Obama is mislabeled as a “socialist”

The word “socialist” is being inappropriately applied to Obama and Democrats in general. We’ve all heard the word since the 2008 election. Recently, with conservative ire at the large budget deficit and health care, it’s being thrown about a lot more. At the recent Tea Party Convention, Obama was labeled “a committed socialist ideologue” by former congressman Tom Tancredo. This mislabeling is being taken even further to comparisons with Hitler and Nazis.

Just as a little background, here is a dictionary’s definition of socialism: “A theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.” Whatever Obama’s policies may be, whether you approve or not, they do not even approach socialism. Socialism is on the far left of the political spectrum, while Democrats are center left. To give some perspective, Republicans are center right, and anarchists are far right.

When one looks at the political spectrum of the United States versus that of Europe, it is quite obvious that both the Republicans and the Democrats are very near the center of the political spectrum, partially because of our elective system. The alignment of Americans on the political spectrum resembles a bell curve; therefore, the closer to the center a party can place themselves, the more people will agree with them and therefore vote for them. With the “winner takes all” system of electing congressmen and presidents, this leads to two parties thatNational Socialism are extremely close to the center on the political spectrum.

Another point – government, by definition, has “socialist” features. All governments tax people through various manners, and spend this money for the benefit of everyone. It’s how roads are built, and it’s how everyone gets a free education. And for those of you out there saying “but Obama is increasing taxes” – Obama’s proposal only increases taxes on individuals who make $200,000 a year or families that make $250,000 dollars a year (from 35 percent to 39.6 percent). Or in other words, only 2 percent of Americans. That hardly makes him a socialist. Denmark, a truly socialist country, taxes its wealthiest about 68 percent of their income, nearly double that of the US.

My goal with this article isn’t to convince anyone that Obama’s policies are right (or wrong). It is merely to attempt to start bringing the debate back to what really matters, which is the issues. I know this is probably wishful thinking on my part (and overly idealistic), but I want people and politicians of all political alignments to be able to sit down and have a civil, reasoned debate without the argumentum ad hominem and name calling which does nothing but radicalize the debate and make it harder for both sides to compromise. I want a political debate where people are informed, knowledgeable about the issues and are, above all, rational, logical and ethical.

Nice guy Conan finishes last

Conan O'Brien - NBC Photo: Timothy WhitePrior to the Leno vs. O’Brien meltdown, my late-night allegiance was clear to all. Every night I would stop whatever it was I was doing and turn to Comedy Central to watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I hadn’t given a second thought to Jay, Conan or anyone else for that matter.

When the Writers’ Strike hit and both Stewart and Colbert were searching for material, they incorporated Conan O’Brien into an absurd late-night feud. I thought it was ingenious how in a time of trouble (and little material), the three banded together were able to keep their ratings strong in the face of trouble. From that point on, I was sure to catch Conan when I could. I followed him as he took over “The Tonight Show,” and as a result, it was impossible to look away as it all fell apart.

Naturally, I wasn’t happy with the situation at all. I thought it was disappointing, but as the ordeal went on, it became clear to me that not only was Conan funny in his own quirky way, he was also a genuinely nice guy. Throughout the ordeal, Conan was quick to point out that there were more important things going on in the world. He made frequent note of the suffering in Haiti, and as his ratings climbed because of the conflict, he put up ads and links to charities to help the country.

I have a very cynical view on pop culture, and I believe that many celebrities too often think of themselves and not of the people around them.

As the details of Conan’s exit deal with NBC were revealed, it became very apparent that he was fighting not for himself, but for his staff that uprooted their families to move to Los Angeles to film the show. No one doubted that Conan would get millions in the deal, but he wasn’t fighting for himself, he was fighting for his staff. That demonstrates not just character, but a kind heart as well.

I think the most tragic part of this fiasco is how the nice guy was the one who got shafted. While Conan is certain to get another deal on another network, it is sad that this had to happen to him. While it is difficult now, he could end up on top in the end. Both Leno and NBC have taken a hit in public eye, and whatever Conan does next is sure to garner viewers.

