Thursday, December 31, 2009

Teaching Deviance and Safe New Years Eve Plans

As a teacher of crime and deviance, one of the biggest yet most basic points I try to get across to my students is that the two are not the same. That is, not all crimes are deviant and not all deviant acts are crimes. It sounds like a basic and obvious point, which it really is, but it's so important for how we make laws and use the limited resources of our criminal justice system. It's equally important for understanding why certain crimes tend to be committed by certain people and why some communities barely look askance at crimes that shock other communities.

The most obvious example of this concept is speeding. Speeding is a crime, yet it's not at all deviant, seeing as roughly 99% of our population does it (I just made that number up, but I would not be surprised if it were true). But I think a more illustrative example is drunk driving -- it's certainly illegal, and in most places it's also fairly deviant. But even for something so obviously dangerous and risky, there are still varying shades of deviance attached to it (even though it's illegal throughout the U.S.).

For instance, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas almost always fill out the list of top 5 states for DUI arrests. Now this could be because DUI enforcement is stronger in these states, but if I had to hazard a guess, I would say it more likely stems from the fact that we here in the Upper Midwest like our alcoholic beverages. Also, we tend more rural with far fewer taxis or dependable forms of public transportation.

As such, while drunk driving is still illegal, and probably still seen as pretty deviant by many people around here, it's probably less deviant in the Upper Midwest than it is elsewhere. So while the legal regulations on drunk driving are pretty uniform across the nation (all 50 states now have a BAC limit set at .08), the social regulations on drunk driving are probably weaker around here. And given that social pressures tend to be much more effective in limiting criminality than are legal regulations, you have people more likely to drink and drive yet face the same legal sanctions as they would in a place where it's less socially acceptable.

Now, I'm certainly not saying that it's socially acceptable around here to drive with a BAC of .708 as they do in South Dakota, but if you live in the Upper Midwest and are heading out to a party tonight, you should probably be a little extra cautious about drunk drivers...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lazy Blog Post

Don't have much time to write today because I'm busy working on funding proposals and taking care of a dog that had to have surgery (yes, I provide my dog with the medical care I myself cannot afford).

So in the interest of posting yet not spending time on something, please do check out the craziest shit said in the media in the past year. Not too surprisingly, Glenn Beck tops the list. S read it, and then remember that thousands of people actually listen to that guy. Then go take a long, long shower...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

If You Can Read This, You're Probably a Robot


Find a translation here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Put Bert in the Hall Already

Don't have much time to blog today with end of the semester work to do, but I did want to link to a great article by Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnaski arguing again why Bert Blyleven should be in the Hall of Fame.

Bert gets no love from the selection committee because he was never a Cy Young winner or MVP candidate or collector of any of the big awards that make a choice obvious. But if you take a minute and look at what he actually did, he was easily one of the best pitchers of his era, and clearly one of the best pitchers of all time.

Besides, if nothing else, Bert leads the league in sexually inappropriate comments during telecasts, and that's gotta count for something...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

That's Not America!

Once, when Homer Simpson was running for Springfield Sanitation Commissioner, he was decrying that sad state of the world by exclaiming "That's not America! That's not even Mexico!"

And that seems to be a pretty common belief in the U.S. -- that we may not be that great, but shit, look at how bad Mexico's doing. We can't be doing that bad...

But once again, the people we look down on have shown us up as Mexico City recently legalized gay marriage. Not some bullshit "partnership" thing, but full-on marriage with all the attendant rights and responsibilities.

But meanwhile, here in enlightened America, things could only be going so well...

Friday, December 18, 2009

How Much Would Universal Healthcare Cost?

My guess is it would be far less than $57,077.60 a minute (and by "guess," I mean "know for a fact").

Yet that staggering amount is what we pay for the war in Afghanistan. Not both wars, just the one in Afghanistan. You know, the war that's taken us longer than both World Wars and is nowhere near being a complete or achieving anything approaching success.

It never ceases to amaze me how we just simply cannot find the money to pay for the medication people desperately need and yet cannot afford, but if we're gonna go kill some people, we always have the money. Even if the reason we're killing people has pretty much no basis in reality. Or no basis at all.

Anyway, just a little something to remember every time you hear a politician or right-wing blowhard tell you that sure, in an ideal world, people wouldn't die from easily cured diseases simply because they couldn't afford the cure, but we just don't have the money for that. Or maybe we'll all be lucky enough to contract deadly diseases that can be cured by bombing defenseless people...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Most Happiest of Anniversaries, or Lisa, It's Your Birthday

Today marks the 20th anniversary since the Simpsons first aired on a fledgling, never-to-survive network called Fox.

It's almost impossible for me to summarize how big of an impact the Simpsons has had on my life; after all, I was 7 years old when it debuted and have been a super fan since day one. I literally do not remember life before the Simpsons.

And of course, I'm not the only one like this -- my entire generation can be defined through the Simpsons, from their character arcs, to their showdowns with Cosby and the Bush White House, to their irony-laden cynicism that has effectively taught my generation to never believe in anything ("Oh, it's just nonsense words -- you know, like rama lama ding dong, or give peace a chance.")

I don't think I have the time or space to explain what the Simpsons means to me and how it's effected my life, but I will take this angle: I once read an interview with Matt Groening in which the interviewer asked him why a television show (he already had a fairly successful daily comic strip, Life in Hell). Groening said it was because of the ubiquity of television. He wanted to make something that could reach out to the kids in the middle of nowhere, the kids who couldn't run down to the local alternative book store to read up on the latest underground works, because those don't exist in their town.

And this is really what the Simpsons was to me. While obviously a lot of people and ideas had an impact on the person I came to be, the Simpsons was really the first thing I can remember that consistently told me "Life is absurd. The people who control your life and run most every institution are idiots at best, and usually corrupt hypocrites. Just because they have power doesn't mean you should trust them, and in fact, probably means you shouldn't. Also, laughing at the failings of others is a sure fire way to make yourself feel better."

And I'd be willing to venture that is the most important lesson I've ever learned in life...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Insert Stridently Leftist Slogan Here

A recent study released by the New Economics Foundation has quantitatively demonstrated that hospital cleaners are far more valuable to society than banking executives.

They found that for every pound earned in wages, those who clean hospitals created 10 pounds worth of social value, while for every pound generated by bank executives about seven are destroyed through their reckless speculation and the stress on the financial system they produce.

Not to be so radical as to point out that Marx demonstrated this principal damn near 200 years ago now, but it does seem to still be true that people who actually do something for a living create value, while people who do nothing but push money around and get giant salaries and bonuses don't really create anything worthwhile...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Not To Say This Is a Little Shady, But...

If you pay attention to the news from Iraq and Afghanistan, besides being about 90% more attentive than the rest of the nation, you may have noticed that the number killed by coalition airstrikes always seems to be 30 people.

Why is this? Well, one answer could be that the military has developed a special 30-person killing bomb that works remarkably well.

Or it's because, according to leaked military memos, any action which would likely kill more than 30 people requires approval from the highest echelons (specifically, according the memo, either Bush or Rumsfeld had to sign off on it from the get go). So if you were a commander on the ground who wanted to get things going, 30 was the highest plausible number of deaths you could report without having to go through mounds of red tape.

I'm not a sociologist of organizations, but I'm sure there's a term for this kind of thing that explains it quite well. But even without that, you can see how this kind of policy has all sorts of latent effects. Probably the most important, though, is that there is likely a greatly under-reported number of civilian deaths, as you can't report more than 30 people dead.

I don't want to be so radical as to suggest that maybe this is somewhat intentional, but I'll let you draw your own conclusion...

