Archive for the 'National Tragedies' Category

23
Dec
11

Why Ron Paul’s Reaction To Racist Rants Is Easily As Disturbing As The Rants Themselves

It looks like the Not memorable???profoundly distressing his response to it is. Take this excerpt Ron Paul racism charge won’t die. And it shouldn’t. But what I find truly disturbing is that no one yet has highlighted how gravely and from one of his newsletters:

It is the hip-hop thing to do among the urban youth who play unsuspecting whites like pianos. The youth simply walk up to a car they like, pull a gun, tell the family to get out, steal their jewelry and wallets, and take the car to wreck. Such actions have ballooned in the recent months.

In the old days, average people could avoid such youth by staying out of bad neighborhoods. Empowered by media, police, and political complicity, however, the youth now roam everywhere looking for cars to steal and people to rob.

What can you do? More and more Americans are carrying a gun in the car. An ex-cop I know advises that if you have to use a gun on a youth, you should leave the scene immediately, disposing of the wiped off gun as soon as possible. Such a gun cannot, of course, be registered to you, but one bought privately (through the classifieds, for example).

I frankly don’t know what to make of such advice, but even in my little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.

And here is his response to the question of whether or not he knew about/wrote/endorsed said excerpt:

You know what the answer is? I didn’t write them, didn’t read them at the time, and I disavow them. This is the answer.

Let’s forget for a moment that Ron Paul’s whole raison d’etre is to promote personal responsibility. Let’s forget that, in addressing these things published under his name, he’s totally relinquished his own personal responsibility. Let’s forget that he’s claiming that it’s impossible for one person to know everything published in a newsletter (maybe why there should be…oh, I dunno…a group of people…call ’em a “collaborative” or and “agency” that keeps a lookout for stuff like this, so the publisher knows what they’re publishing, and when it might amount to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater). Forget all that. Here is what deeply troubles me, and it troubles me that no one has brought this to his (or anyone else’s) attention:
He’s treating this article as though it’s just an everyday article.
Let’s be clear about what this article is doing. It states unequivocally that the correct response for a white person to make when threatened by a black person (and, yes, it’s racially specific Is This Also "Not Memorable"??in that way) is to shoot said black person with an unregistered weapon, then wipe it down and dispose of it. In short, it is an instruction manual on how to commit and get away with a homicide. Implicit in this set of instructions, as well, is that the cops will not actively pursue the matter, but that’s a blog for another time.

For a moment, imagine this type of article were to be published in an Afghan magazine. Imagine that magazine were to say that, since American soldiers are threats to Afghan livelihood, you should arm yourselves. Then, whenever you see a soldier approach you, you should shoot him/her in the face, then dispose of the weapon.

Can you imagine the outrage and terror that would be inspired by this?

It would be national and incredible in its scale.

And it should be.

So when I see Dr. Paul respond to questions about this flippantly–when I see him, in effect, acting as though this were a recipe someone published and he’s being questioned as to whether it was oregano or thyme recommended be put in the sauce–it outrages and terrifies me.

How does an article that details how to murder someone not cause a blip on the radar? How does an article that provides a terrorist instruction manual not warrant a second read? How is an article that promotes illegal violent activity at its highest level not even memorable?

The only answer must be that this article was not seen as a threatening one. It isn’t a call to terrorist action, because the victims it would harm aren’t people.

And let’s, once again, be clear about whom this kind of terrorist vigilantism would harm. This article specifically states that you should shoot an “urban youth” who is “[walking] up to [your] car.” Disgusting.

So then what does that say about Paul’s view of black people, since they are specifically referenced as the enemy in this excerpt? And how can he claim that he could personally be responsible for helping over 10% of the population pursue life, liberty, and happiness?

“Fire!” in a crowded theater is less sinister than this article. Not remembering it was ever written…well, that’s more sinister yet.