Even more interesting is what will happen with Jay Leno. He said years ago that he couldn’t see himself hosting “The Tonight Show” past the age of 60. Now with his sixtieth birthday months away, it looks like he’ll be surprising everyone, including himself! It is questionable how much longer Leno will stay on late-night TV, but now all eyes are focusing on Jimmy Fallon, the new host of “Late Night.” Fallon stayed quiet through the ordeal but did offer one gem of wisdom, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned…it’s that hosting this show is a one-way ticket to not hosting ‘The Tonight Show.’”

Republicans playing politics hurting them, their future

Courtesy of Google Image SearchWith a current national debt of over $12 trillion and a deficit of around $1.35 trillion for 2010, debt and deficit reduction is rightfully at the top of America’s current concerns with the government. Fiscal responsibility, spending freezes, budget cuts – these are measures and terms that you would expect to see a big “R” stamped on. Unfortunately, you would be mistaken.

With the victory of Republican Scott Brown in the special election in Massachusetts, the Republican Party has broken the “super-majority” of the Democrats. They now have the ability to filibuster and to block initiatives, since the Democrats can no longer muster the 60 votes required.

One would expect this to lead to a more fiscally conservative, responsible agenda, an agenda that would have greater bipartisanship and hopefully, one that would be more representative of this country’s needs and desires. Instead, the Republicans have taken this opportunity to (surprise, surprise) play politics.

In a vote last week on creating a bipartisan commission to recommend ways to reduce the rising deficit, Republicans defeated the effort, stopping it short of the 60 votes required. Several Republicans who had initially supported the bill then voted against were asked why they did so, and the reason given was that supporting a deficit reduction effort initiated by the Democrats would give them political cover.

Effectively, the Republicans united against a bill which they should have been sponsoring in the first place – a bill that would at least begin on the arduous path of reining in spending and reducing the deficit and potentially the debt.

Hopefully, this trend will not continue. The Republican Party is now at a crossroads of how they will define themselves. Will they (continue to) define themselves as a party which does nothing but attempt to block every initiative that wasn’t started by someone within their party, or will they use their increased leverage to make appropriate and necessary changes in bills that have the potential to be beneficial?

Take, for example, the health care bill that is currently weaving its way (or stalled, depending on how you look at it) through Congress. It is, as of this moment, a purely Democratic bill; votes on it have been straight down party lines. Now would be a prime time for the Republicans to show initiative and creativeness. By paring the bill down to a more palatable size, perhaps adding a few provisions of their own, and overall revamping the bill into a bipartisan effort, health care reform could be passed in a manner that would allow both parties to cry victory and potentially reduce the deficit over time.

What I want is a return of the old Republican brand, a return of the fiscal conservatives who utilize their political power to hone and refine initiatives put forward by the Democrats, by eliminating waste and helping by providing their own ideas, instead of discarding anything that doesn’t originate from them.

Thoughts on Extremism in a Coffee Shop

Hello Everyone,

I’m sitting in a little neighborhood coffee shop, reading/surfing the internet. I’m reading a really interesting book; it’s called “The Islamist” written by a former member of a radical Islamic group in Britain. Written as a memoir, it gives the reader (me) an inside look at how a radical, potentially violent Islamic group works. While I’m reading I see on TV that the Afghanistan surge has begun. Yesterday, I learned that a family member of mine is a marine involved in that “surge”.

I’ve thought about the Afghan war effort from a lot of different angles, and I’ve experienced a great deal of internal conflict regarding it’s merits, justifications, and chances of success. Over the past month, I’ve read a couple of books on the region and closely followed the US media’s reporting of it. From what I’ve learned; I can only say for sure that the region, the culture, and Islamic fundamentalism are incredibly complicated and obfuscating.

There are some people who will write a book or an article and give you a few facts about Islam or the Middle East,  and then make this grand conclusion on how to fight terror, make peace, while developing an understanding of an intricately complex culture and way of life. Or worse, simply make asinine statements meant to categorize that which cannot really be categorized.

Will this surge work? What does “work” mean? Perhaps we mean defeating Islamic extremism in that region. From this approach, the question is impossible to answer because there are many different types of extremism within the broad category of “Islamic extremism”.  We often label certain governments like those of Saudi Arabia, Syria, etc. as “corrupt, evil, extreme” but in fact many Islamic “extremists” despise these governments for a host of reasons. Furthermore, “extremism” doesn’t just exist in one region, but all over the world. Nor does it only exist in one religion; shouldn’t we be worried about Christian extremists (living freely in our own country) who plot to kill Doctors, public officials, and civil servants?

