succumbing to peer pressure

Friday, June 03, 2005


I mean, what do you do when a democratic majority listens to the truth, hears and understands it, but nevertheless chooses -- out of habit, fear or just plain xenophobic nationalism -- to ignore, or even applaud, the war crimes of its duly elected leaders?

For a long time I (apparently rather foolishly) believed that if people were presented with the truth then they (or at least, some majority of them) would make rational decisions based on those facts. Perhaps not decisions with which I personally agreed, but at least decisions that I could understand. After being proven wrong more times than I can count, I just don't know how to wrap my brain around this paradigm.

The Whiskey Bar nails it too:

What the health of the Republic requires, in other words, may not be a new crop of leakers and whistleblowers, or a fresh young generation of Woodwards and Bernsteins -- or even a more independent, aggressive media. What it may need is a new population (or half of a population, anyway), one that hasn't been stupified or brainwashed into blind submission, that won't look upon sadistic corruption and call it patriotism, and that will refuse to trade the Bill of Rights for a plastic Jesus and a wholly false sense of security.

That's a much taller order than asking the Gods to send us another Deep Throat -- or even a Luke Skywalker. It's also not an easy thing for liberals, with their old-fashioned faith in democracy, to face: That the Evil Emperor might have a majority (a narrow one, but still a majority) on his side. But a truth isn't any less true for being politically unpalatable.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Dear Media,

The runaway bride making an appearance in court is not news. President Bush breaking international law and his oath of office by authorizing the transfer of detainees to countries where torture is common is news. Political unrest throughout Europe following the recent vote in France is news. Explosions in Iraq and Afghanistan are news. Please go back to J-school and stay there until you learn to tell the difference.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

"Honey, if you cry, your makeup is going to run." Whoa. Watching Bravo's "Sports Kids Moms and Dads" is...creepy. Thank goodness, my mother never uttered the previous phrase, but I heard plenty of moms who did. Then again, it was my coach who always yelled that there was no crying on the floor unless you were injured. I was lucky enough to have a pretty good time during my other lifetime as a gymnast, but I think a lot of that is because I was always one of those kids polite people would refer to as 'precocious.' In general, I was a well-behaved kid, but I was also hard-headed and still haven't learned the art of keeping my mouth shut. So when my coach would put his face inches from mine and yell, I reacted exactly as he wanted - I got pissed off enough to have the energy to do another routine or throw a trick again or run faster or jump higher or do whatever it was he was yelling at me about in the first place. Most nine years olds don't react that way. There was a method to his madness - he figured if he was the scariest presence in our lives, then when we got to competitions we wouldn't be intimidated by other athletes or judges. Not an entirely crazy idea, and actually I wrote one of my college essays about how thanks to this man I'm not easily intimidated by anyone. Our gym was somewhere in the middle, I think, on the spectrum from nothing but positive encouragement to, I don't know, Bela Karolyi. At least we didn't have weigh-ins. But one time my coach did cross that line, made some comment about the size of a teammate's thighs, and I gasped, "Al Fong!" (late gymnast Christy Henrich's coach, who is often blamed for her death from anorexia) He immediately apologized. He was jerk, not a bad person.

And of course, my parents were awesome, but there was a small window there when Mom potentially could have become one of the parents on Bravo's show. I didn't do very well in my very first competition, and Mom reacted by giving me the silent treatment during the entire hour-long car ride home. So when we got home I laid down the ground rules. I had coaches and my own internal monologue to beat me up when I screwed up. All I needed from my parents was support. If Mom didn't think she could handle that, well, then she could just stay home from my next competition. And every competition after that until she felt like she could be unconditionally supportive. Like I said. Precocious. It wasn't Mom's fault - she never participated in sports as a kid, and as a stay-at-home Mom, she was as invested in gymnastics as I was. So she hadn't really figured out how to go through the process of training with me without being one of those moms. I got that, but I had also figured out what I was going to need from her if we were going to be ok as mother and daughter growing up[1]. So I was lucky. Really, really lucky. My natural personality was sort of pre-disposed to deal with gymnastics and come out on the other side all the better for it. But I saw so many teammates who weren't. So, yeah, Bravo's latest addition to the reality circuit is dead-bang on. And more than a little disturbing.

[1] I always had this slightly weird, quasi-grown-up/objective relationship with my parents, where I could see them as people, not just Mom and Dad. like that afternoon in the middle of their rocky period when Mom asked me point blank if I wanted Dad to stay and I said of course I did, but I'd rather have two separate parents who were happy than two together parents who were miserable. this was also before my hero-worshipping of Dad, while we were still having the knock-down-drag-out fights of my adolescence. but even though I liked Mom better at the time, I had already made up my mind that if they did split up, I would have to go live with Dad, because I knew that his discipline would be better for me during high school, while I was still trying to get my shit together. Happily, I never actually had to make that decision and the two of them worked things out.

A new list of books to read! Conservative magazine Human Events published a list of the "most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries." The best part are the little blurbs describing why each book is awful. My personal favorite, although there are plenty from which to choose, is the way they describe how John Dewey in "Democracy and Education" has the audacity to suggest "...endowing children with hard knowledge, and encouraged the teaching of thinking 'skills' instead." I mean, clearly, no child left behind is a much better approach to public school education. Also, Greg Saunders has some interesting ideas about books that were left off the list.
(image from here)Posted by Hello

I'm in no shape mentally to post my own thoughts about the administration's latest tiff with Amnesty International, so I'll just copy Greg Saunders's:

A Single Word

Geez. The Bush folks sure are pissed about Amnesty International's use of the word "gulag", huh? Perhaps Amnesty should just clarify things a bit by eschewing comparisons to the Soviet Union and making it clear that when they say "gulags", they simply meant "secret prisons in which innocent people have been tortured to death".