21
Dec
11

Ron Paul Racism Flap Grosser Than His Old Man Neck Flap

It’s already been established that women are the only people Ron Paul doesn’t believe should be free to do anything they’d like. But wait! Now he’s attacking real people too! In short, he’s having to deal with charges he’s a filthy racist again:

A 1992 passage from the Ron Paul Political Report about the Los Angeles riots read, “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.” A passage in another newsletter asserted that people with AIDS should not be allowed to eat in restaurants because “AIDS can be transmitted by saliva”; in 1990 one of his publications criticized Ronald Reagan for having gone along with the creation of the federal holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which it called “Hate Whitey Day.”

Yes, he disavowed the writings before. Yes, he said he didn’t even know they were in the publications. Yes, he said they’re deplorable.

However.

This reminds me of a brilliant email debate a friend of mine had a long time ago. Part of it revolved around whether or not scholarly articles were more engaging if they were more conversational. One side stated that he found a convivial tone more conducive to understanding key concepts, and thought the personal nature of it (pronouns included) showed a more courageous stance by the author to take personal, as well as professional, ownership of the ideas being expressed in the work. The rebuttal was simple (and I’ll paraphrase it here):
Putting your name on the work implies your personal ownership. More resounding than saying, “I believe…” is putting your name at the top of any type of legitimate publication. The implication of the words contained therein, then, is always going to reflect on the name at the top, as will anything opined within the draft.

So what were the names of the publications in which the racist jargon appeared? Ron Paul Political Report, Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, Ron Paul Survival Report and Ron Paul Investment Letter.

Eep.

20
Dec
11

No More Fun Of Any Kind!

A message from the office of John Boehner:

House set to raise taxes on the middle class in January.

Suck on that during your “Christmas” with your “presents” and “happiness,” Poors!

20
Dec
11

A Nation of Rosalind Franklins, Rather Than Ben

Another quick note on our educated populace. I recently watched someone try to learn physics on his own. He was assiduous about the learning, and–being availed any number of written, online, and hands-on resources–one would think he quickly became an expert. And yet, after 4 years of trying, he still has a serious misunderstanding of the fundamentals of the science. Is it because he’s unteachable? No. Is it because physics is too difficult to comprehend, even at its basest level? No. Why, then, could he fail to learn it after trying so hard?

What I have noticed in my (admittedly paltry)Look, Ma, lots of hands! year-ish of teaching here in the States is that more and more people have a serious difficulty synthesizing information. While the problem my students have in communicating a hypothesis effectively is understandable (as is their lack of being able to formulate good game plans in general), what I find interesting is their seeming lack of ability to analyze their own results. For example, say a student indirectly measures the height of a table by seeing how long a pencil takes to fall off of it. If one measurement says the table is 4 feet tall, and another says it’s 8, they have a very difficult time understanding what that data means. In truth, they tend to just not think about it. They report it, then move on.

This is a problem I’ve seen reflected in myriad instances in the country. Immediate utility, rather than broad applicability, is what has increasingly become of the focus of a populace ever more terrified and bewildered by the idea of thinking critically about subjects. It seems that the emphasis in everyday problem-solving has become immediate gratification. Maybe it’s the result of the Sesame Street generation growing up. Maybe the further infantilization of the Facebook crowd is adding to it. I tend to think, however, that the problem is one that has historically plagued anyone who is obsessed with linear thought.

Linear thought processes are great. They can help keep ideas organized, can keep ideas focused, and can keep blogs on-track. They are not, however, so great at seeing the forest for the forest. Take the titular case of Rosalind Franklin, for example. While her photograph of DNA’s structure may have been the first, her inability to see it for what it was led to her getting scooped by James Watson on her own data.

Our country has always purported to encourage the Ben Franklins amongst us to greatness. Those who can understand that the electricity coming out of the bulb might be the same as the luminescence visible during a thunderstorm are supposed to always find a home here. More and more, though, this kind of thinking is being seen as suspect and, worse yet, European.At least it's still sunny in December, suckers!