Monday, December 14, 2009

When Does Something Officially Become an Affront to God?

(click on graphic to enlarge)

From the handy blog Graphic Sociology, here's a nice little graphic showing the changing attitudes toward gay marriage over the past 10 years or so in America.

While we're all pretty familiar by now with all of the arguments surrounding gay marriage (you know, human dignity vs. being an asshole), what this graphic really demonstrates is how things that were once non-issues can suddenly become pressing matters. Note that outside of Sarah Palin's Alaska, no sate had any law regarding gay marriage just a decade ago. Now nearly every state has some form of legislation, whether it be legalizing or banning it.

If nothing else, it does kind of take the air out of the "tradition" based arguments -- after all, it's hard to imagine that hetero-only marriage is such an important tradition if no one had ever bothered to take legislative action on it before 10 years ago. One decade of hyper-politicized legislation does not a sacred tradition make...


Another handy graph from the NY Times notes that only 25 states have laws banning cousins from getting married. So, just for the record, far more states think it's more important to make sure two dudes can't get married than to make sure two cousins can't get married.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What To Get The Person Who Has Everything This Christmas, Part II

How about the Flaming Lips silver fetus christmas ornament? As frontman Wayne Coyne points out, it's guaranteed to "give off vibrations that help all humans progress toward an intelligence explosion." What more could you want?

Check out Wayne shilling it here, and note the sweet traditional Christmas skulls sweater:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Wonder I Can't Get Money for My Dissertation

I'm currently in the midst of trying to find someone to pay for my dissertation studies, which is neither an easy nor fun process. In fact, the only things that differentiate it from begging on the street for money are that 1) I get to do it from the comfort of my home, rather than the discomfort of a street corner, and B) it's slightly more socially acceptable.

But otherwise, there's very little difference, as I scramble daily to find the best way to beg people with lots of money for a small portion of that money such that I may one day have a job.

And it's really annoying and difficult to do, especially in he middle of a recession. And now I find out that the National Science Foundation, one of the biggest foundations offering funds to lowly peasants like myself is losing a bunch of its money due to its employees internet porn addictions.

Not only does this mean there's less money available, but it makes the process all the more degrading; I mean, it's one thing to beg money, but it's a whole different ball game to be forced to beg for money from internet porn addicts...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

...And Again, I Really Love Minneapolis

Don't have much time to write today as I'm busy getting actual work done (a rare event unlikely to be repeated), but did get a delightfully unexpected dose of good ol' Midwestern neighborliness as we're having our first big snowfall right now, and some older gent who've I've never met just got done shoveling my front sidewalk.

Try getting that in your fancy-pants big-city New York...

Monday, December 07, 2009

What To Get The Person Who Has Everything This Christmas

How about 100 year-old Scotch from the depths of the arctic?

The scotch, from McKinlay and Co., was shipped shipped to the Antarctic by British polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton (Ernie Shacks, as the ladies called him) as part of a 1909 expedition. It was discovered by scientists currently working on the Nimrod Expedition underneath a hut they had set up. Well, that's their story at least -- I'm assuming they were desperately searching the ice for anything to dull the inanity of a vast, snowy wasteland and stumbled upon the find of their dreams.

The biggest catch, though, is that the current incarnation of McKinlay and Co. will only be able to recover a small portion of the lost scotch under conservation guidelines agreed by 12 Antarctic Treaty nations. They want it to test it and see if they want to recreate the old scotch.

But I say the skip the re-creation and just sell the world's most exclusive and well-aged scotch their is...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

How Are You Set on Trent Reznor Banjitars?

Opting not to go the KISS route and release the same album for 20 years while on a never-ending retirement tour, Trent Reznor is apparently pretty serious about the break up of Nine Inch Nails. So much so that he's selling most of his equipment on ebay.

Of course, most of it is already prohibitively expensive (as I assume it tends to get whenever the seller is famous), but there are some pretty sweet instruments tucked away in all of it, like the above custom-made banjitar (which is currently available for the low, low price of $1,690).

I guess you know what to get for the mid-90s industrial goth fan on your holiday shopping list...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oh Outrage Fatigue...

The September 11 attacks (often referred to as September 11th or 9/11) were a series of coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda upon the United States on September 11, 2001. On that morning, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and many others working in the buildings. Both buildings collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania, after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington, D.C. There were no survivors from any of the flights.

2,976 victims and the 19 hijackers died in the attacks. The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians, including nationals of over 90 countries. In addition, the death of at least one person from lung disease was ruled by a medical examiner to be a result of exposure to dust from the World Trade Center's collapse.

That's the first two paragraphs of the wikipedia entry for the September 11 terrorist attacks. Just wanted to be clear.

And if you're reading this, you probably know all that. In fact, I would be willing to bet you could give all sorts of more information and details and would think it were laughable if someone didn't know about these attacks.

But that would put you far ahead of Bush Jr.'s former press secretary Dana Perino, who just recently claimed there were no terrorist attacks during Bush's presidency. Go ahead: click on the link and watch her say it.

Let me repeat that to be clear: Mz. Perino apparently does not count the attacks of September 11, 2001 (well over 9 months into Bush's first term) as terrorist attacks. Apparently they were friendly misunderstandings.

Of course, Dana Perino makes her living lying out of her ass. And once again, maybe this was just a really, really stupid mistake.

But I highly doubt it. This is just another example of how the right-wing attempts to re-write history to make it fit their pre-conceived notions. Because of course her completely-wrong assertion about never suffering a terrorist attack under Bush wasn't just a mistake, it was to illustrate how strong a defender of the homeland Bush is, as opposed to that queer-o-sexual, Muslim terrorist currently in the White House.

And, of course, it doesn't matter that Bush was warned months in advance of the worst terrorist attack on our nation in the past 60 years, and then did nothing to prevent it. And then took actions to make matters worse and another attack far more likely.

No, like Reagan, Nixon, and all the other fuck-ups ahead of him, he must've been a brilliant and noble man, so surely something as inconsequential as the fucking objective truth shouldn't inconvenience your narrative at all...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Controlling the News Through Poor Infographics

The above image has been making the rounds on the ol' interwebs for the past couple of days. As you can see, it's a handy Fox News breakdown of who Republicans support for the next presidential run. And as you also might see, if you have 3rd-grade level math skills or higher, the pie chart adds up to 193%, an amazing feat.

This is a great example of not only the shitty, hurriedly-slapped togetherness of most everything the 24-hour news stations do, but also a great example of Fox' repeated "errors" that make their chosen politics and positions look better. Fresh off the flap over their twice in as many days doctoring crowd footage to make various Republicans look more popular than they really are, you now have this pie chart.

And sure, it could just be a stupid error of someone not knowing what they're doing, or it could be a conscious attempt to misuse graphics to make it look like all three of them are wildly popular. And granted I would like to think it was a failure, but we are, after all, in a nation where a large percentage of the population is insulted by the the teaching of scientific fact to their children, so I'm not too sure they would be that quick to notice obvious math errors...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nerdgasm: Jason Segel + The Swell Season

If you're a fan of Irish/Czech cutesy (former) couples folk music and underrated sweetly awkward comedy, than you'll love Jason Segel serenading the audience at a recent Swell Season gig in L.A.

Turns out that the number in the video is actually his phone number...I got his answering machine, so try it while you can.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Don't Not Do It Because It's Wrong, Don't Do It Because You Don't Need To

Recently 3 Tennessee football players were arrested on charges of armed robbery. As of yesterday, two had been dismissed from the team and action was pending on the third.