Trying to answer these questions only opens the floodgates to a slough of other unknown consequences. Consequences that will only bring up more questions, answers, and a plethora of unpredictable outcomes. At the risk of sounding cliche–it’s a tangled web we weave, fraught with circumstance. I can say for certain that I don’t like the Taliban. Now that the surge has begun, I hope the U.S. quickly and cleanly defeats them into submission and can somehow find a way to stabilize the government. And it should go without saying that I hope there are zero civilian casualties. Finally, I hope they come home soon and this endless war can be put to an end.

I’m sure millions of people share my sentiments and hopes. That’s all I’m offering though–just some hopes. I don’t have any answers right now. Right now though, I would be very weary of anyone who says that they do have grand, step by step solutions. Complex problems deserve a lot of time, thought, and flexibility. In short, complex questions deserve complex answers.

A wise man once said that “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” Don’t blindly listen to the boisterous, loud-mouthed, and self proclaimed experts. It’s a little unnerving, but perhaps the best philosophy must begin by accepting the fact that we can’t set up a structured, traditional plan for solving such a nebulous quandary.

Hope you all enjoyed that. It’s starting to snow (again) in Washington. Oh, my God.


Name Change Would (SU)ck

Southwestern may need one of these.  Courtesy of Google Images.

Southwestern may need one of these. Courtesy of Google Images.

“Where do you go to school?”
“Southwestern University.”
“Oh. Where is that?”

Students at Southwestern probably encounter that little conversation a great deal, especially from curious adults who really could care less about from where we are getting our higher education. When this happens, a variety of emotions can occur from complete indifference to bitter annoyance. Although some people are not particularly overjoyed at attending Southwestern University (but then again, does any college have a perfect percentage of delighted students?), others are enthusiastic about their alma mater and are disappointed that Southwestern University is not a better known academic institution.

The most recent controversy surrounding this issue is the possibility of the name change of Southwestern University. This has caused an uproar in the student body whether students have considered it a good solution or a haphazard move on the university’s part. One name that has been travelling through the grapevine is “Sarofim University,” which follows suit from our newest addition of the Fine Arts Building. According to the Southwestern University website, in 1999, the building was named after the very generous Sarofim family who contributes a great deal in endowments to the school. Naming a building is one thing, but a whole college is another and bigger commitment.

An overwhelming consensus has disagreed on the name. One freshman boldly stated, “Sarofim is a stupid name,” whereas another student more diplomatically commented, “Southwestern is already an established school despite its lack of fame. [Changing the name] would just complicate things; it [would] actually do the opposite of what [the school] is trying to achieve.” A sophomore stated, “It is a bit selfish for the Sarofim family to expect a school to be named after them even though they have contributed generously to the school.”

Although the whole name change idea has not gained much popularity, it does have some reasoning behind it. The administration has claimed that the name change would help improve the number of submitted applications. In this case, Southwestern University is trying to take a leaf out of Rhode College’s book. Rhodes was known as Southwestern at Memphis until it changed its name to Rhodes College in 1984 and as a result, the admissions rates apparently shot up drastically.

Southwestern University is also trying to differ itself from other schools with a similar obsession with directions such as Northwestern, Southeastern and Northeastern. Understandably, Southwestern University is trying to gain notoriety, in order to increase the population of the student body, in order to acquire more funding, in order to achieve its goal of being a great academic institution. Indeed, this is a vicious cycle – kind of like heroin.

However, there are also some problems to this possible solution. This plan requires money to create money. We would have to utilize our school’s already struggling financial budget in order to change everything accredited with the school. We would have to change our sweatshirts, our paraphernalia, our brochures, our school seal, etc. The recent graduates would lose some credibility when asked about a non-existent school’s name etched across their diplomas.

Southwestern, although not very recognizable, is still an established institution—we are known as the oldest academic institution in Texas. We would essentially lose all of that authority and have to start over which is counterproductive to the idea of expansion.

Another important point involves the alumni who would most likely be adverse to this transformation because of their loyalty to Southwestern University. If this choice does not sit well with all of our benefactors and not just one, we would be in danger of losing all of the other patrons.