Nowhere is the lack of understanding the causation of the big picture from the little picture more evident (and evidently disastrous) than in California.

California boasts a “direct democracy.” In other words, voters decide on policy. It sounds great, but it’s actually a horrible idea given the lack of ability of the statewide electorate to understand and extrapolate from data. Want better parks? Sure. Better schools? Absolutely. More cops and firemen on the streets? You bet! Want to pay more taxes? No way! And that, in a nutshell, is how a state with a huge economy can go bankrupt.

The basic understanding of how the little picture relates to the big picture is part of what makes a science like physics fun to teach. Look at the pencil fall off the table. That’s also what holds our universe together (and on, and on). It’s also what makes nations work. Looking at the data of our society right now, we can derive the following: we are not recovering from an almost-depression as quickly as we should; we are quickly becoming a nation of the chronically un-and-under-employed; we are coexisting with other first-world markets that are equally hurting; we are trying to mitigate terrorist threats from multiple countries of origin; and we are paying historically little in taxes. After reading this list of problems the next president will need to address, one can easily derive that the next president must be:
1. Highly proactive and persuasive to a bipartisan group
2. A master diplomat
3. Tough-minded and steady
Nate Silver’s work has shown as much. Specifically, it said that, if the economy continues to recover slowly, the GOP candidate is a shoe-in against Obama. Just so long as he’s neither an extremist nor has taken crazily extreme positions.

Here are the GOP candidates:

Nuff said.

20
Dec
11

Commodification to Any Degree

So it’s been a loooong time since I added something. The quick synopses of events leading to now: moved back to the States (more on that later), am teaching in a private school, and had another kid. Even though I’m busier than I’ve ever been, I’m making time now to update. Why? This:

James Franco got a D in his acting class, then promptly (allegedly) bitched about it until NYU canned the offending professor.

As I mentioned, I’m currently teaching at a private institution, so this hits very close to home. After all, I’m currently teaching a kid who, upon having plagiarized every single assignment he’s handed in for the semester, tried to get me canned for only having inflated his grade to a B+. To my school’s credit, they did read me the riot act, but refused to fire me. Still, these two instances point to a problem in the educational system in general. Namely, if private schools are our kids best option, what does that say about the next generation?

We all know public schools need work. We all know that they’re mismanaged, inefficient, and sometimes staffed by people less-than-qualified to be there. Fine. Private schools, then, seem like a better option for a lot of families worried about their children’s future. Yes, they’re usually staffed by impressive people (or, at least, people with more alphabet soup after their names). Yes, they offer highly specialized classes. Yes, their teacher-to-student ratio is largely one more conducive to higher standards of learning.

However.

Like, I'm totally an expert in Keyensian theory!Private schools also experience something that public schools don’t: accountability to their
stockholders. And, in this shitty economy, that can be a driving force in even the best-intentioned educational institution. Amazingly enough, this increased accountability on the part of the administration of any private school is then leading to a marked decrease in accountability for the students there. The message eventually becomes clear: complain loudly and violently enough, and any student can receive any degree, so long as their tuition check clears.

This is not to say that privatization always leads to inferior products (FedEx always being a prime example), but I am saying that it tends to breed a lack of accountability endemic to private institutions. Yes, the heads of any company will always be held accountable. As will the employees of the private company. The ones who won’t are the stockholders.

In a publicly-held institution, the ideal situation is that everyone is accountable to each other. If the local water company fails, they will be held accountable by the tax-paying population. And, that tax-paying population will also be accountable for their own decision (i.e. they will live with disease-infested water, or without enough). That is precisely why certain companies are made public: their success serves the public interest in such an inextricable way that the public will have no choice but to support the genuine success of said institution, regardless of price.

