Monthly Archives: July 2008

Political Junkies, Unite!

I have been hearing about FiveThirtyEight.com for a while now, but I until today I had never visited it. I stumbled across it today, and was amazed. Amongst other things, the site contains up-to-date statistics of:

– Every possible outcome of the 2008 Presidential election, and the likelihood each happens

– The likelihood of any particular state making the difference in the race

– The likelihood of each candidate winning each state

– A trend tracker

Seriously, it’s both ridiculous and beautiful. If you like number-crunching or just dying for November to come around, you should definitely check out this site.

P.S. I’m not getting paid for this- but it would be cool if I was.

EDIT 7/31/08: Commenter (and friend of Kantankerations) Steve S. brought up another cool site: Hominid Views. I love any site that tells me Barack Obama has a 99.97% chance of winning- check it out.

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On Affirmative Action

I will start this post off by saying that I am white, middle-class, and a child of the suburbs. I was born and raised in uber-blue Northern California, to Democratic parents, and now I go to UC Berkeley, a notoriously liberal school (a stereotype that is not entirely deserved, but that is another post for another time). This does not give me an easy position to discuss (and even less, denounce) affirmative action, but I’m going to do that anyway.

AA has been in the news recently because John McCain recently stated that he supports a measure in Arizona that would get rid of the preference system.

I am against affirmative action because it gives an unfair advantage to minorities based on race (and, in some cases, women based on gender). It’s that simple. AA was designed to give underprivileged youth a boost in college admissions (it also helps underprivileged adults seeking government employment). By itself, this is not an ignoble cause. There is no doubt that poorer communities live in a vicious circle of poor education leading to poor jobs leading to their kids having poor educations and poor jobs…and on an on. This is clearly something that needs to be addressed, but affirmative action is not the answer.

Problem numero uno with AA seems so obvious that it is often taken for granted. AA is based on race. No where does it specify that a college applicant must be poor, or live in a particular neighborhood, or go to a particular type of school, or have fewer than a particular number of TV channels. No where does it specify that they need to have faced certain hardships, nor does it require that they even be underpriveledged at all. Therefore, a minority student born to wealthy, upper-class parents (and yes, they do exist) is in no way disqualified from receiving preferential treatment.

What this means (see if you can follow along here) is that a rich (or otherwise “privileged”) black, or Latino, or American Indian student is admitted to a college before an equally-qualified yet underprivileged white or Asian student.

Affirmative action therefore does not help underprivileged students, but rather minority students. The equation to represent this thinking would be X=POOR, (where X=an African American, a Latino, or a member of any other group considered a minority). X=POOR, X=IN NEED OF SPECIAL HELP, X=UNDERPRIVILEGED. These equations, for various obvious reasons, do not compute. Minorities are not inherently poor, and indeed as time goes on more and more are climbing up the ladders towards the middle and upper classes. To assume that ALL minorities need assistance in getting into college or getting a good job is racist in itself, but it also disqualifies those who deserve the assistance who cannot get it because they happen to be white or Asian.

This brings up another issue which I will only touch on lightly: reparations. Some people believe that AA is a form of reparations- a way to make up for all the bad things white people have done to, well, everyone else. I am against reparations because I don’t believe that the children of today should have to pay for the mistakes of their (often distant) ancestors, and nor should they benefit from their hardships. History cannot be (or, at least, should not be) rewritten by money or privilege. Affirmative action as reparation even ignores history altogether by forgetting that plenty of other groups- Irish Catholics, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, and more- also faced terrible hardships when coming to this country (this is not to say that their lives were as difficult as those of African-Americans, but to question where the line is drawn between “privileged” and “unprivileged”).Things are not as simple nor easy to separate the American people into “minority” and “privileged” and assign help accordingly, but that is what AA tries to do.

A final issue that is important to note is discussed by Barack Obama, from the article:

“If you’ve got 50 percent of African-American or Latino kids dropping out of high school, it doesn’t really matter what you do in terms of affirmative action. Those kids are not getting into college,” he said.

Affirmative action does not and will not ever guarantee that minority kids get a good education. That is up to them.

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Quick Summary of An Interesting Article

Eventually, we will all hate Obama too- Times of London

This upbeat piece covers how Europeans believe that Americans are unworldly, uncultured, reality-tv-watching, McDonalds-Big-Mac-eating slobs and so even if they currently believe the Barack Obama will save the world and is the reincarnation of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and will reverse all the evil policies by the Bush Administration and will stop global warming and end the War in Iraq and solve the oil crisis all the while being nice to Europeans and not saying things like “yeehaw!” and “misunderestimated”- it’s only a matter of time until they inevitably hate him. This is, of course, because the United States is to blame for all of the world’s problems, regardless if they started in the country or not.

Oh, Europe.

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FCC Put In Its Place- Finally

Good news for those of you who love the First Amendment- an appeals court in Philadelphia has suspended the fine imposed by the FCC on CBS for the infamous Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” in 2004.