This leads to another important and avoided question of whether or not Southwestern University is really a liberal arts college that caters to its students. Our school concentrates a great deal of effort in proclaiming its dedication to its students and making sure that the school creates an atmosphere that helps prosper the students’ own academic pursuits and interests. However, small private institutions tend to struggle financially and sometimes have to resort to a business orientation of thinking and, as a result, may stray from its idealistic purpose.

As a first-year at Southwestern University, I have only experienced about a semester and a half of the school which really is not a long time. However, in my time here, I have had experiences that highlight both the strengths and faults of the institution. Southwestern University does seem to try to foster a desire for learning in the students. It keeps the student body small in order to keep the environment as close-knit and personal as possible. From my experience, both the student body and faculty are very friendly. Indeed, there is a great amount of strength and merit to the liberal arts education that Southwestern tries to offer.

However, there is also a depravity in the system. There seems to be a hierarchy that students must go through in order to get to where they need or want to be. For instance, I took a photography class last semester and when an independent study was proposed for the entire class, it was turned down immediately due to insurance problems. If students are paying such a high tuition in order to attend school with such a commitment to its students, would there not be some other way of dealing with this issue?

One anonymous student commented that Southwestern reminded her too much of high school in both academia and extracurricular activities, stating that there “is a lack of [commitment]” in many of the students. Another undergraduate said that his biggest concern was the relationship between the teachers and students because although the school prides itself in having such approachable teachers and reasonable student to teacher ratios, it is not really so.

When someone hears the term “liberal arts school,” they might think of hippies, high tuition and low-paying majors. However, the phrase should also call to mind academic pursuits, dedication to undergraduate students, boundless opportunities and a fulfilling learning experience. Although Southwestern University has achieved a great deal with good intentions towards its ultimate goal, it has still got a long ways to go.

If Southwestern University wants to be known as a great school worthy of students vying for acceptance, a name change is not necessarily the best solution but rather a persistent strive to become a better institution for the sake of its students. Our school was named as one of the “Colleges That Change Lives” and hopefully we can continue to prove why this is so.

Supreme Court Did the Right Thing Regarding Corporations

America loves our corporations. Courtesy of Adbusters.

America loves our corporations. Courtesy of Adbusters.

Recently, the Supreme Court overturned two legal precedents that banned corporations from contributing money to campaigns. The issue, according the majority opinion, went beyond electioneering. According to Anthony Kennedy, it was about freedom of speech. As he stated in the majority opinion, “When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought, This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”

Many leftists and supporters of more stringent governmental control on business see this Supreme Court Decision as a tragedy, but the truth is that they are wrong. The Supreme Court supported liberty and made the right decision in support of corporations’ rights. First of all, contrary to what many dissenters say, the First Amendment does indeed protect corporations’ right to free speech. The text reads clearly: “Congress shall make no law…. abridging the freedom of speech.” The last clause applies to freedom of speech by any entity, not just persons.

The very idea of capitalism states that corporations can have full control over what they invest in and where the direct money. Furthermore, the very idea of free speech entails freedom to spend money as one pleases. To think, if the government could truly control where a corporation’s money went that would give them effective control over the entire process of free speech. Who is to say they couldn’t encroach further and eliminate to an individual citizen’s right of free speech as well?

To those that claim this will contribute to corporate control over electioneering, you need to wake up. Every election is bought and sold. Now special interest groups can just do them out in the open, which is a good thing. There will probably be less underhanded funneling of money to campaigns. Barack Obama foolishly stated, “This is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.” Hasn’t this been happening in every election?

The other argument made against this Supreme Court decision is that it will harm democracy. No, it won’t! The electoral process has not changed. It’s not like we are going to revive voter proscriptions to keep certain individuals from having the right to vote. In fact, in many ways the electoral process has been enhanced. Now, individuals can know who is really supporting their candidates and to whom they are making allegiances. Sure, there might still be underhanded deals to prevent voters from knowing the origins of private finance, but chances are this cumbersome process will be avoided and replaced by the more immediate process of direct contribution.

So this entire political hullabaloo leaves me with one question that illustrates just how absurd the dissenters’ opinions are: If groups can organize and protest to change policy, why can’t they donate money to candidates to do the same thing?

