Tag Archives: bush

I’m Not a Hater, I Just Fuss a Lot

Back when George W. Bush was President, I would often lament the sorry state of American politics.  Twice we had elected a man who could not form grammatically correct sentences.  We had handed over top security codes to a guy who couldn’t pronounce “nuclear.”  And yesterday, we found out that the Bushie administration had tried to yo-yo with our emotions by manipulating the terror alert system:  “Let’s bump it up to Code Orange during the holiday weekend, just to clear out traffic on the roads.  Dick Cheney has a hunting trip.”

bushSo for eight years, I stewed.  I vented.  I called G-Dubs every synonym of “idiot” in the English language.  And I widely expressed my belief that W. was possibly the worst president in the history of our country, which is saying quite a lot, given the legendary ineptitude of Warren G. Harding.

But after Obama was elected president, I figured I would have no more need to complain.  Americans had finally come around.  I was proud that we were smart enough, bold enough, and progressive enough to elect Obama.  My hating would end.

It did not.

Now that Obama is President, I am lodging my complaints at complainers: birthers, neocons, fans of FOX News, Palins, gun nuts, and insurance executives.  Instead of disaparaging the White House, I am turning around and throwing spitballs at the American public instead (except for the ones carrying assault rifles).

But really: Are we seriously that stupid to think the government will kill off the elderly through “death panels”?  That universal healthcare will necessarily lead to hospitals overrun with illegal immigrants?  That Obama’s parents decided to fly from Hawaii to Kenya, just so their baby boy could reap the rewards of Kenyan citizenship?  Come on, people!

In the end, I suppose I’ll never be at ease unless I have no one to criticize.  Now that Bush has retired to his new Texas farm life, I’ve found new targets for my parting shots.  So Glenn Beck, Whole Foods, and town-hall wingnuts, beware.  I’ll be on the attack with my socialist, Nazi-fed, Grandma-killing ideas.  And if you’re part of the birther movement, I’m calling a terr0r-alert audible: we’re moving this up to a Code Red.

TERRORALERT

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under News, Politics

Will Today’s ‘Stupid’ Become Tomorrow’s ‘Smart’?

Back in November, both presidential candidates acknowledged that we had to reform our education system. Like most everything else, Obama and McCain naturally disagreed on how to solve this issue. Perhaps we need to pay teachers more and get the best-qualified educators to head our classrooms. Perhaps we need to have more vouchers and charter schools to foster competition. Perhaps we just need parents to get more involved in building shoebox dioramas and helping their kids with algebra problems.

Or, perhaps we’re just getting dumber. (After all, we elected George W. Bush twice. Enough said).

Now that Obama’s education team is in place, here is my billion-dollar proposal: tell smart people to start making babies. Seriously. Set up some mood music in grad school dorms, dim the lighting in the labs, and arrange for some conjugal visits at the space station. Let’s do everything we can to encourage reading and breeding amongst the nation’s intellectual elite.

Why? Consider this: over the past few decades, we have seen significant declines in the birth rates across the country. As more and more young people started going to college, and women became more prevalent in the workplace, births in the U.S. have naturally declined. With that, the composition of mothers has also changed:

“Fertility tends to decline as education level increases. Women may put off marriage and children to further their education, then to get established in the labor force. Women age 40 to 44 with no high school education had about 2.5 children in 2004, compared with 1.6 children among women with a graduate or professional degree.” – Mary Kent, Population Reference Bureau

So keeping this in mind, let’s look at the following charts from the National Center for Health Statistics, which show the birth rates by state in 2002.

In this graphic, the blue states are the most fertile, while the green states are the most sterile (somewhat ironic).  We can see that the states with the highest birth rates are typically in the Midwest and South, whereas East Coasters and Californians are apparently too busy to procreate.  The state with the highest birth rate was Utah (20.9 for every 1,000 people), which may not be all that surprising. (Go to full report)

Now here is a graph from a U.S. Census report, on the percentage of college graduates by state:

So it looks like the states with the most college grads are also the states which tend to have the lowest birth rates.

Hmm…

Consider if this trend continues: the least-educated areas of the country are popping out babies like hotcakes, while the sterile Ivy Leaguers in the Northeast are busy trading mortgage-backed securities on Wall Street. Thus, the composition of the American population is skewed towards those with parents who are less educated. One may argue about the degree to which parents’ educational attainment affects their children’s test scores, but there is undoubtedly a correlation between the two. And while Texans and Idahoans may rightly argue that causality cannot be determined by a few colorful graphs, the data is in line with what we know: women who attain less education have more babies. There is a greater likelihood then that their kids will get less education than children born to snooty PhD candidates in Washington. And their kids will have more kids and more kids, while the slice of snooty intellectuals gets smaller and smaller.