If you don’t remember this planet-shakingly scandalous moment, let me refresh your memory:

Superbowl XXXVIII. Houston, Texas. New England Patriots v Carolina Panthers. With 4 seconds left in the game, Adam Vinatieri kicked a fieldgoal to win the game for New England.

But perhaps the most memorable action happened at halftime. During a performance featuring Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson, one of Jackson’s breasts was temporarily exposed when the top of her bustier fell down- on live TV. Chaos reigned.

The FCC, reacting swiftly and harshly, slapped a $550,000 fine on CBS for “indecency.” They claimed that they had received over 500,000 complaints from viewers who had been offended by the incident. Furthermore, they asserted that Jackson and Timberlake were employees of CBS, and therefore the media company was responsible for their actions.

This was all overturned on Monday by the three judges in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, who ruled that the FCC “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in handing down the fine. They also questioned the claim about the number of complaints resulting from the incident, of which CBS had asserted that as many as 85% were form letters from single-interest groups.  They further noted that Timberlake and Jackson were not employees, but rather private contractors hired for nothing more than the halftime show.

As I mentioned before, this is great to hear. CBS did not and could not control the “wardrobe malfunction,” and the idea that it had a significant negative affect on anyone, including children, is ridiculous and unproven. From a legal and Constitutional standpoint, for the sake of the First Amendment, the FCC should ALWAYS err on the side of leniency when it comes to questions of what is considered “indecent. But from a pragmatic standpoint, the FCC should step down even further from the right-wing-built pedestal from which they declare things decent or not.

In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said that he couldn’t define pornography, but “I know it when I see it.” That is the state of censorship in today’s media. Identifying what is “decent” or “offensive” is only slightly more subjective than judging modern art. What one parent would not let their child watch on TV another parent might consider educational- an FCC executive (and indeed a SCOTUS judge) can speak only for his or herself.

The fact is that children are far less innocent and sheltered than their parents would like to believe. Even if their parents do succeed in not cussing around them, kids are exposed to profanity as early as preschool. I asked my mother about sex in first grade, after hearing the word tossed gleefully around my classroom. If my mother hadn’t explained the concept to me, someone else would have, whether a classmate, or random adult on whom I sprung the question. Parents’ fear of the human body is even more irrational: almost every child is raised on his or her mother’s breast- how is Jackson’s any different?

But this is all beside the point: if parents wants to shelter their children from body parts or curse words or (more rationally) recreational drugs or casual violence, that is their undeniable choice to make. The FCC, however, should not play this role.

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Dear Mr. Obama,

Hey Barack, it’s me, Kate.

I just thought I’d write to you about your recent, er, decision-making.

I’ll be blunt: I don’t like it. It’s one thing to be for guns. I’ll even give you federal funding for faith-based charities. But sir, with all due respect, it is another issue altogether to vote against the Constitution. AP News titled the story “Senate bows to Bush, approves surveillance bill.” Did you see that?

I have a confession. I was a Hillary supporter (she voted against the bill, by the way, but  we’ll let bygones be bygones). But let’s be clear, she lost and you won and I am behind you 100% now. I could see, even from the San Francisco office of the Clinton campaign, that you were a good, principled man with an extraordinarily bright future in politics, and I had no problem making the switch when Hillary bowed out.

But you’re making it hard for me.

I know you’re trying to seem not too “liberal.”
I know that the vote wasn’t close anyway.
I know you think you’ve already got the Democrat vote locked up.

But come on, man. Remember those aforementioned principals? Why did those have to fly out the window once you became the Democratic presidential nominee? Remember standing up for your convictions? Why do those have to be sacrificed in the pursuit of a few extra votes you probably won’t get? Hey, remember the Constition? Why does that have to be thrown away in order for you to seem more “moderate?”

You’re supposed to be better than that, B. You were supposed to be the first.

I still support you and will hard for your campaign, but please choose more wisely next time. The American people and the Constitution are counting on you.

XOXO,

Kate

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That’s my baby!: A recap of funny, interesting, or stupid things found on the internet

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An American in Europe

So I forgot to mention in my last post that I was leaving for almost 3 weeks to go to Italy, but, I did, and now I’m back, and the world continues to turn.

Europe was an exciting experience that made me both appreciate and be embarassed by my Americanism, due mostly to the fact that I watched a lot of BBC World News. BBC News, and I don’t suggest any sort of bias, although it has been suggested before, likes to host a lot of anti-American guests who love to rant about how Europe is collectively held hostage by the United States, and, particularly, the-lovechild-of-Stalin-and-Satan-and-Nanners-the-talking-monkey, George W. Bush, and how the United States is destroying the world and its citizens are ignorant and stupid and uncultured and probably fat and wow this is a long sentence.

That was the BBC News. Although I didn’t talk to too many Europeans mostly because I was with my parents which therefore made me a child, and also, oh yeah, I speak English and Italians speak Italian, those I did talk to did not seem to hate me too much. I was never lectured about the Iraq War or global warming or anything US v World related, although I have heard of that happening. Overall, and this may be because we stayed in relatively tourist-friendly parts, people didn’t really care. Just an observation.

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