This is absurd for multiple reasons (how much money do you need when you're going to college for free?), but the most pertinent is this: you don't need to do it. Unless you're just in it for the thrills, there are far easier ways for a football player at a major Division I school to get money.

And no, I'm not talking about the indignity of work-study or even a real job. No, you simply get a wealthy booster to give you thousands of dollars under the table. Like this guy:

That's a photo (which was quickly removed) from Kenneth Page's myspace page. Page, a recent high school grad and high-ranked recruit of the Clemson football team, somehow got his hands on thousands upon thousands of dollars in fresh bank bills (in case the resolution isn't very good, those are twenties).

Now one might ask how an unemployed recent high school graduate would come into possession of such a large amount of cash. Perhaps he went trick-or-treating in a really nice neighborhood that gives away thousands of dollars in fresh-from-the-bank bills instead of candy bars...

Or, perhaps, a Clemson booster wanted to make sure their new recruit was happy and well taken care of. Not to make the wild accusation that these supposed amateur athletes occasionally make some good money for being "student" athletes, but it would seem to be a plausible explanation.

Which is what makes the Tennessee case so crazy. Major college athletes don't need to avoid robbing banks because of the legal fallout, they don't need to rob banks because there are plenty of people willing to give them large amounts of cash just because they play football for a particular university. And given the choice between armed robbery of a bank and getting thousands of dollars for free, I would probably choose the free money. But then again, I was busy spending my time in class instead of running football drills, so maybe they just missed that day in logic class...

Monday, November 16, 2009

And Jesus Said "Come to me, and I will give you rest...unless you're a homo"

As a life-long Catholic and someone who tries to follow the scriptures, there's often a bit of cognitive dissonance to work through. Sometimes it's particular bits of theology I can't agree with (I'm still looking for that part of Christianity that actually says gay people aren't people) and sometimes it's extremely embarrassing things my church has done that I can never condone (hiding the sex crimes of multiple known child abusers).

But this week the American church has really upped the ante of reprehensible/hypocritical anti-scriptural behavior. In two different ways, nonetheless.

Hot on the heels of a national announcement by American bishops that they would not support health care if it included any money that could possibly ever be spent near an abortion provider, Catholic Charities has announced they will stop all work in D.C. if it legalizes marriage.

Yes, that's right -- if the District of Columbia says it's ok for people who love each other to get married, Catholic Charities will respond by no longer housing or feeding the homeless. Because that seems like a proportional punishment. After all, there's no better way to make a political point than by punishing the poor and downtrodden.

If I remember correctly, the sermon goes "Blessed be the poor, unless of course, they can be easily used as political pawns in a war over semantics. In that case, fuck the poor."

People often misinterpret the role of infallibility in the Church. Not everything the Pope says is infallible; it is actually only special declarations that are deemed infallible (such as the Virgin Mary being subsumed bodily into Heaven). There's actually a pretty big out for when the Pope (or conservative asshole Bishops) are wrong. Called sensus fidelium it means literally "sense of the faithful." While it's a bit more complicated than this, it's essentially a smell test. Meaning that even in a Chruch as rigid and hierarchical as Catholicism, it is still recognized that if you honestly don't believe the Church's doctrine matches with what God really would proscribe, you can faithfully disagree if that doctrine just doesn't smell right. It's also the only nod toward some form of democracy in the Church, as a big enough groundswell of the faithful can actually change Church doctrine.

And these two recent events would be great examples of a sensus smell test -- no matter what tortured scriptural logic you can come up with to condemn homosexuality, I don't think any truly faithful person can agree that God would want you to punish the homeless as a result...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's Ok When We Do It...

I've been reading up on the Arab world a lot lately, and I'm really struck by how similar it is to the Christian world, in pretty much every way. Oh sure, the specific details differ, but overall, they're pretty indistinguishable. They both have their fanatics and their hypocrites, their crazy rites that really make no sense, they both blame women for all of men's faults, they both have sect splits over the most minor of differences, etc. Hell, they have the same deity and many of the same prophets.

And of course, even though both of their religions strictly and explicitly forbid killing, they both have managed to find some loopholes that make it ok as long as you're killing the right type of person. And here agin they're similar, as the right kind of person just happens to be anyone who isn't part of their religion (or who is part of it, but can be found to be not good enough).

One of the biggest contemporary resonances, however, is how the other side is nothing but bloodthirsty killers while your own side is nothing but pious and virtuous warriors for good. Glenn Greenwald has a great example of this as David Brooks decries Muslims for being so vengeful and murderous.

Yes, the same David Brooks who cheerleaded the nation into war (against two separate Muslim nations, nonetheless), who mocked those who called on a cease-fire between Palestine and Israel, and who wants to send more soldiers to Afghanistan, ostensibly based on how well that effort is going thus far -- you know, having lasted longer than both World Wars and yet having made essentially no progress, unless you count trading the Taliban (murderous religious-fanatic drug dealers) for the Karzai government (murderous secular drug dealers) as progress...

But yes, Muslims are the ones who enjoy war, Mr. Brooks. You merely think we should constantly be at war and measure all world leaders by their willingness to go to war. Perhaps I'm just not smart enough to parse out the subtle difference between the two...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Why "Reality" Rarely Bothers Us

A recent study by UNC and Northwestern sociologists explained why some people still believe Saddam was responsible for 9/11 despite the fact that both the 9/11 Commission and former President Bush both admit there was never any connection between the two.

The authors of the study point to what they call "motivated reasoning" -- that is, when we believe something, we tend to seek out evidence that confirms it and ignore contradictory evidence, no matter how strong or matter of fact it may be (this may be the same reason why so many Colbert viewers think he's actually a conservative).

Also of interest, one of the authors of the study, Andrew Perrin, was interviewed a long while back by your humble li'l blogger for the inaugural Contexts podcast. In the interview he discusses how polls of he electorate around political races are a "productive fiction." Interesting stuff, and not just because you get to hear my sonorous voice...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

PlayDoh Apparently Much Cooler Than I Remember

This is from a series of ads for PlayDoh that ran in Singapore before a Hasbro America rep found out and demanded them pulled.

Frankly, I think they do a better job selling it than the ability to make a long tube in the shape of a crescent moon, but I guess that's why I'm not in advertising.

Dick Cheney's Faulty Memory

We all know politicians have a hard time remembering when they did things that later became public fiascoes. Dick Cheney, for instance, never could seem to remember all those pesky details about the time he illegally outed a CIA agent to punish her husband.

Of course, that's not surprising. But Cheney being Cheney, he took it to a whole new level. It has now been revealed that he provided notes on the original Op-Ed piece that outed Valeria Plame as a CIA agent. And while he acknowledges that it is indeed his handwriting on that article, he now says he can't remember why he wrote what he wrote.

I think I'm going to try this tactic the next time I get a speeding ticket..."yes, officer, that clearly was me speeding, but I can't remember why I was speeding or what the speed limit was, so I can't be given a ticket." Should work pretty well...

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Doing the Civic Duty

Don't forget to vote today if it's an election day where you are. And if you're in Minneapolis, don't forget to give at least one of your three votes to Joey Lombard, of the Is Awesome party.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Shocking News: Bush Tax Cuts Favored the Wealthy!

(click on graphic to enlarge)

In a shocking twist sure to surprise all, the Bush tax cuts greatly favored the wealthy. Bet you didn't see that one coming.

Some fun facts gleaned from the handy graphic above:

--The average household tax cuts for the top 1% were only a scant 597 times as much as those for the lowest quintile.

--But in percentages, the top 1% only got 18 times bigger a percentage reduction in their taxes than did the poorest quintile, so maybe it's more fair to look at it that way

--The top quintile had more savings in terms of both real dollars and percentage reduction than did the lower four quintiles combined!