New White House Strategy + Quick Hits


It continues to snow in Washington, and temperatures tonight will be in the teens. I am SNOver this.

Snow HouseDuring WH Press Briefings, Obama and Press Sec. Gibbs relentlessly referenced the importance of working together, ending “petty political games”, or “doing what’s best for the American People” . It’s not just talking though. Since the State of the Union, Obama has attended a public Q & A session with Republicans, held a closed door/ bipartisan meeting with Members of Congress, urged Congress to form a committee on the budget, and has scheduled a bipartisan meeting on Health Care reform for later this month.

It’s an interesting move by the White House–particularly because they know it probably won’t “work”. Republicans have set new standards for obstinacy; blocking routine federal nominations of well respected and qualified candidates. For example: yesterday a nomination for the National Labor Board was held up (as it has been since April) by Republicans. Senator Pat Leahy said he had “never seen anything like it”, while he and others in the Senate are beginning to advocate reform of filibuster rules in light of this unprecedented behavior.

If Republican Members of Congress can’t even cross the lines to appoint mundane and routine federal positions, how can they be expected to cross the lines and contribute to the passage of health care, climate change, or economic legislation? The answer is– they can’t. What the White House is trying to do is put Republicans in a corner, in order to make it even more obvious that they aren’t doing what’s best for the American people.

I saw an article written by Lane titled “Who Killed Healthcare Reform.” I haven’t read the article yet (I will shortly) but I want to throw this point out there:

Republicans had control of the White House and Congress for nearly a decade. How much talk did you hear of health care reform during those years? The Republicans say they have all these fantastic ideas that would provide Universal coverage at no cost (yes, someone actually said that during Obama’s Q&A session). Where was this and other plans in 2005, 2003, or any of the past 8 years? Non-existent, just like today.What exists now is obstructionism and petty politics.There is ZERO interest on the Republican side to compromise.

Hopefully, these sad truths will be exposed by the White House’s latest strategy.

Here are some other quick hits:

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich asserted that Richard Reid (shoebomber) was an American citizen. FALSE, he was British. We still read him Miranda rights.

Sarah Palin had cribnotes on her hand for her Tea Party Q&A with audience. She wrote the words “tax, energy, budget, and lift American Spirit” on her hands. How the hell do you need to write down that shit at a Tea Party convention? I could have gone in there and memorized those lame-ass talking points. Good God, there aren’t even words to describe how stupid that woman is.

Republicans are starting to get called out on stimulus hypocrasy. That is, condemning the Stimulus on the one hand, then eagerly taking credit for projects that succeed in their district BECAUSE OF STIMULUS FUNDS on the other.

That’s all I got for right now


Texting a Complicated Form of Communication

At least one editor texts way too much.  Courtesy of Caitlin McCown.

At least one editor texts way too much. Courtesy of Caitlin McCown.

I wait. I wait. It’s on silent. That way there’s hope. At least a little. The screen is face down. Maybe when I turn it over the little red light will blink its happy little blink. Maybe not.

I feel exactly like Jacinda Barrett in the 2006 film “The Last Kiss” waiting for an unfaithful Zach Braff to at last contact me and stop fooling around with slutty Rachel Bilson. I want that text. I want it bad.
I never thought I would join the texting mafia. I don’t remember that much about high school, but I do remember being a lame, technophobic self-styled Luddite. I looked down on all the sweating masses of Jersey Village High – what with their pithy abbreviations, erotic one-liners and lightning fast thumbs.

I was a real jackass back then. I guess I still am, but whatever. I never thought a little screen would hold such sway over my whole life. Boy, was I ever wrong.

I didn’t really start using texting until college. And here, I began to think about it honestly. In high school, I was an awkward closeted kid who had trouble making and keeping friends.

Now, as an  undergrad, I have a social life that consists of more than sitting in my room alone and listening to Public Radio and Bjork albums. I have important inside jokes to repeat with 26 of my closest friends. I have meaningful dinners at Chili’s to coordinate. I have rumors to spread.
Sometimes I feel like I have a tiny 24-hour postal service in the front pocket of my jeans. I can reach anyone, anytime, always. I feel closer to people, and I hope they feel closer to me. Unless I said something mean about them. In that case, they can stay away.