On a serious note, it's clear what's going on here. The Bushies are focusing in on a single word and are going to hit back at Amnesty International until they say something even vaguely conciliatory. At that point, they'll declare victory. ("Haven't you heard? Our rape rooms aren't 'gulags'.") Nevermind the details of the report. The use of hyperbole[1] will render the actual charges obsolete. We've seen it happen over and over again.

The fact that this particular AI report was almost dead (in news cycle terms, anyways) until the President decided to abuse the word "absurd" is the biggest irony here. Rumsfeld is giving a press conference right now because the President's poor attempt to make the question go away only made things worse. The obvious quote here is "thou doth protest too much" because it's true. These guys wouldn't be complaining this loudly if it hadn't gotten under their skin.

Amnesty International obviously hit a nerve and the Bush Administration is going to keep hitting back until there's a moment of weakness that they can take advantage of. The key here is not to get tripped up in a semantic debate. Innocent people are being abused right now due to our President's decision that the Geneva Conventions don't apply to our new wars. Don't let a petty argument over word choice allow the President to deflect attention from the fact that he's a human rights abuser.

1 :Which in this case isn't hyperbole at all, but whatever....

Also, MONEY - there's a post over on AMERICAblog about whether or not the left is afraid of/hates money. There are plenty of things to discuss about that in the more general sense of 'the left' but this post, and the slew of comments responding to it, parallel the personal debate I perpetually have about money. I think it was Sudiptya who first described to me how he dislikes money so much that he intentionally tries to spend it in a somewhat careless manner, especially on his friends, so as to, in a sense, devalue it. I definitely fall into this category too. Although I'm willing to acknowledge, begrudgingly, the fact that money makes the world go round, and I appreciate the many positive things that can be gained through money (both the wise spending of it and wise saving/investing of it) I'd still prefer it not to enter into my relationships. I'd rather barter with friends than actually exchange money (if I pick up the tab this week for lunch, smile, say thank you, and offer to pick up the tab next time. the same, by the way, goes for dates. I get that for many of you paying for a girl's dinner or movie ticket or what have you is a sign of respect, a way of showing that you like her. But occasionally, you should let me return the favor, because like and respect should be a two-way street.). So I can understand how 'we' as a group often come off as uncomfortable around money - uncomfortable asking for it and uncomfortable spending it. I've commented before that even on my student budget, I feel guilty not giving to a charity in which I believe if I know the following weekend I'll blow $20 on beer. So, as pointed out by several posters on AMERICAblog, guilt plays a large role in this queasiness regarding money. But I would hope that this does not carry over into guilt over earning money in the way John points out in his post. Or at the very least, that this applies to a small minority in the left community. Because otherwise I fear that this guilt, and/or begrudging those among us who earn a decent living, is in fact indicative of a devaluing of our beliefs and work that supports those beliefs.

Monday, May 30, 2005

In the spirit of the day, for those who are so inclined, information about adopting soldiers currently serving overseas or recuperating in army hospitals is available here, here, here, and here. Most of these are volunteer-run organizations, started by one or two individuals and run out of their basement, so I suppose it's possible that any donations you send are actually going to pay for a big screen tv or something, but I prefer to believe otherwise.

Through one of those convoluted series of clicks (daily update from Tom Tomorrow to TBogg via a touching Memorial Day cartoon from Garry Trudeau to an awful representative from what would have been my birthplace if my original hometown had a hospital (my parents were living in Poca, WV when I was born, but had to drive to Charleston for the nearest hospital)) I finally stumbled upon a little piece of home. Rick Lee is a local photographer who occasionally posts pictures from around Charleston on his blog. What's funny is the historical street featured in the link is actually a fairly sketchy alley once the sun sets. Even in a place as small-town and generally safe as Charleston, it's not really a stretch of town you want to stroll through alone at night. Sure, it's cute and quaint, and is the short cut from the mall to my favorite part of town, a block featuring my favorite coffee shop (Taylor Books, of which there are also pictures on Lee's site, but mostly featuring him and his friends rather than the shop itself) and an excellent ice cream shop, and a few blocks further down, the Farmer's Market. When I was in high school I also took this short cut to Common Grounds, the long-defunct all-ages alternative club in town. But the end of the street not featured in Lee's photos opens up on the local bus station and a 'park' that is generally a gathering place for transients and drug dealers, even moreso now that the aforementioned club was shut down by the city. (the club was directly across the street from the 'park' and although certain members of the city liked to believe it was all the 'angry kids' frequenting Common Grounds causing problems, in general the large late night crowd kept some of the scarier elements in and around the 'park' in check)

Sunday, May 29, 2005

New mantra -

"Beaumarchais will never be Moliere
because he prefers his life to his work."


And I'm ok with that. For most of my life I've been ok with being a B student. I just lost sight of that for a while. But a B is definitely still passing, and I can still be a damn fine statistician with 'B' theoretical skills. I love numbers, but I dig my life too.

Had a dream last night that the apartment above mine caught on fire and I was standing in the middle of my apt trying to figure out how to pick up my bonnaroo tickets, misc notes and papers for studying, and the cat, all while wrapping a blanket around me (hey, it's the summer, I sleep naked). It wasn't particularly scary, just stressful.

So I can feel myself burning out, can tell that with every problem, if I don't see the solution immediately my brain just goes clunk! and refuses to keep working. So I'm trying to cut back, relax, take a break from problems and work on other areas...but it's a delicate balance. If I slack off too much now, and leave too much for next week, then I'll be right back in the same brain-stopping place, only with even worse timing. Yesterday I put in about 5 hours that felt like 12 so I indulged in all of my vices - coffee, chocolate, beer, cigarettes. So there's that.