So what can turn this around? In the end, we need to build a universal culture that values learning, instead of a dumb-is-cool culture that values a self-righteous idiocracy. We need to get students excited about education, and close the achievement gap that too often divides along racial and socioeconomic lines. We may need to rehaul our schools, implement student incentive programs, or pay our teachers more…

And we could also start encouraging smart people to make some babies, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics, Random

It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Politics

Updated (4/13/09): With Al Franken finally winning the Minnesota Senate seat, thus concludes the saga of the 2008 election.  I wanted to revisit this post from Election Day, November 4.  I remember writing this piece on Monday night, staying up well past 4 AM on Tuesday to gather all my thoughts about the upcoming election (the official timestamp on this is 7:57 AM EST, but I was in Los Angeles at the time).  That night, I had been supremely afraid that regardless of the outcome, our country would be polarized in choosing a new President–I myself had threatened to move to Canada if McPalin won.  It’s interesting to reflect back on the election now, almost five months later.  I recall the heated discussions I had about the candidates’ economic policies.  I remember sending out fiery emails directed at my closest friends.  I even recall talking up an elderly gentleman at a nightclub in LA.  Upon learning he was from Florida, I passionately implored the man to send in an absentee ballot… and I even gave him my phone number (bad idea).  Now that the dust has settled, I think this post still accurately reflects my feelings about politics as a whole: its genesis is unique to us all as individuals, but its consequences–impassioned debate, renewed social interest, and mobilizing for change–are universal.

Until very recently, I had never been that political. Having been too young to remember George H.W. Bush, I essentially grew up during the Clinton administration. Thus, controversy and scandal marred my perception of politics in the formative years of my life. I was thirteen when the Lewinsky scandal broke, and, like many other thirteen-year olds at the time, I developed a rather cynical judgment of politicians. My views were reinforced–and most likely helped–by my parents’ own cynicism. My mother and father had immigrated to this country separately in the early ’70s to attend graduate school at Indiana University. They met serendipitously at IU, finding out that they had once been kindergarten classmates. After marrying and graduating, my parents moved eastward to Massachusetts to raise their young daughter. American politics at the time was foreign to them. During grad school, their perception of U.S. politics had been molded by classmates who had lived through the polarizing ’60s, the civil rights movement, and Vietnam. Government and party were ever-changing characters: at times hero, at times villain. Thus, when my parents became American citizens, they registered to vote as independents. My mother favored candidates with strong morals, and my father favored candidates that pissed off my mother. My childhood was one that was thoroughly apolitical. With regards to politics, apathy towards candidates was almost deemed to be more reasonable than hope.

gore-bushThe first election I took an interest in was 2000. For some reason, I was immediately put off by Al Gore and his highfalutin “locked box” rhetoric and “I invented the Internet” claims. The way I considered it, politics was less about the issues and more about the candidates themselves. Al Gore was a stuffy elitist, while Bush was an easygoing, sensible everyman (or so I thought). Times were good, the economy was strong, and America was still a well-respected leader in the world. Had I been old enough to vote, I may very well have voted for Bush back then. Overall, though, neither candidate inspired me to care much about the outcome. When Bush was finally announced as the winner of Florida, I remember having an entirely neutral feeling about it all.

When I turned eighteen, I registered to vote as an independent. My first opportunity to cast a major ballot came in 2004, in a markedly different presidential election than the one four years ago. In the post-9/11 world, we were facing a war, terrorism abroad, and a crisis of national security. My own understanding of American politics and government had matured since 2000. Whereas previously I had based my preference solely on the likability of a candidate, I now realized that there were more important issues at stake. Our country was at war. The power of the president had been expanded. Four years of American jingoism and cowboy politics was enough. Although I did not personally like Kerry as a candidate, I found myself firmly in the company of the anti-Bush moderates.

2004 was disappointing, but it was also a personal revelation of sorts.

martyAfter the election, I found myself becoming more aware of politics. I started to discern the conservative principles within the economics taught by my college professors (“taxes are bad”). I began to notice the bubble of social liberalism that seemed to swell only within the gates of Cambridge. I remember getting into an argument with the president of the Republican Club about the war. I had to break up an emotional discussion about abortion in the dining hall. On spring break in Cancun, six of my closest friends got into a heated battle about affirmative action while drinking margaritas at the pool. At that point, I realized that politics wasn’t just a ho-hum dinner table topic like it’d been treated at my house; instead, for many people, politics were real, inflammatory, emotional, and raw.

I can see now that my background and upbringing laid the foundation for my political predisposition. The experience of my parents instilled tolerance, moderation, and a general skepticism. As I grew older, I came to develop ideals that were shaped by these base values. Throughout my discussions, arguments, and fights, I started to piece together the strata of my own political views. My experiences in college and beyond have further informed my politics.