Usually a feeling of alienation invades my relationships with other people, but 160 character messages help to lessen that feeling. They let me build a real, if somewhat disingenuous, construct of my interactions with friends and others.

And I get to be extra nosy. And I really, really love being nosy.

But texting can be hell – the waiting. The agonizing, tortuous waiting that makes me want to scream. But when the wait is over that little flash of light is one of the most gratifying feelings in the world.

If you go for annoying metaphors (like I do) texting can be seen as a microcosm for human relationships. It’s got the same pain intermixed with ecstasy. It’s confusing and gets muddled through its inability to communicate clearly. I could extend this further, but that would be really boring. We can’t go back to life without texting, and it would be ridiculous and awful to even try.
In short, texting, more than any other activity, makes me feel most like myself: simultaneously mopey and chipper, and gossipy. All the time. Always.

Avatar: Impressive, but Classic?

Avatar is a movie that features the Na'vi, who are blue.

Avatar is a movie that features the Na'vi, who are blue. Courtesy of Google.

After over a month since its premiere, James Cameron’s “Avatar” is still receiving critical attention. Audiences are still pouring into theaters and IMAX showings are still selling out. And now “Avatar” has won a Golden Globe and received several nominations for the Academy Awards, such as Best Director and Best Picture – a remarkable second for Cameron, who first one the awards with “Titanic.” Clearly, there is a public fascination with the cinematic techniques used to make “Avatar,” but is this attention warranted?

Surely, Cameron has made some strides in cinematography through “Avatar.” His use of 3D and computer animation is unrivaled by any other film to date. Its colorful textures and gorgeously animated action sequences certainly can keep an audience’s attention for hours.

Not to mention the films extensive marketing campaign, from viral marketing to ads on just about every major website (including articles, which have appeared in such high profile websites as cnn.com and bussinessweek.com). When “Avatar” was released, the world was waiting, and audiences were not hard to find. Many left the theaters awestruck by the sheer size and presentation of Cameron’s decade long project. Others, however, were not impressed.

Critics of the film find their qualms within the story. In the film paraplegic marine Jake Sully is put into an “Avatar,” a body composed

James Cameron, the director and writer of Avatar.

James Cameron, the director and writer of Avatar. Courtesy of Google.

of both human and na’vi DNA, and through a series of unfortunate circumstances is admitted into the species’ inner circle, falling in love with the na’vi princes Neytiri. The story has been criticized as an overused Pocahontas archetype of a man falling in love with a foreign culture and “going native.”

The motivations behind each of the characters are common tropes within the film industry: There is the man who is changed from his prejudice by love, an entire race fighting to defend their dying and misunderstood culture (supposedly this is a metaphor for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it can apply to almost any international conflict), and even the evil government officials who can be described only as heartless.

Lastly, there is the predictable outcome of the film: Good guys win, bad guys lose, hooray!

Despite these qualms with the story, the bare fact remains that “Avatar” is something new. Its use of CGI has created a mixture of real time action and computer graphics that creates a flawless stream of picture and motion throughout the entire film.

The characters themselves, while simple are believable due to the solidarity of the plot. Unexplained actions and random spurts of emotion so common in other films with romantic elements are absent from Cameron’s latest film.

Bottom line: While critics may be snipping at “Avatar,” it is a uniquely presented film and should be valued at what it is, something refreshing. Because of this, it is no doubt going to be receiving attention for years to come.

With recent talks of a sequel, new problems revolving around the film arise. Will audiences be satisfied with the same technology used behind the first, or will it grow unimpressive by the time of a sequel’s release? If Cameron does not direct, will an “Avatar 2” be the next “Alien 3”?

And lastly, if “Avatar” does not win any of the Academy Awards, will there be enough hype to keep the sequel afloat?

Rhetoric Overwhelming

This is the logo for the Nazi party, which is what some people were drawing comparisons to the administration.  Courtesy of Google Imagesl.

This is the logo for the Nazi party, which is what some people were drawing comparisons to the administration. Courtesy of Google Imagesl.

As nearly all of us are aware by now, the Nazi Gestapo have invaded Southwestern and have begun a campaign of random room searches designed to search for illegal drugs. At least that was supposed to happen according to the flurry of statements presented by the student group protesting last week.