This is also still the best argument for public schooling. A nation can only be as strong as its best and brightest, after all. Likewise, a nation can only benefit from seeing an increase in the numbers (and abilities) of its population. It isn’t as though we haven’t experienced this first-hand lately. We’re all currently enmeshed in the consequences of living under the leadership of someone who bought his education, someone who was never held accountable, someone who still has no real grasp of what the repercussions are of his actions. And yet the populace, still reeling from the effects of the governance of said incurious boob, has seen fit to glorify such a motley crew of inglorious bastards as has ever been witnessed by an electorate. More worrisome yet is that said inglorious bastards aren’t polling at 5%. They are being supported by a population too poorly educated to remember what happened the last time they chose someone poorly educated or trained.

So it goes. And so it will continue to go so long as we make public education a talking point before election, yet the visible results of an education anathema to an electorate too insecure about their own bad education to be outraged by it. We also need to remember that what made this country great once were revolutionary ideas that were coupled with courage behind said convictions; it was not, as some might have you think, made great by mindless tough guys who came over here to flex only their southernmost muscle. And what makes this country a shameful joke on the world economy is that we have let the uneducated feel vindicated rather than angry, empowered by their lack of knowledge rather than entitled to it.

21
Oct
09

Machismo: Lost In Translation

Given its history and reputation as a fiery, imperial, and “Inquisitive” culture, I’ve been struck recently by Spain’s seeming disavowal of a word their language coined: Machismo. While used as a euphemism in many parts of the States for men who yearn to be toe-kickin’ John Wayne-a-bees, Spain translates it literally as “chauvinism,” and treats it as such.

I was first struck by this notion at the Gay Pride Parade I went to here in Madrid, at which there were many signs reading, “Homophobia = Machismo.” The idea seemed to be that machismo is something so looked down upon as antiquated, cruel, and ill-informed (to say the least) that it is mostly now used as a warning, as something so awful and ignorant that you would not want any association with it. The further fact that those signs constituted the first time I had seen/heard/read the word “machismo” in 2 and a half years living here also struck me as odd. After all, the image of the “Macho Man”–as literal Marlboro-man-type, or as ironically flamboyant Village Person–seems to me to be omnipresent across the pond. On the contrary, after being on the lookout, the only other context in which I’ve seen the word used is equating macho men to chronically abusive spouses.

But it doesn’t just end there. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a man at the store wearing a translated version of the biker t-shirt that reads “If You Can Read This…The BITCH Fell Off.” And, while the shirt was definitely recognizable in its design and basic verbiage, the actual message on the back (translated directly back from Spanish) is “If You Can Read This…My FIANCEE/GIRLFRIEND Has Fallen From The Motorcycle.” Comically extraneous prepositional phrases aside, the shirt’s translation to Spanish meant that it necessarily had to lose all of its anger and nonchalance about a violent act occurring to someone about whom the wearer is supposed to care. I can just imagine the first Spaniard reading the American version of the shirt: “Oh ho HO, that poor guy! He’s going to be so worried when he finds out she’s not there! What a useful shirt to let us know to alert him!”

I was just reminded of this whole thing while looking for a movie to watch. I clicked on the “Men Who Hate Women” link, only to find out it’s the movie based on Stieg Larsson’s ubiquitous novel of the same name. At least, its English name is Men Who Hate Women. Its Spanish title (again, translated back) is The Men Who Did Not Love Women. The difference is not only that hate is never mentioned, but that the verb used for the “not love” part of the title is “amar,” the deeper form of the traditional verb “querer,” which also means “to love.” The implication is that the men described in the book did not romantically, truly, deeply love women, as opposed to the English title, which implies that the men in the book harbor darkly violent distaste for women.

And so it occurs to me that there might be something to what I always called, in my younger days, “politically correct horsewallop.” What I see here is something I also remember thinking in the South: Language is power. Specifically, the type of language viewed as community-approved or acceptable sets the tone for the society, and the implications can indeed be palpable. Pulling back on said language, reserving it only for extreme cases, or just outright banning it, then, might not be such a bad thing.