So, that is my personal journey into the world of politics, which has led me to the 2008 election.

During this presidential campaign, I have had frequent, impassioned exchanges with close friends over our differences in choice for president. (I even berated a friend–a McCain supporter–on the streets outside of Les Deux at 2 AM while eating a street-meat hot dog… low point). Although these fights were trivial at the outset, they often felt inherently personal. After all, we each had our own unique stories that had shaped our ideals. Influences such as family, religion, education, race and wealth informed our politics, to varying degrees. Thus, attacks on our politics seemed almost like personal attacks on our values, experiences, and perspectives on how we see the world. It almost became a tale of us vs. them, of good vs. evil.

obamavoteBut, I often need to be reminded that even though politics can signal differences in values, these differences do not necessarily mean that Democrats and Republicans can’t be friends, lovers, or soul mates. Differences cannot trump friendships or shared experiences.

So with that in mind, even if you’re a hardcore Obamanite, please reach out across the aisle today and shake hands with a McCainiac at the polls. If you’re a Palin fan, hug someone wearing a Barack the Vote shirt. If we do that today, we can unite together as Americans with common stories but perhaps differing opinions. We can present our politics as giving us a menu of choices, not a good vs. evil parable. We can show off our democracy around the world, and get our youth excited about our political leaders. Then regardless of the election outcome, we will all have already won.

Leave a comment

Filed under Life, Politics

Pretty Soon, Today’s ‘Stupid’ Will Be Tomorrow’s ‘Smart’

Last week, both presidential candidates acknowledged that we had to reform our education system. Like most everything else, Obama and McCain naturally disagreed on how to solve this issue. Perhaps we need to pay teachers more and get the best-qualified educators to head our classrooms. Perhaps we need to have more vouchers/charter schools to foster competition. Maybe we just need parents to get more involved in building shoebox dioramas and helping their kids with algebra problems.

Or, perhaps we’re just getting dumber. (After all, we elected George W. Bush twice. Enough said).

Consider this theory: over the past few decades, we have seen significant declines in the birth rates across the country. As more and more young people started going to college, and women became more prevalent in the workplace, births in the U.S. have naturally declined:

“Fertility tends to decline as education level increases. Women may put off marriage and children to further their education, then to get established in the labor force. Women age 40 to 44 with no high school education had about 2.5 children in 2004, compared with 1.6 children among women with a graduate or professional degree.” – Mary Kent, Population Reference Bureau

So keeping this in mind, let’s look at the following charts from the National Center for Health Statistics, which show the birth rates by state in 1990. The chart on the top shows the birth rate, while the chart on the bottom shows the growth in births from 1990 to 2002. The state with the highest birth rate was Utah (20.9 for every 1,000 people), far surpassing Texas as the place where the most babies are made (or at least birthed). (Go to full report)

The states with the highest birth rates are typically in the Midwest and South, whereas East Coasters and Californians are apparently too busy to procreate. Unsurprisingly, these are the same areas where birth rates have declined the most in the past ten years, whereas states like Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Georgia, and North Carolina have stepped up their baby-making game.

Now here is a graph from a U.S. Census report, on the percentage of college graduates by state:

So, the states with the most college grads are also the states which tend to have the lowest birth rates.

Hmm…

Consider if this trend continues: the least-educated areas of the country are popping out babies like hotcakes, while the sterile Ivy Leaguers in the Northeast are busy trading mortgage-backed securities on Wall Street. Thus, the composition of the American population is skewed towards those with parents who are less educated. One may argue about the degree to which parents’ educational attainment affects their children’s test scores, but there is undoubtedly a correlation between the two. And while Texans and Idahoans may rightly argue that causality cannot be determined by a few colorful graphs, the data is in line with what we know: women who attain less education have more babies. There is a greater likelihood then that their kids will get less education than children born to snooty PhD candidates in Washington. And their kids will have more kids and more kids, while the slice of snooty intellectuals gets smaller and smaller.

So what can turn this around? In the end, we need to build a universal culture that values learning, instead of a culture that values moose huntin’ and a self-righteous idiocracy. We need to get students excited about education, and close the achievement gap that too often divides along racial and socioeconomic lines. We may need to rehaul our schools, implement student incentive programs, or pay our teachers more…

And we could also start encouraging smart people to make some babies, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under News, Politics

Democratic Elections in the United States of Florida

Apparently democratic nations are entitled to a system of “one man, one vote.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to the United States, or else Al Gore would have become President in 2000, and either we’d a) all be driving hybrid cards and the world would be at peace, or b) we’d all be dead and the animals will have taken over our planet, a la the zombies in I am Legend. In actuality, “one man, one vote” really comes down to “one man in Florida, one vote that actually counts,” and “one man in MA/CA/NY/TX/KY/TN, go out for Tuesday night’s all-you-can-eat pasta at Uno’s instead, because your state’s already decided… so your opinion just doesn’t matter.”

