’t even in danger. Elsewhere, in less rock-solid states, Republicans are begging the president not to come and campaign for them.

Most critically, it is the rural heartland that is beginning to question Bush and the war. First, they trusted him as a man of God. Then they blamed the media for distorting reality in Iraq. Then their patriotism kicked in as the president urged them to “stay the course”. But now this segment of the population, people who have disproportionately sent their sons and daughters to fight in the bloodsoaked streets of Ramadi and Falluja and Baghdad, show signs of revolt. If Bush loses these voters — or if they are too demoralised to vote at all — the omens are truly dark for the Republicans.

The party’s strategy, after all, has long been not to persuade moderate, suburban America, but to register, organise and mobilise millions of rural evangelical voters who had not voted in large numbers since the 1920s.

Issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage brought these voters to the polls and made the difference. Without them in Ohio in 2004, John Kerry would now be president. The Republicans also gerrymandered their constituencies to ensure these voters were spread around enough to provide narrow margins of victories across the country. The victories were always close ones, nonetheless.

Until recently the rural evangelicals have stuck with the president, in part to honour the fallen, and out of admirable patriotism and trust. It is hard to believe that your son or daughter died or is permanently crippled for a bungled cause. But if the facade cracks, if these rural voters begin to believe they have been misled, then the rock-solid patriotic support could become something else. It would not, in my judgment, fade into indifference. It could turn into rage.

That hasn’t happened yet. But you can feel it beginning. When you add to it the libertarian Republicans, alienated by the religious right, the worries for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney mount. Then there are the fiscal conservatives appalled by the massive spending and borrowing, and the social conservatives who suspect the Republican leadership of covering up pederasty in its own ranks in the Mark Foley affair, and the neoconservatives who believe that their war was never given enough troops or resources to succeed. Put it all together and you have a party that is beginning to resemble a circular firing squad nine days before critical mid-terms.

In this atmosphere, the only recourse some candidates have had is mud, mud, glorious mud. In Tennessee the Republican national committee ran a campaign ad insinuating that the black Democrat was funded by porn producers and was calling a white prostitute for a rendezvous. An Ohio congressional candidate tried to portray his Democratic opponent as being in league with the National Man-Boy Love Association. The radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh entered the debate over embryonic stem-cell research by mocking the actor Michael J Fox’s medication- induced physical tremors. Fox is suffering from Parkinson’s and appeared in a political ad in defence of stem-cell research. I’m no prude when it comes to dirty politics, but the airwaves this year make mud-wrestling look like a nice game of badminton.

There is, of course, a great justice in this. In many ways the Bush administration and Republican Congress have abandoned principled conservatism and deserve to be punished by conservatives more than liberals. When they took over in 2000, the long-term fiscal liability of the federal government was $20 trillion. It now stands at $43 trillion. They have increased government spending at a faster rate than any Democratic Congress since the 1930s. They have generated deficits after four years of strong growth.

This kind of spending has made sleaze and de facto bribery inevitable. The number of lobbyists in Washington has doubled in five years. As for pork barrel spending, a simple comparison tells the tale. In 1985, Ronald Reagan vetoed a motorway-construction bill because lawmakers had stuffed into it 150 pet projects for their constituencies. Reagan thought that was unconservative. Last year George W Bush eagerly signed a similar bill with 6,000 such projects. In plain English, they are bribing the voters with the public purse.

On the critical matter of individual liberty, they have suspended habeas corpus for “enemy combatants” for the indefinite future, and authorised the torture of military detainees. Last week Cheney told a conservative talk-show host that the question of whether to use the Khmer Rouge tactic of “waterboarding” military detainees to make them feel they’re drowning was a “no-brainer”. It wasn’t that he had weighed the terrible price of torture and decided reluctantly he had to do it to save American lives: it was not even worth a second’s thought. Whatever else this is, it isn’t conservatism. It is big government cynicism and incompetence.

It is premature to predict a huge change in the Congress on November 7. Republican discipline could still hold on by a squeak. But a big Democratic victory could happen. And if it does, it will be Republican and conservative voters who deliver it.

Link: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,29449-2426622,00.html





Sick

4 05 2006

Only FOX news, upon a search for “popular blogs” would have a story on the “Green House Myth“.

One of the first grafs of the story:

Greenhouses work by physically blocking heat transfer (by convection) from inside to outside – the same effect that heats the inside of your car when it’s parked in the sun on a hot day. Opening the doors and windows allows air currents to flow and the heat to dissipate.

But neither the atmosphere nor “greenhouse gases” block convection, so there is no literal atmospheric “greenhouse effect.

That’s this guy’s working arguement? Sick. The author is Steven Milloy, author of the book “Junk Science Judo”. You must have heard of him! His site is www.junkscience.com. Though the prefix “Doctor” does not appear before his name, Steven Milloy seems to pose as an expert on various issues.

His philosophy on Junk Science:

Junk science?

“Junk science” is faulty scientific data and analysis used to advance special and, often, hidden agendas. The junk science “mob” includes:

  • The MEDIA may use junk science for sensational headlines and programming. Some members of the media use junk science to advance their and their employers’ social and political agendas.

  • PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS may use junk science to bamboozle juries into awarding huge verdicts. Large verdicts may then be used to extort even greater sums from deep-pocket businesses fearful of future jury verdicts.

  • SOCIAL ACTIVISTS, such as the “food police,” environmental extremists, and gun-control advocates, may use junk science to achieve social and political change.

  • GOVERNMENT REGULATORS may use junk science to expand their authority and to increase their budgets.

  • BUSINESSES may use junk science to bad-mouth competitors’ products or to make bogus claims about their own products.