And yet some people have the gall to say that major politicians are beholden to the wealthy and do not even consider the interests of actual working people! I think this graph handily disproves such crazed radical rantings...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Twin Cities America's Safest Place

Yep, you read it right -- my humble little burg has been named the safest city in America. Given our somewhat recent troubles with violent crime, it's a welcome development.

Though we were helped out by having the nation's best workplace accident rate and apparently 7th best natural disaster resistance rate, Mpls actually rated 9th out of 40 in terms of violent crime. I haven't looked into the numbers to verify what they were using to measure the crime rate, but that looks pretty good for the little city that could.

What wasn't mentioned, but may possibly be a big factor, is the idea that no sports team in the area at any level will ever win a major championship of anything, thus ensuring we'll never have any Detroit-like celebration riots. And that's got to make you feel even safer...

Friday, October 23, 2009

How Do You Deal With Your Ancestor's Racist Legacy?

The American South has a tricky time dealing with its particular history. While it's true that every part of America has had its share of problems with racism and discrimination, the South will always stand out as the region that was willing to ignite one of the bloodiest civil wars in history to defend a racial form of slavery (granted, there was a lot more going on than just slavery that lead to the civil war, but it was obviously a big factor, etc.)

But it raises an interesting question -- how can you be proud of your heritage and those who came before you (as most people are) when your heritage is largely built on racist slavery?

For example, many argue the confederate flag has no place in American society outside of museums and history books, given its prominent role in the defense of said racist slavery, while others argue its a symbol of their ancestry and is just as valid as any other historical marker.

Once again, the debate is flaring up as Ole Miss has recently changed its fight song to remove a portion of the song where students chant "the South will rise again." And as usual, some have applauded the move, while others cry that the pc police are ruining their beloved tradition. Of course, little mention is made of the fact that Ole Miss' school nickname is the Rebels. You know, named in honor of the people who rebelled against the federal government to protect their right to enslave Africans.

While I know its easy for me as someone with no Southern connections to say the whole racist legacy should be chucked out the window, I think a more apt comparison is to contemporary Germany. Comparatively, it's likely many more people died in the middle passage from Africa to the U.S. alone than died in the holocaust, not to mention the raw brutality of slave existence in America.

Yet in Germany, no one proudly flies a swastika, claiming its not racist but just a symbol of their heritage. In fact, to this day, many outward symbols of Nazi affiliation are outright banned in public discourse or display. Yet here in America, many symbols of one of our own genocides are proudly emblazoned on pickup trucks and t-shirts, not to mention flown over state capitols.

Again, as an outsider I know it's easy for me to criticize, but I think the central question is still one tha always bears repeating -- how despicable does one's heritage have to be before you simply have to give it up?

Friday, October 16, 2009

There Were Rules on Traveling?

Apparently the NBA has decided to make it official and change the rules on traveling from allowing one to now allowing two steps after a player stops dribbling.

Of course, if you've watched a basketball game in the past 20 years, you know this was already clearly the informal rule, so the change makes little practical difference. Other than the fact that the NBA is now admitting its first step toward removing dribbling entirely from the game.

Next I want to see a rule clarification on how someone can make it from the three-point line to the rim without ever dribbling. I know that most of these guys are pretty tall and can cover a lot of ground in a step, but even with the new two steps rule, I'm pretty sure that's still traveling...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why You Might Defend Gang Rape (If You're A Republican)

Last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart discussed Al Franken's first piece of proposed legislation: a measure designed to change Pentagon policy to not hire contractors who include in their employee contracts that you can't sue the company if you're raped by your coworkers.

Who the fuck even puts that in a contract in the first place? Who at Halliburton is sitting there thinking of the likelihood of gang rape on the job site and making sure to cover themselves in the contract? And who could oppose such a piece of legislation?

Well, it turns out 30 Republicans opposed the amendment. Let me restate that: 30 Republicans voted against a bill to prevent gang rape.

Why did they oppose it? Because of course Franken isn't concerned about the victim of a brutal gang rape (who, when she tried to report the rape was locked in a crate so she couldn't report on her attackers), but instead it's a political attack on Haliburton, trying to take away their government contracts just because they explicitly endorse the gang rape of their female employees.

As Mr. Stewart pointed out in the clip linked to above (sorry, the embedded player is not working this morning), if to defend Halliburton you have to defend gang rape, you might want to find someone else to align yourself with.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Have I Found My Mayoral Candidate?

Here in Minneapolis there are 11 people running for Mayor in the upcoming election. Some are tired old-time party hacks, others the obvious fringe candidates with heart and no chance at victory. But one stands out -- 22 year old Joey Lombard, whose political philosophy is summed up as "Is Awesome".

Running a campaign which he has promised will not spend more than $100, Lombard is relying completely on word of mouth. As for qualifications, he lists having logged hundreds of hours playing Sim City as giving him practical experience in running a city.

After goading from his now ex-girlfriend that he wasn't doing anything for the world, Lombard not only entered the race, but quit his part time job at Macy's to make time to be mayor (a move he apparently regrets, in retrospect) so he really needs to income.

I'm not saying he's necessarily the best candidate, but now that we have instant run-off voting and the ability to choose more than one candidate on our ballot, surely you can find some place on your ranked ballot for the only candidate willing to stand up for awesomeness.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Idea of Obama

The above comic so well illustrates my problem with Obama getting the Nobel or any of the other accolades (or detractions, for that matter) that have been lumped on him since taking office.

From the left, people have had visions of him as some sort of progressive messiah who would end the wars, make everyone drive electric cars, grant full gay marriage rights, and make the sun shine brighter than it ever had. Of course, just because Obama had never said he was going to do any of this, and in many cases actually said the opposite of this (*ahem* put more troops in Afghanistan *ahem*), has not stopped the true believers from thinking all of the contradictory evidence is just...I don't know. A screen he was putting up to confuse his opponents?

From the right, of course, Obama is worse than Hitler. And again, he's never given any indication of doing all of the things the Right is so sure he'll do. Take socialized medicine -- in addition to explicitly saying he would not endorse socialized medicine multiple times, I think it's pretty obvious that a guy who bends over backwards to make sure the insurance giants don't feel the slightest threat of insult or competition isn't going to suddenly launch a public takeover of the healthcare industry.

But I suppose, like always, the actual truth of that matter is far less interesting than the idea of either a savior who will cure all world problems or a harbinger of the apocalypse. But then again, the Mayan calendar does say the world will end in 2012, which also happens to be the end of Obama's term: could this be the rapture? Maybe the crazy fanatics are right after all...

Monday, October 12, 2009

There's Always Next Year

As usual, the Twins gave us just enough to believe before they dashed our hopes and dreams. While I saw that coming, what I didn't see coming was that the dreams would be dashed by Nicki Punto, beloved fan-favorite and noted hustling-pixie, when he missed the stop sign at third and got thrown out, taking away what would have been the tying run at third with no outs in the 8th inning. But at least he, unlike the unrepentant steroid users who beat us, owned up to it and apologized for his mistake, not blaming anyone else or claiming the "pressure" got to him.

At least the Vikings are 5-0...

But in some at least hopeful sports news, multiple black players in the NFL have publicly announced they would refuse to play for the St. Louis Rams if a proposed deal to make Rush Limbaugh a minority owner of the team goes through. This is great because it not only shows at least a little burgeoning political consciousness amongst the usually apolitical NFL, but also makes Rush Limbaugh an oppressed minority, which I think he could use a healthy taste of.