To cite an example from my time below the Mason-Dixon, one day I was driving with one of my neighbors (a female microbiologist) and her niece, returning her niece back to Lafayette (the biggest little city in Cajun Country, for those not in the know). We both started teasing the 16-year-old girl about having a secret crush on one of her school’s football players, a boy who happened to be black. She slumped in her seat and grumbled, “Please. I ain’t gonna have no niglets running ’round my house.” My neighbor saw me blanch and catch my breath, and virtually ran her truck off the road so she could grab her niece and say to her what all Southerners sometimes need said to them:

“If you ever want to get out of a shithole town and be around smart, good people, you can’t talk like that. Any educated people you’re going to meet won’t like it, and they won’t like you.”

That is to say, while your average Connecticut housewife may indeed clutch her purse more closely when she sees any young minority in baggy pants walking by her, betraying some unspoken bigotry in her soul, she won’t admit that she does so; the mere fact that she knows that society frowns on it makes her disapprove of her own thoughts. It is less a case of using sunshine as a disinfectant, and more a case of constructing a polite society. Like not starting food fights in fancy restaurants (even though it’s secretly kind of fun), we don’t do it because we’re not fucking animals.

Why the sudden harsh tone? Taking the argument about machismo, for example, and its lack of perceived hilarity in Spain, let’s look at some statistics. The first 100 days in 2007, 15 women died in Spain as a result of domestic violence. The public outcry was enormous, even though the number dropped (by 6) from the previous year. Protest rallies were organized and held, and the anti-machismo posters abounded. For comparison’s sake, citing a 2005 study, at least 3 women die every day in the United States at the hand of a current or ex-partner. So, in that same period of time in 2007, barring some sudden precipitous drop in cases, 300 women died in the United States. To be fair, let’s adjust the number to show the disparity in population (Spain’s population is roughly 13% that of the United States), and the number come out to 40, over double Spain’s “unacceptable” number.

Maybe it’s all just smoke and mirrors, or maybe it’s just because Spanish men are more preoccupied with Real Madrid vs. Real Betis to save up any violent passions for their spouses, but it seems to me to be worth noting that Machismo may need to stop being funny. Cause maybe it’s already not.

30
Sep
09

Public Option Faces Death Panel, With Expected Results

And the Douchebag of the Year Award goes to...

Man, Blue Dog Democrats just can’t get enough killing into their day! First, it was Rockefeller’s “more robust” public option, then Schumer’s “less robust but perfectly fine” public option. Little do they know that Rockefeller has another one lying in wait, so they won’t have to pick up kittens on the way home to satisfy their bloodlust.

Seriously, it’s ridiculous that they voted down the public option yesterday, but we all expected it, no? And, in true ridiculous Washington fashion, the vote means nothing really for the ultimate fate of the public option. Much like a government-mandated death panel would likely entail massive bureaucracy, there are still myriad ways to include this thing (let’s call it “Grandma”) in the final bill before we libtards start freaking out for realz.

Mr. Rockefeller has also proposed another amendment, designed to look like the version of a public option included in legislation under consideration in the House. That proposal would base payment rates on Medicare for three years, but would pay a premium of 5 percent above Medicare rates for providers that also accept Medicare. (Not all health care providers accept the government insurance.)

For right now, let’s drop health care and talk education, though. As in, there’s a serious lack of it in the U.S., even in the most unlikely places. Take that woman who refused to deploy to Iraq, since she didn’t want to do so for some Indonesian Muslim-turned-Welfare-thug or whatever: she’s a doctor. Really! Like, if you went into a hospital with a gaping head wound, she might be deployed to fix it, as long as you had your long-form birth certificate.

Anyway, and here’s an elected official speaking:

“There’s a lot to like about a public option,” [Max] Baucus said, but he asserted that the idea could not get the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster on the Senate floor.

So, let’s get this straight: Blue Dogs won’t vote for a public option, even though they like it, because it won’t pass because they won’t vote for a public option. Genius!

Now let’s get this guy over to Afghanistan! He can tell the public that we’re there to help democracy by putting a guy who steals elections in power. Everyone* wins!

*Except everyone.