  • POLITICIANS may use junk science to curry favor with special interest groups or to be “politically correct.”

  • INDIVIDUAL SCIENTISTS may use junk science to achieve fame and fortune.

  • INDIVIDUALS who are ill (real or imagined) may use junk science to blame others for causing their illness.

It sounds to me like he’s actually a lobbyist, or at least he’s paid to tell people what they want to hear and back it up with absolutely no peer-reviewed research (the foundation of scholarly science), just data and graphs he has compiled himself. He used no researchers to speak of as sources in his story.

Upon further inspection of his website, I found this:

Mr. Milloy holds a B.A. in Natural Sciences from the Johns Hopkins University, a Master of Health Sciences in Biostatistics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, a Juris Doctorate from the University of Baltimore, and a Master of Laws from the Georgetown University Law Center.

Mr. Milloy is a frequent advocate for free enterprise/free market principles and policies in conjunction with the Free Enterprise Education Institute. FEEI is supported by individuals, foundations and businesses, including ExxonMobil.

Mr. Milloy is president of Steven J. Milloy, Inc., which provides news and consulting services on environment- and health-related public policy issues to food, beverage, and other consumer product businesses and organizations.

So he’s no idiot, but he has a neocon agenda, and he’s trying to discredit genuine science.

Boo-urns.





The War

20 03 2006

So much has been in the news about the war in Iraq since it just began its third fucking year. A lot of things I’ve been seeing and hearing have been making me think more and more that this is fucking awful. As usual, a list:

1. What sparked this thought:
Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

Doonesbury strip from Monday, 3/20/06
The war involves the using of primarily lower class US citizens to fight and die at high rates. I know that several men and women say that it’s the only way they’ll pay for college or support their family. It’s unfortunate that it involves putting your life on the line. If the reason is simply to “serve your country”, that’s bullshit, I’m sorry. I’d never say that to the face a service person, but you’re serving greedy top politicians and special interests.

2. I just saw “V for Vendetta”. That movie is amazing, and though I saw through the plot before the kicker was revealed, I think the messages of the movie held value. There are images of the Holocaust and WWII, American surveillance, secret police (ala the Gustapo), government media control (which is always happening) and more. One of the most powerful messages of the movie is the question of how “right” terrorism is and at what cost we are willing to work for freedom.
SPOILER ALERT——– The main character, “V”, is a one-man resistance force who blows up a symbolic building to send a message. At the end of the movie, he blows up British Parliament as Guy Fawkes attempted to do on November 5, 1605. The question posed is, “What extreme does one need to go to to change the government?” It suggests that violence and “terrorism” of a sort may be necessary for a change. My conflict with this is non-violent resistance can be as powerful as militant, violent uprisings. Mahatma Gandhi and most of the black rights movement showed us that.——–END SPOILER

3. I heard a story on NPR by a journalist who was in Iraq during the first wave of the war (the air raid). She was one of 16 total US journalists there at the time. She interviewed her cab driver and interpreter who protected her during some of the worst shit. The driver spoke about the progress in Iraq. The most interesting statement he made was that he wept when the US forces pulled down the Saddam statues at the Palestine hotel. He felt that it should have been the Iraqi people who rose up against the government and eventually took down the statues. he felt it was a sham to see what he did. He added that no one in Iraq trusts each other, not even brothers and other family. No one knows who is part of the insurgency. Commenting on the police, he said that the forces there are still really bad. He thought that US troops still couldn’t leave because they were the only ones that could prevent civil unrest (and eventually civil war) between militant Sunni and Shiite factions. I’ve seen documentaries showing day-to-day life of soldiers, and I believe that soldiers are needed there to keep order. It may seem to counter my earlier statement to say that I believe that soldiers do good in Iraq, but that’s not the case. The difference is, a soldier should know that it is (some) politicians’ greed and corruption that got us into the mess. At the same time, the media portrays the idea that no good is coming from US occupation in Iraq. I feel like we’ve gone about it the wrong way, and I feel like we need to withdraw mostly, but it seems we’re still needed for many things.

4. Another thought I had after hearing about the destruction of the Shiite Golden Mosque was that this place is similar to the US during the civil war, except that the lines aren’t so clearly drawn. I know that Sunni and Shiite Muslims pray alongside each other and can get along here, but in Iraq, that’s rarely the case. The cabby was Sunni married to a Shiite, and he said it was a strain on the marriage, but that they resolved those issues. From what I know about the situation, Saddam contributed to the hatred by making the religious difference a classist and political issue as well as a religious difference. The bombing of the Golden Mosque makes me feel even more that these people are fucking their own countrymen over. I’m starting to give more and more merit to the inflammatory statement that eventually, they’re going to bomb themselves back to the stone age. When are they going to realize what shit they’re doing to each other? Never? Look at the Palestine/Israel conflict. I mean, damn, the Jews have been persecuted since the dawn of civilization. Who’s to say that areas with militant muslims won’t always be at war?

In digression, what direction is our own country headed in? I feel like here, political polarization is going extreme. There are a lot more right right people and neo-cons, and a lot more democrats are moving to the left to contrast and distance themselves from the right. I think a lot of it comes to just not wanting to concede anything to the Republicans. By the way, kudos to Russ Feingold for calling for a censure of Bush over the wiretapping issue. Boo to Lieberman for defending Bush’s shit agenda.

5. My dad, who usually keeps his political beliefs to himself, said he truly believes Bush is nuts and that the dems aren’t much better. I know that politically, this is a very superficial thing, but it still got to me.

Well, there’s a loaded essay for you. Please, comment and feel free to contradict or add.





Protected: Ignorant Assumptions and Slips of the Tongue

13 02 2006

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