So with the baseball season over (to me, at least), I'm pretty much done talking sports for the year. Tune back in tomorrow for the regularly scheduled political rantings.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Things That Just Won't Die (For Good or Bad)

Last night my beloved Twinkies pulled out some late-inning drama to finally win the game and division it seems nobody wanted to win. After a failed tag-up which would have won the game, Alexi Cassilla came through later on to get the winning RBI and send the building that was already supposed to be closed into a frenzy (and at least one more game).

So now the team that was counted out months ago and the building that was to be closed last weekend will keep on going, well past what anyone thought either would. It's a great example of the inspiring nature of sports, teaching us to never quit, always give 100%, etc., etc.

But in all actuality, sometimes it's not only ok to quit, it's by the best choice. As we come up on the 8th (yes, the 8th) anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, what have we accomplished? What are we accomplishing currently? Unlike a certain plucky, over-achieving local baseball team, there's not going to be a miracle comeback that suddenly makes us the victors in Afghanistan (or Iraq, for that same matter). Besides, what would victory actually look like? A 6-5 score at the end of the 12th inning? I only ask because I'm not sure anybody really has any idea what the victory we've spent 8 years working on would even entail.

On top of that, check out the chart below outlining the time it took to finish America's major conflicts. We've now spent more time in Afghanistan than it took us to win both World Wars. Let me repeat that to drive home the point: we have spent more time fighting in Afghanistan than the time it took us to win both World Wars combined. And it goes without saying, we're not even close to a victory in Afghanistan, whatever that would look like.

So while I enjoy a great game and a good effort, I think even Gardy would tell you good managers have to know when it's time to throw in the towel...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Never Count 'Em Out

As I so often do, please allow me to step on my small-market-sports soapbox for a second. The Twins are the archetypical example of a small-market team that gets no respect -- despite either going to the playoffs or being into contention well into September every year this decade, they're continually written of as non-contenders as early as possible.

Case in point: watching ESPN's resident baseball bloviator Tim Kurkjian predict the playoff races two weeks ago, he acknowledged that he's always wrong about predicting the Twins have no chance, yet went on to say they have no chance. I believe his exact words were "While history shows you can never count out the Minnesota Twins, I have to say they're not going to make the postseason."

Well, asshole, they just did. And they're playing in game 163 to determine if they get even more postseason, despite the fact that no team ever down 3 games in the standings with only 4 games left to play has reached the postseason. So while, yes, it did look rather improbable, once again they've come back to be in contention, as recent history suggested they would.

So once again I shirk my much more important life duties to go cheer on the hometown team this afternoon in what could once again be the final game in the Dome. And while I'm aware that winning this game means they would immediately get on a plane and face the heavily-favored Yankees, unlike Mr. Kurkjian and the rest of his East Coast-centric ilk, I've learned never to count out the Minnesota Twins...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

R.I.P. Peg Mullen

I'm a little bit late on this, but wanted to take a quick moment to remember Peg Mullen, who died a few weeks ago at the age of 92.

Peg was a long-time peace activist in Iowa, and a real fire brand right up until her last days. Her story is dynamic, though unfortunately none too unusual. Her son was killed in Vietnam by friendly fire (possibly the worst euphemism of all time) and that was all the explanation she was given. Not the type to give up, she started a tireless journey to find out what exactly happened to Michael, which included multiple trips to the Pentagon, Congressional hearings, and thousands of midnight phone calls from friends and enemies alike. Eventually, she chronicled her quest in the book "Unfriendly Fire," which Time magazine named the best nonfiction book of 1976 and was made into an Emmy-winning television movie.

I had the good fortune of meeting Peg several years ago when I was a young activist. And though she was well into her 80s at the time and couldn't really get around much, she was still full of piss and vinegar. Of all the many stories I had the fortune of hearing her tell, probably the most memorable is how, through repeated harassing phone calls, she was able to get Paul Harvey to finally give up on the war in Vietnam and apologize for his disparaging remarks about peace protestors. It may not be quite as big a moment as Cronkite giving up on the war, but it's none too shabby for a housewife on a small farm in Iowa.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Bit More Republican Hypocrisy

Republicans are foaming at the mouth for an apology from Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida, after he said that the Republican health care plan was that the sick should die quickly. They say he should have to apologize, just like the guy who interrupted Obama's speech was made to apologize (because those are very comparable events, apparently). But my favorite bit of ridiculousness comes from them saying that this will taint the healthcare debate with wild and unfair accusations.

So just in case you're confused, saying the President's healthcare plan will appoint death panels to kill you is enlightened debate, whereas saying that denying people healthcare will maker them die faster is a juvenile and harmful remark.

Those conservatives, so good with rhetoric. Might be why Sarah Palin is having an incredibly difficult time booking lectures as, according to an industry insider, too many people view her as "a blithering idiot."

But I'm sure she was right about the death panels...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Do As We Say, Not As We Do

I've often thought U.S. saber-rattling over nuclear arms was easily the height of our hypocrisy (which is saying quite a bit for a nation that so loves the hypocrisy). There is only one nation in the world to ever use nuclear weapons, and they used them on a nation that was already preparing to surrender (well, according to some radical named Eisenhower, but like he'd know anything about that...). This same nation, of course, has the world's largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, housing more than most other nations combined and enough to destroy our world multiple times over.

And yet this nation goes around deciding who is morally upstanding enough to also possess the ability to end all human life in a matter of minutes. Well, for those of you confused as to how the only people to ever use a weapon (and use it very irresponsibly) get to decide who else even gets to have said weapon, Glenn Greenwald has put together a handy glossary to help you understand.

For example: what's the difference between two countries defying international law and developing long-range ballistics with possible nuclear capability? One is our friend! Duh!

The act of dangerous, threatening Hitlers -- NYT, today:

Iran was reported Monday to have test-fired long-range missiles capable of striking Israel and American bases in the Persian Gulf in what seemed a show of force.

The acts of a peace-loving democracy - Telegraph, January 18, 2008:

Israel has carried out the successful test launch of a long-range, ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, in what was intended as a clear show of strength to Iran.

Read the rest here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

You're Never Too Far From a Big Mac

Growing up in a town of about 20,000, it was big deal when the second McDonald's in town opened up. Yes, no longer would you have to drive upwards of 10 minutes across town to get your flavorless-meat-product burger©. Nope, now we were a real town, with the ability to drive past one McDonald's and say "No, that one's no good; let's go to the other McDonald's."

And truly that did make it a real city, because if there's anything that defines a real American city, it is the ubiquity of McDonald's. The map below shows the saturation of McDonald's throughout the nation. Only the desserts and mountains out West can even begin to interrupt the blanket coverage.

Oh, and incase you're curious, the furthest you can possibly be from a McDonald's is 107 miles in the no man's land of the Dakotas. 107 miles. That's it. Meaning if you wanted to, you would have to put a great deal of effort into getting triple-digit miles away from a McDonald's.

At the risk of sounding too radical, I might argue this has a bit to do with our nation's obesity epidemic, but I don't want to pick on a morally-upstanding corporate citizen like McD's...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Good Thing We Don't Have Socialized Medicine...

...or this might happen: a man who suffered a stroke died while waiting 90 minutes to see a doctor in the ER waiting room.

I know I said I was getting off the healthcare stuff for awhile, but this just happened to come out today. And you know, in this instance, it may have been an honest mistake -- the nurse who screened him didn't diagnose it as a stroke for whatever reason so it wasn't classified as an urgent matter. Or maybe it was because he had a history of problem drinking, so his condition wasn't taken seriously. Obviously, they're still figured out what exactly happened.