As it turns out, the school is not conducting random searches of dorm rooms and will not be executing students and professors for their religious, political or sexual preferences. Following last Friday’s forum on drug policy, the campus reaction has gone from a raging inferno to an eerie quiet. What happened? Wasn’t the Gestapo invading? Wasn’t Southwestern keeping a “black-list” of students? Apparently not.

While these claims were extremely unsettling and downright offensive to me and many other students and professors on campus, what is perhaps more offensive is the lack of any sort of remorse. A week later the protests are gone, but their comments remain.

Maybe this disregard for civility is indicative of a greater problem in society today. Civil communication includes responsibility, respect and restraint. In this past year a no-name South Carolina congressman made headlines for shouting “You lie!” in the middle of a speech given by the president.  Disgruntled Americans organized themselves into “tea-parties” and protested what they believed the Obama administration would be doing, such as creating death-panels for Grandma. Just like the campus Gestapo, I am yet to see any death-panels. The problem isn’t just a lack of understanding the facts (as demonstrated by the tea-parties and our valiant campus protests) but a complete lack of civility.

Uncivil communication in society motivated Christian Republican Mark DeMoss and his Jewish Democratic friend Lanny Davis to start “The Civility Project” (www.civilityproject.org). Both DeMoss and Davis were upset with the offensive rhetoric that was being thrown about from all corners of the political spectrum and longed for the return of civil debate and discussion. Their goals are simple: They want people to be civil in public discourse and behavior, to be respectful of others and to stand against incivility when it is seen. This has been sorely missing from society and our very own campus.

The “SS or SU?” Facebook event clearly displayed their rhetoric and had 74 confirmed guests and 68 replying that they would “maybe attend.”  The counter-group created to “encourage open dialogue and level-headed responses” only had 40 confirmed attend with 37 maybes.  That’s 142 to 77 – quite one sided. The group’s comments were offensive, their lack of apology is offensive too, but what scares me the most is how many students were so willing and even eager to side with them in the face of hurtful rhetoric.

When my grandfathers served in World War II, they didn’t fight for the right to smoke pot; They fought for the survival of both their lives and the lives of others. When the last World War II veteran dies, I hope that history will treat the sacrifices made by all veterans with more respect than our campus did.

Student wants less theory, more real world.

This is an example of a Turing Machine, a theoretical computer science construct.  Courtesy of Google Images.

This is an example of a Turing Machine, a theoretical computer science construct. Courtesy of Google Images.

Let’s face it–not everyone wants to be a researcher. Some students tremble with the anticipation of their future grant applications and research work. Other students literally gag on the thought. While it’s true that many students don’t know that they want to be researchers until they actually encounter the research process through their courses, that’s not always the case. Others, like myself, want to stay as far away from research as humanly possible. We know it, we’ve always known it, and we will always know it – we hate the idea of spending our lives conducting research.
I don’t have a beef with understanding the research process. Understanding the methods of researchers is perhaps the most important thing professionals can learn. A thorough knowledge of the research process allows you to filter out good research from bad research, gleaning discoveries from the text of published papers that become applicable to your profession. These informational tidbits help to make us more capable. How to write said paper that you’ll be reading? Not so much.
I want to be a child counselor. I’m going to sit in a brightly painted, colorfully lit room, asking children what they mean by their Play-Doh figures. I’m never going to write a paper on any discoveries I make. It’s just not in my cards. I’m not closing myself off from the “miracles that could be” if I entered into the field of research. I just don’t want to.
Research based courses are impossible to escape here. Every single science, from biology to psychology, have research based courses. We learn how to write scientifically over and over again. We learn the research process over and over again. Some people get really good at the whole “scientific research paper” thing, and some of us remain fairly terrible no matter how much awesome instruction we get.
Quite frankly, I don’t give a crap about being a researcher and I never will. I just want to counsel. My roommate, the biology major? She doesn’t want to do research either, but every single course she has encountered has emphasized the research writing process. She’ll never do it in real life. What happened to preparing us for real life? Do we really have to wait for graduate school for that?
We don’t have bad professors here. Quite contrarily,we have brilliant fantastic professors that are incredibly passionate about what they do. It is impressive that professors here seem to be equally passionate about their teaching and their research – one passion never seems to trump the other. I don’t think you can find that at every university. Beyond that, our professors are darn good at teaching. If I actually wanted to be a researcher one day, I would be so thoroughly prepared by my undergraduate studies that the professors at my graduate school would have their minds blown.
Too bad I don’t, and too bad every single class I take leads me down the road of research.
If I one day go crazy and decide to become a researcher, that decision should be made in graduate school. I agree with having a brief introduction to the research process during undergraduate studies to expose students to the process, but the majority of the research workload should be left to graduate studies when students are pursuing their masters and Ph.Ds. Teaching us how to read research articles and deepening our knowledge of the research process? I’m all for it. But please stop telling me that I’m going to be a researcher.