Now, of course, someone will argue that if everyone in these states believed this were true, then there might come the election day when no one would vote, Uno’s would be filled to the brim, and Ralph Nader would be elected president. Thankfully it seems that only cynics and cost/benefit economists would actually boycott voting in a silent protest against the system on election day. The rest of the country proudly does its civic duty so that the world doesn’t capitulate into a zombie-like state with an incompetent man as its leader… (insert Bush joke here). Still, I am sure that there are many people who would have voted but didn’t, because they knew their voice would not be heard… unless they moved to Boca Raton.

Apparently there were reasons for the electoral college back in the day of T-Jeff and G-Dubs (the original). And there is historical precedent as to why Iowa, of all states, is first in the all-important primary season (surprisingly, it’s not because of its astounding diversity). But how is our system democratic today, when only a few decide for us all? It sometimes seems like Iowa and New Hampshire give us our choices, and Florida and Ohio pick our President. Is it so hard to hold a two-hour event where our candidates make speeches, perhaps sing, and then Americans just call in to vote? Ryan Seacrest could host. That’ll show those guys in Iraq what real democracy is all about.

But in all seriousness, I’d like to see a change in the system that has produced us Mr. George W. Bush…twice.  Why not have an election-year lottery to determine the order of voting in primaries? It could be a family event, like watching the NBA draft lottery or the Powerball numbers. And why not get rid of the electoral college in favor of a truly democratic vote? I know that would drag me away from the pasta bowls to actually do my civic duty.

Leave a comment

Filed under News, Politics

Random Thoughts on… Grammar

In 1946, George Orwell called for a rehaul of the English language in line with the traditional rules of grammar: “One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.”

Fifty-plus years later, President George W. Bush addressed a crowd in South Carolina with the following: “Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?”

Obviously much progress has been made.

When the former President of the United States is frequently making hillbilly blunders of the English language, what can we expect from the rest of Americans?  What example are we setting for the children sitting in grammar classes?  What could we possibly teach the Chinese food delivery guy taking English as a second language?  According to George W., we need to ensure that they is learning proper grammar, but our grammar is deteriorating ourselves.

Personally, my favorite example of the “decay of language” is from Justin Timberlake, in his song “What Goes Around.”  Now, even though music is art and may not fall by the same conventions as speech, I always appreciate it when someone makes up a word so that it can rhyme in a song:

From Justin Timberlake’s song, “What Goes Around“,

“I heard you found out / That he’s doing to you / What you did to me / Ain’t that the way it goes / You cheated girl / My heart bleeded girl…”

Looking at these lyrics with our grammar glasses on (we are so cool), most of us know that Justin means “bleeded,” given the context of hearts “bleeding.”  However, the past tense of “bleed” is “bled.”  Therefore, a grammatically-correct lyrical translation would be “bleated,” like what sheep do.   So, when singing along to the song, we either ignore the grammatical error but get the overall message (“bleeded”), or misunderstand Justin’s message but use the correct word (“bleated”).

Even though this may be a frivolous example, it shows that bad grammar anywhere may lead to confusion: we risk distorting the language which carries the message, or we may miss the message completely.  Some may end up believing that “bleeded” is a word, or that the cries of Justin’s heart sound like sheep. So to mitigate these risks, should we just let the grammar police run wild?  Should we round up all the language offenders and send them off to reeducation camps?  Even though there are indicators that we should (Timbaland’s hit “The Way I Are” comes to mind), language can also be exclusive if we are stringent on the rules, and we can easily alienate one another based on our definition of what is “correct”.  Plus, it would be embarrassing to deport our own President because of linking verbs.

However, there are real dangers when we just let anything go.  As Orwell noted, the future of our society depends on our ability to clearly convey ideas and thought.  If we cannot do so (here’s to you, President Bush), or if we confuse the audience with our words (“my heart bleated, girl”), we not only perpetuate the problem, but we pass it on to others.  This is the greatest risk, at its extreme: as our bad habits become others’ bad habits, and these bad habits are passed down to our children, a whole new language develops.  People start saying “bleeded” instead of “bled,” and thousands of words are replaced or replicated with new words that sound right to some, but are unintelligible to others.  This then raises the communication barrier, as those outside the realm of understanding will have to re-learn a changing language that has been so distorted that we barely know what’s right and what’s wrong.

With how we’re butchering it, who knows if English will be the dominant language in the future.  Thus if you ever feel the urge to laugh at the Chinese delivery guy’s broken English, refrain yourself: after all, what goes around…

5 Comments

Filed under Random