But even if it turns out to just be a mistake, albeit a tragic mistake, the point remains: you can't criticize a socialized system for forcing patients into dangerously long waiting times for medical attention (which doesn't actually happen anyway) when that's something that routinely happens in our current system.

steps off soapbox

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good Ol' For-Profit Healthcare Defends America Against The Scourge of Abused Women

The funniest thing about the healthcare debate going on right now has to be the idea of death panels. Or more specifically, that death panels will be instituted. You see, we already have death panels. The one I belong to is called Health Partners, though my death panel used to be Blue Cross/Blue Shield. And I'm one of the few Americans lucky enough to get to pay a significant chunk of my income for a death panel to decide I don't deserve coverage.

And decided people don't need coverage they do, and do with a vengeance. For it makes no sense to pay out money if you're a for-profit business. So you go about finding clever and morally repugnant ways to prevent people from getting the healthcare they pay for. Because if you go around letting people use their health insurance to get healthcare, your profits are going to go down pretty quickly.

The most egregious example of this? Well, there are millions of great examples, but this is the best I've found lately: 8 states and D.C. allow insurance companies to regard victims of domestic abuse as having "pre-existing" conditions.

And I say good for them. After all, in a capitalist society you should be aware of the choices you make. If you choose to be beaten so badly by your husband that it requires extensive medical procedures, you should know you're not going to be able to get healthcare in the future. You should be smart enough to not marry an abusive husband.

Now if we have a government take-over of healthcare, all of a sudden there's going to be a giant drain on our economy as abused women suddenly start receiving care for their injuries. And that alone is far worse than a death panel...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Once More To Make It Clear...

Been harping on this point pretty hard lately, but I can't get over how ridiculous this hypocritical double-standard is, even for an extreme cynic...

Remember how people were constantly. getting. arrested. at Bush speeches simply for wearing shirts that said stop the war? Seriously, google it and you'll find dozens of examples. Hell, one guy was even arrested for wearing a peace t-shirt at a mall where he had bought the shirt.

But yet with Obama in the White House, it's apparently a-ok to bring guns to hear his speeches, because after all, that's your constitutional freedom. Constitution says nothing about wearing whatever t-shirt you want, but good God damn, it sure as hell says you can bring your gun anywhere you want, even to a speech by the president.

Take this good local example from today's strib. This fellow brought his gun to Obama's healthcare stump speech last weekend and got into no trouble at all. And why should the police be suspicious of him? After all, he had just gotten out of jail after serving time for an assault charge. Certainly not someone who should be viewed as dangerous or barred from carrying a gun within sight of the President. Even the state lawmaker responsible for the conceal & carry legislation, while not agreeing with the guy's decision to do so, defended his right to bear arms in front of the President.

Anyway, I'll try to quit writing about this for awhile, but just to recap:

T-shirt: Dangerous weapon. If found, wearer should be arrested immediately.

Gun: Perfectly harmless. Make sure to give them a good sight line to the President in case they need to exercise their constitutional right to commit grand felonies.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hitler Made The Trains Run On Time...

While I've always liked Weird Al, I gained a lot of respect for him while reading an interview he did over at the AV Club. They used to have a segment called "Random Rules" in which they would have a musician put their iPod on shuffle and justify the first 5 tracks that came up. When it was Weird Al's turn, a song from Hole came up, and after a short defense of their music he ended with "What can you say about Courtney Love...Hitler made the trains run on time, after all," which I think pretty much sums up any defense of Hole or Courtney Love in general.

Well, it turns out she's making the trains run on time again as she prepares to sue Activision, makers of Guitar Hero, over their use of a Kurt Cobain avatar in the game.

I'm glad to see someone finally stepping up to stop all of this "cashing in on the dead who would never have allowed you to cash in on them when alive" crap going on. Seeing as Cobain killed himself rather than continue having his music turned into yet another money-making cog for giant soulless corporations, he probably would not be too keen to have his image rendered in a colossal money-grubbing video game series.

Of course, I also had the same thought when first seeing the incredibly regrettable Rock Band commercial with the digitally-raped corpse of John Lennon standing on Abby Road made to look so excited about the release of his very first video game. The only problem is, I don't think Yoko is going to put up any fuss.

Not being as good to your dead partner's legacy as Courtney Love? Forget breaking up the Beatles, that is truly the worst thing anyone can ever say about you...

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Short Guide to Socialist Indoctrinaition

1) Stay in School

2) Work Hard

3) Don't Do Drugs

Phew! Good thing I'm too old to be stuck in a schoolhouse being force-fed this socialist nonsense. Hopefully America's children will be able to resist this brainwashing and realize that only socialists want to do well by working hard and living sober. Real Americans neither work hard nor remain sober, thank you very much.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Horrifying, Interesting, and Trivial: A News Roundup

1) Over a Randball this morning, a good, snarky dissection of why Derek Jeter doesn't deserve the MVP more than Mauer, even though he seems to be a genuinely good guy who's been lucky enough to play decent baseball for a team that can purchase every player in baseball.

2) So remember how a bunch of people compared Bush to Hitler and were called crazy for it (though attempting to give public healthcare does apparently qualify someone as worse than Hitler)? Well, now news is coming out that CIA doctors likely performed illegal human experiments on detainees. Or in other words, the exact same thing Nazi doctors did that lead to their execution at Nuremburg. So not to go all crazy and say some of the Bush-Hitler comparison may be apt, but...

3) Jason Frank, best known as the Green Power Ranger (and then the white Power Ranger after Lord Zedd destroyed his Green Power coin while Rita Repulsa had control of his powers), is know making a comeback in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. Even though I feel my Gopher loyalty should make Brock Lesnar my favorite almost-real-sport fighter, it's hard not to root for the sworn protector of Angel Grove...

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Finally, People Are Starting To Get Serious

The BBC recently ran a report on the work done by a group of Canadian researchers who study unfamiliar infectious diseases and how to combat them. How did they model a debilitating, unknown contagion and its possible effects? Easily, and in the only way that makes sense: they modeled a zombie attack.

The conclusion? Well, I think the article summary speaks for itself:

If zombies actually existed, an attack by them would lead to the collapse of civilisation unless dealt with quickly and aggressively.

While the "if" in that sentence is just more clear proof that we're truly not prepared for said attack, it's at least a good first step in the right direction for the inevitable day when undead hordes descend upon our towns and cities hungering for our flesh..

And in fact, that day may be sooner than we think. has unearthed the following footage from a Russian military envoy. I'm not saying you should panic, but if you don't have a survival kit packed and ready by the door, I'd suggest you have some work to do...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Wrapping Up The Regular Season

The regular season of the TCAMBL (twin cities adult men's baseball league, for those not in the know) wrapped up the past weekend. While my season end stats don't look good by any means at .176/.235/.300 (avg/slg/obp), it was my first time playing any form of organized baseball in well over a decade. Plus, being understandably a back up, I didn't get many opportunities at the start of the season, and hitting's a funny rhythm thing. If you knock out the first games where I got one late-game at bat and inevitably struck out looking at better pitches than I ever saw when I played little league/early highschool ball and instead look at just the second half of the season the numbers go up to .273/.363/.313. Of course, those still aren't good, but they are far less embarrassing, and I believe they qualify me to hit second for the Twins. Plus I had one fly out that was about two feet from being a home run, which again means nothing, but I think it makes the shitty numbers seem at least a little less bad...

So on the plus side, I'm peaking at just the right time for the playoffs. Finishing up at a respectable 6-7 drew my Wobblies team a tough playoff assignment in the bracket. While we're got a very good chance of winning our first game, the second game will almost invariably be against the team that twice beat us by margains of 15-2 and then 14-4. (But if we do pull off some sort of miracle, Bad News Bears-esque run at the championship, we get to play that in the Dome, so keep your fingers crossed.)