Democratic Party!!!

Democratic Party

Today is move in day! I’ve already got everything unpacked and set up, so I’m ready to take a little a me time.

With this me time I suppose I will vent my thoughts regarding the past few days’ political scene. It’s been an eventful few days! Let’s outline them, shall we?

  • Obama called out the supreme court in his SOTU address
  • Obama argued for tax cuts and getting bank bail out money back…republicans did not applaud.
  • Once again, Obama mentioned “clean coal” as key to energy plan
  • Friday, Obama debated congressional republicans and won, hands down. On national television no less.

Calling out the Supreme Court during the SOTU address is certainly unprecedented. I can’t remember any SOTU where the president criticized the court in such a direct manner. It is important to note though that presidents regularly lament and argue against court rulings. What was so unusual was the setting, not the message itself.  All in all, I think a lot of people overreacted to Obama’s criticism.

Look at it this way– it’s the SOTU address. The practical objective for the president is to make clear his/her legislative goals. If Obama’s legislative goals include attempting to limit the impact of an irresponsible Court decision, I say more power to him. The SOTU was an ample opportunity for him to make the case for the future legislation, and there was no way to do that without criticizing the court’s decision. And yes, the court’s decision was irresponsible. It overturned 100 years of rulings and could lead the way to never-ending corporate/special interest impact in Washington. Obama definately did the right thing, and if it came down to it, he would be justified in doing it again 1000 times.

I can’t say I feel the same way about Obama’s views regarding “clean” coal. Coal is the worst air polluter of any energy source I can think of. Ever learn about how disgusting the London air was during the beginnings of the industrial revolution? I’m pretty sure coal had something to do with that. Coal has tried to improve its reputation through the repeatedly unfulfilled promise of clean, carbon free emissions technology. However, it simply doesn’t exist yet. And according to coal companies, it will take another decade (and billions of $$$) for the technology to actually work. Those are pretty big obstacles to climb, and that’s according to the coal industry.

There is no doubt in my mind that Obama has heard that argument and understands it. Furthermore, I think he would probably agree with it. After a lot of frustration and despair, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a political move in order to ease the fears of coal states like West Virginia. As someone who doesn’t want the government wasting money on a ficticous technology, I really hope I am right.

Republicans continue to bewilder me. They have been on a role recently, winning in Mass. and gaining momentum towards the November 2010 elections.  Last week however, they really made some horrible mistakes. Not applauding tax cuts for small businesses? Disapproving of getting bail out money back? Those are two attack ads in the making. Even more perplexing was there leadership’s decision to televise a Q & A session with Obama. Did they really think Obama was going to come unprepared and unable to retort to their slanted questions? If they did think that, they were definitely proven wrong. Obama schooled them every which way. Minority WHIP Eric Cantor was upset that Obama came off as “lecturing” but he was more likely upset over the fact that what took place on Friday was a national embarrassment for his party. It got so bad for republicans that FOX News actually stopped broadcasting the session 20 minutes before it ended! According to MSNBC reporter Luke Russert, one republican aide said (behind closed doors) that they should not have allowed cameras into the event. If you haven’t heard this Q & A session yet, I strongly suggest checking it out.

So all in all, a pretty good week for Obama and the Dems. No one can deny they needed a good week after repeated defeats. Hopefully more good weeks to come.

Tomorrow I will begin working with the DNC! If you wish to know more check out my other blog here, where I will be writing more about my personal, daily life.