Anyway, given that the last time I played baseball was my freshman year in high school and I'm pretty confident I didn't get a single hit the whole season, I'm at least seeing some upward progression. And given that I've never demonstrated prowess in any type of physical competition, I have to say I'm extremely satisfied with my mediocre-at-best play...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Some Protests Are Taken Seriously

An interesting article on AlterNet this morning raises the question of why right-wing protests over health care are being taken seriously by the mainstream media while left-wing protests throughout the war have either been dismissed as the grumbling of crazed lunatics or (more often) not even offered coverage. While there is the obvious reason -- that major media outlets are owned by multination corporations that have a great deal invested in promoting conservative ideology -- I think another, less obvious answer lies in the way that being a "real" American has come to de facto mean being conservative.

Think about it: during the last presidential cycle (and still today in this whole "birther" movement), the lily-white right-wing candidates project themselves as "real" Americans, while progressives (and their evil henchmen The Minorities) represent all that is wrong with the world. Being a progressive is just simply un-American, and thus progressive protests could never represent the mood of America, even though the number of nutcases showing up to these health care town halls, who supposedly demonstrate the will of "real" Americans, are not even close to a fraction of the numbers of people who showed up to demonstrate against the war.

I think about this a lot in connection to my own life and political views -- I'm a white guy who grew up in small town Iowa in a working-class household, went to public schools, church every weekend, played baseball, and ate copious amounts of red meat. It couldn't be any more All American, according to the criteria set forth by the right-wing.Yet because I believe we shouldn't invade other countries for no reason, I'm now a radical outside of the mainstream. As I prep to teach classes, I often have people ask me if I think I'm alienating my students with my crazed left-wing theories, since after all, they're usually from small rural towns. The fact that I grew up in pretty much the exact same environment as most of those students means nothing; now that my political views have made me no longer a "real" American, there's simply no way I could connect with these salt-of-the-earth types who populate my classes.

Though, of course, if any of the students start to agree with me, I guess they're not real Americans anymore, so the whole point is moot...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kill one, got to prison. Kill thousands...

Glenn Greenwald has a great piece this morning on why every American should read the IG torture report detailing the abuses suffered by detainees at the hands of American "interrogators." Not surprisingly, some pretty bad stuff is revealed (such as the fact that interrogators repeatedly threatened to bring in suspect's wives and daughters to rape them in front of them). More surprising, however, is that many of the interrogators apparently openly and often wondered aloud at the legality of what they were doing and feared that they would be soon prosecuted for what they were doing. Not exactly the actions of people who are just asking some questions of suspects...

But as Greenwald points out, the biggest problem with the limited investigation being proposed is that, like usual, it will only focus on the low-level people involved and completely ignore those who came up with these sick ideas, authorized them, and then wrote extensive legal documents arguing why they should be allowed to do this. And lets not forget that over 40 detainees have now died in custody, with at least a dozen of them classified homicides by the Army itself, meaning that by not prosecuting those responsible we are quite literally leting them get away with murder...

Friday, August 21, 2009

How I Think (Apparently I Was Never A College Student)

I got an e-mail from a colleague today touting the new "mindset" list as a way of understanding how those damn kids think these days. Essentially, it's just a big list of things that these kids have supposedly never experienced and how that must influence the way they think about things. Of course, I say supposedly because according to whoever comes up with these stupid things thinks that if something happened a year before someone was born they will never know what it was. But really, I hate lists like this because they're so glib and essentializing and really are just another attempt of out-of-touch middle age people trying to feel smugly secure about their life experiences based on the fatally-flawed logic that because they experienced things the world has long outgrown they're somehow smarter than those who haven't.

But to illuminate my complaints, here's some selections from the 2002 mindset list, which is the closest to when I entered college available (I entered in 2000, so it's not too far off):

1. The people starting college this fall across the nation were born in 1980.

They're starting college at the age of 22? Apparently this generation is really behind or had a bunch of stuff to get done after high school...

2. They have no meaningful recollection of the Reagan era, and did not know he had ever been shot.

I was well aware of both of these events, and I was born 2 years after these people were supposedly born

6. They were 11 when the Soviet Union broke apart, and do not remember the Cold War.

Trust me, you remember nuclear paranoia no matter how old you were when it stopped. Also, I would consider 11 old enough to have memories of that period...

11. Bottle caps have not always been screw off, but have always been plastic.

To this day glass bottles and non-screw off tops made of metal still exist and can be found quite readily.

13. The expression "you sound like a broken record" means nothing to them.

Just because a medium has fallen out of favor does not mean people have no conception of it. I also know what a horse is even though cars are far more popular...

14. They have never owned a record player.

By the time I got to college, I owned two record players.

15. They have likely never played Pac Man, and have never heard of "Pong."

I had played both of these multiple times before I got to college

20. As far as they know, stamps have always cost about 32 cents.

Again, being young does not make you mentally retarded. I'm pretty sure by the time people go to college they have a basic grasp of inflation and the fluctuation of prices.

21. They have always had an answering machine.

I never had an answering machine.

22. Most have never seen a TV set with only 13 channels, nor have they seen a black & white TV.

I had a black and white tv well into my teens.

23. They have always had cable.

I never had cable.

25. They cannot fathom what it was like not having a remote control.

I didn't have a tv with remote control until I was about 7 or 8.

27. Roller-skating has always meant in-line for them.

Didn't get a pair of in-line skates until I was a teenager.

32. They never took a swim and thought about Jaws.

I was afraid to take baths alone as a child because of the high likelihood of a Jaws attack. Movies do get replayed after they leave the theaters...

35. They can't imagine what hard contact lenses are.

I am wearing hard contacts as I write this

42. McDonald's never came in Styrofoam containers.

McDonald's stopped using styrofoam in 1990. By the author's own logic, these kids would have been 10 at that time. Pretty sure people remember things that happened before they were 10...

...And that is why I hate these lists. Even if they were true, they would still be completely meaningless (oh, no! my students don't know what an 8-track is! How can I even begin to teach them about our criminal justice system?!?), but even that doesn't matter because they're never true! It turns out that in a nation of roughly 300 million people there seems to be a diversity of experiences. Shockingly, not every child grows up with the exact same electronics, parents, history books, schools, income levels, etc., etc., and that it just might be a little worthless to speak of an entire generation as if they were one person who had a generic slate of experiences.

And yet highly educated people (these are developed by collegiate professors after all) not only make these lists, but actually take them seriously as if they give some sort of insight into today's youngsters...sigh. Fortunately, I don't trust anyone over 30. Did you know that people over 30 grew up without twitter? And to them, the blue M&M is a recent phenomenon? And the internet still confuses and scares them? It's true! Hopefully these facts will help you communicate with old and out-of-touch people...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Your Fall Semester Plans

From the man who brought you TPP posters galore comes the announcement for my fall course:

You wanna learn about the police? Oh, I'll learn you good...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Not To Argue the Left Wing is a Little Disadvantaged, But...

By now everyone is familiar with the right-wing craziness going on in these town hall meetings (with only Barney Frank so far having the guts to call these people out), but it's really reaching a fever pitch as of late. For the other day, at least a dozen people showed up to an Obama town hall meeting armed with shotguns. Not crazy posters depicting Obama as Hitler, not mean-spirited t-shirts, but fucking shotguns.

Now, for 8 years of a Bush presidency if someone was holding a flimsy paperboard sign asking the president why he was slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people for no reason, they were not only automatically ejected but were usually charged with some sort of crime. And of curse this was justified because once, about 40 years ago, a lefty protestor used violence, so they must all be violent nut cases.

Contrast this with conservative protestors who show up to a presidential speech with fucking shotguns. In a nation where it's pretty much illegal to even imply you want to harm the president, apparently it's ok for conservatives to directly confront him with shotguns.

So just to clarify, if you're keeping score of which ideology is allowed to do what, here' a quick cheat sheet to be your guide for political actions:

Left-wing protestors: Carrying signs is far too dangerous and will be dealt with swiftly and harshly, for everyone's safety.

Right-wing protestors: Feel free to confront the president with a gun. After all, he is (meekly) trying to get poor people health care coverage.

Monday, August 17, 2009

FBI Investigates Mpls PD...again

So you're a MPLS cop and you pull over a hefty black guy who doesn't immediately do what you say -- what do you do? Do you ask him again, or do you claim he punched you despite video evidence to the contrary and then call in 8 of your buddies to beat him so badly he needs to be hospitalized?

Well, I can tell you what the training manual says, or you can watch the video yourself.

What's most interesting about this incident is how the back-up officers fly into the scene and immediately start punching and kicking the poor guy without any knowledge of the situation. In fact, all they know is there was a call for help and when they got there, they saw a man face down in a snow bank with a cop sitting on top of him. Not exactly a scenario that calls you to get down on your knees and start punching him directly in the crotch, as you can clearly see one officer do.

Of course, all charges were dropped against Mr. Jenkins (the victim); not necessarily because he was innocent of the charges, but probably more because he had just been severely beaten for no reason while it was caught on camera.

You can argue that Mr. Jenkins was being uncooperative (though explaining why a Black man in Minneapolis would be justifiably wary of any police contact is an entirely different post), but the force used on him was still clearly inappropriate. For starters, there was no reason he needed to be pulled out of the car at all. But even if you grant that was necessary for some unknown reason, there's simply no defense for the actions of the back up. All that was needed was for one officer to grab his legs and then he was fully subdued. Put some cuffs on him and leave. What makes this so bad is not that he was beaten so severely (though that is really, really bad), but it's the fact that a single punch never needed to be thrown and the situation could have been resolved faster, easier, and far less illegally.

Now there may be some disciplinary action taken (the FBI has agreed to investigate), but seeing as how this seems to happen pretty much once or twice a year here, I doubt much will actually change. I just hope the MPLS PD remembers this the next time they wonder so loudly why the public distrusts police officers...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

And Another Piece of Our Collective Soul Dies... which I mean the ephemeral quality of basic goodness we all share, not the shitty 90s band...

Perusing the fine journalistic list-making of Cracked the other day, I stumbled upon their list of the most questionable charities and fundraisers. Nestled right after a discussion of a Guliani fundraiser in which he charged every guest $9.11 for admission (you cannot make this stuff up), was the wesbite (borderline NSFW).

It's probably a bit more complicated than this, but essentially the site allows women who would like larger breasts (women only...sorry fellas, your boobs will have to stay the same size) to post pictures of themselves and argue why they should be given the money for plastic surgery. Philanthropic minded gents (or ladies, I guess) can then donate to the cause, and in exchange, they get pictures (possibly nude, I couldn't determine) and "contact info" (again, not sure what all that entails). So basically it's like an expensive online strip club where women with low self-confidence who have been raised to believe they are nothing more than sex objects attempt to bilk money out of sad and lonely men who otherwise would receive no interaction at all with women.

I'll save the righteous rantings about how disgustingly misogynistic such a site is and how both the men and women who use it are desperately in need of a swift kick in the ass, mostly only because I think it speaks for itself. Again, this is a website where you can go to donate toward a woman's breast augmentation and/or solicit donations for your own new breasts. And it's clearly working, because the site keeps a little running tally of many of the women's donation levels, and some are into the thousands of dollars.

But really, that's what makes America beautiful, isn't it? Over half the world lives on less than $1 dollar a day, and even within the most wealthy and powerful nation on earth we have millions living in poverty and dying of easily cured illness, and yet plenty of people are apparently willing to give away thousands of dollars just to know that there are now a bigger pair of breasts somewhere in this crazy world of ours. Kind of warms the heart, doesn't it?

Monday, August 10, 2009

When It Is and Isn't Ok to Use Your Mentally Retarded Child As A Political Prop

All politician's are hypocrites -- it's such a truism that it doesn't even really need to be said. Part of it is the very nature of the job; with 535 senators and representatives, a president, a supreme court, and on and on, it's impossible for one person to deliver on any specific promise they make. And of course, the people masochistic enough to endure months of nationally televised attacks on themselves, their ideas, and their past are obviously a special sub-set of humanity that need attention really bad and are willing to do pretty much anything to get it.

Yet some push hypocrisy to beautiful new heights. Take Sarah Palin, for instance (no, please take her! buh-dum-ching!). We all know she's an incredible idiot and I don't need to pile on more examples of how she's not even fit for managing a Denny's let alone some sort of national office. But beyond her stupefying idiocy, she has truly become a master of hypocrisy, especially concerning her own family.

Leaving aside the whole "abstinence only education and only bad parents have pregnant teenage daughters except for me because this is actually an example of being a good parent" thing, her son Trig takes up most of her hypocritical rantings.

We were all introduced to Trig's Down-Syndrome cuteness during her vice-presidential acceptance speech when he was continually used as a prop to show what an amazing mother she was. Then when the whole drunken-redneck-knocks-up-her-daughter-and-leaves story broke and she started drawing heat it suddenly became out-of-bounds to talk about the family she kept constantly referencing.

And then came her "I'm quitting but I'm not a quitter" resignation speech, when she once again talked about all those big, bad journalists who keep talking about the family she won't stop talking about. So the subject's buried, right? She told us to quit talking about/looking at/being aware of the existence of her family and slunk away from the national spotlight. Certainly we're done with discussions of Mz. Palin and her special needs baby, right?

No! Of course not! For shortly after her "only a monster uses a Downs Syndrome child to further their political causes" speech, she once again used her Down Syndrome baby to further her political agenda, claiming Obama's (unfortunately) not-at-all socialized medicine would murder her baby. (The fact that she did this over Facebook is an entirely different post...)

So what does she follow up her totally level-headed claim of government death panels that murder babies with? A call for "civil discourse" that doesn't get "sidetracked by tactics that can be accused of leading to intimidation or harassment."

Yeah, because when we're discussing government-controlled baby-murder squads we certainly don't want people to get all hyperbolic and start making wild accusations, do we?

Friday, August 07, 2009

More Re-posting

So summer's theoretically a time when life gets less hectic and you get to slow down a little bit, but this has definitely not panned out for me. Being so far behind, I've had precious little time to devote to my poor, neglected blog (although it should be getting better soon).

In the meantime, while you're contemplating getting up to 4,500 bucks for your inefficient car so you can upgrade to a slightly less inefficient car, remember that the Bush administration made it so that it's virtually free to buy giant, gas-wasting SUVs.

In 30 years when all the fossil fuels have been used up and we're living in a dystopic, Mad Max-esque charred hellscape, at least there will be some cool (albeit inert) old cars to look at...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Shocking News That Shouldn't Shock You At All

It turns out that when you give a shadowy company which remains shrouded in secrecy billions of dollars to enter a warzone and provide "security" and then place absolutely no oversights on what they're doing, they kill people indiscriminately and then kill the people who try to blow the whistle on them.

But then again, who could have seen this coming? I would have figured giving billions of dollars and carte blanche to kill whomever they please to a bunch of radical right-wing steroidal miscreants would have turned out great. Shame on you, Blackwater. You've given the word "mercenary" a bad name.