Thursday, April 30, 2009
Apparently, the sensibilities of pigs are of paramount concern.
With a pandemic all but declared, I cannot help wondering if the world has collectively rejected President Obama's initial suggestion that we remain concerned but not alarmed about the outbreak. After all, out of the 109 confirmed cases of the swine flu in the U.S., there has been only one fatality. And even that was the case of a small child - a subset of the population that is routinely among the most vulnerable in any disease. Admittedly, the virus has spread fairly rapidly to several states- including three states that I have visited since the outbreak - Arizona, Illinois, and Indiana. Perhaps yours truly is the carrier? This may be just as well since I should quarantine myself for finals anyway.
Regardless of my pseudo-diagnosis, it is at least possible that the 'pandemic' alarm has been fueled by the media circus covering the Obama Administration, Mayor Bloomberg, the CDC, and the WHO. Though what particular expertise Mayor Bloomberg brings to the table I am not sure. At any rate, I'm not suggesting that the swine flu is not a reason for concern, but I am suggesting that perhaps our concern has reached a level of needless alarm. For once, maybe our President got it right?
(As a complete aside, Mayor Bloomberg's pressers from City Hall always leave me entertained. Every time I see one, it reminds me of the scene from Ghostbusters where the ghostbusters try to persuade the mayor to take action and cite the mass hysteria that would result from dogs and cats living together. If Mayor Bloomberg were to convene a similar swine flu taskforce, Hollywood should keep the cameras running.)
Anyway, given my feelings on the matter, RedState Update's 'swine flu' edition was a tremendous watch, highlighting the problem of misinformation surrounding the pandemic. All of which is a long way of saying that the video is absolutely hilarious, and a wonderful diversion for those in the throes of finals, the daily grind, or otherwise in need of distraction.
Stay healthy, and enjoy!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Blame shifting, of course, is a skill that any good politician is apt to deploy from time to time. True to form, Sen. Specter claimed "irreconcilable differences" in his political divorce from the GOP:
I have traveled the state, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.
I have decided to run for reelection in 2010 in the Democratic primary.
Fair enough. For three decades, Specter notoriously survived as a Republican in a left-leaning state. But the cynic in me can't help wondering if this poll had anything to do with the Senator's decision. The latest numbers showed Specter trailing former Rep. Pat Toomey in the GOP primary by 21 points.
Given the numbers, it seems the only irreconcilable difference in the race was between Specter's ambitions and his alleged principles. Given the Senator's decision to switch teams, it's pretty clear that ambition won.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Little did I know, that my departure for Tucson would 'usher' in the first major pandemic of the century. (Perhaps it's the law school gods seeking revenge for my wayward studiousness). Given my mini-vacation, I followed the swine flu news with only passing interest. But yesterday, I caught up on the pandemic scare with a vengeance.
As an aside, while sitting in O'Hare Airport yesterday, it occurred to me how daunting a task it would be to contain any pandemic in our era of modern mass transit. Thousands of people treked across Concourse H from all corners of the globe, and for all I know any one of them could have been a swine flu carrier. If world governments were genuinely interested in a quarantine of the virus, such a move would have to include shutting down major transportation arteries, like O'Hare, bringing economic activity to a hault. A prescription like this would almost be worse than the malady.
Nevertheless, while I fretted in O'Hare about the health of our world, it was a true comfort to know that our fearless leader, President Obama, was safely ensconced in the Oval Office and monitoring developments closely. With Team Obama on the beat, I boarded my flight to Tucson serenely, knowing that no detail would escape the watchful eye of our 44th President.
And such an assumption would have been true- if by Oval you mean the 18th hole at the Andrew's Air Force Base golf course, and by monitoring events closely you mean carefully calibrating the Presidental swing.
Yep, while Mexico City trembled, our President was out playing golf. It isn't exactly fiddling while Rome burned, but the Obama Administration's early response to the swine flu out break is clearly 'on par' with the adage. (Sorry, couldn't resist).
But then again, according to Harry Reid, our President 'has a gift'. Apparently this gift includes the ability to ignore serious problems while hitting the links. Sounds a lot like my vacation.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The story has been circulating on the web for a day or two, but during last weekend's Miss USA competition, Miss California drew the ire of gay, Hollywood blogger Perez Hilton (Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr.) when she voiced her opposition to same-sex marriage. In the interview portion of the competition, Mr. Lavandeira asked Miss California:
"Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalise same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit. Why or why not?"
Miss California responded:
Well, I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage.
She continued: 'And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman.
No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be - between a man and a woman. Thank you very much.
Mr. Lavandeira later admitted to penalizing Miss California for her answer- an action that cost her the crown. Displaying the truly tolerant perspective, he then called Miss California a 'dumb bitch' on his blog, arguing that Miss California should have taken a state's rights approach to the answer, rather than 'alienating' people by speaking her mind.
Such outbursts are no mystery. People tend to view the matter of gay marriage with more than a slight case of myopia. Though the right may fail to recognize the fairness arguments put forward by the left, gay marriage advocates fails to apprehend the issue's implications for religious tolerance. But unlike many a beauty pageant, Miss California's answer was neither 'dumb' nor 'bitchy'. It was a perfectly reasonable response made, and qualified on the basis of her personal values. Mr. Lavandeira simply disagreed with these values and punished Miss California accordingly. But make no mistake - Miss California lost the competition precisely because she disagreed with Mr. Lavandeira on the issue of gay marriage. Hence, the state of our unions.
The commentary is a sad one because in a country, as large, and diverse as ours, it is a simple reality that people on both sides of the issue make judgments about policy on the basis of their personal values. To say that such values have no place in the public discourse, as Mr. Lavandeira suggests, is a proposition utterly inconsistent with leftist paeans toward diversity. It communicates the notion that we do not welcome an individual's perspective on gay marriage when it is rooted in political or religious opposition. It forces one to conclude that leftists are only interested in perspectives that tend to agree with their own. All others are encouraged to move to the back of the bus.
Mr. Lavandeira will never read this post. But more a thoughtful response to gay marriage than his, that is actually true to our Founding Father's intent (Mr. Lavandeira mentions the founders in his video fulmination), would be to allow the debate to occur, and to allow the people to decide the issue. No perspective should be off the table simply because one disagrees with it. The efforts of advocates on both sides should be made an eye toward persuasion, rather than engaging in personal attacks.
The beauty of democracy is that the people have a funny way of hearing both sides of an issue, and making a rational decision. Oddly, it is exactly this sort of conversation that Mr. Lavandeira would forestall. If giving both side of an issue a fair hearing means one is a 'dumb bitch,' then count me among the few and the proud.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
The performance is notable for its exercise in contrast. Ms. Boyle is the 47-year-old virgin singer who had never been kissed; who lived alone with her cat; who though homely in appearance sings with the voice of an angel. In the youtube clip of the performance, one can nigh feel the Lord Himself urging us on toward our better persons through song.
Naturally, such viral interest heightens my skepticism. For once, I am not alone. Saturday's New York Post easily published the most cynical response to the Susan Boyle phenomenon of any major publication in the world. The Post op-ed appears in relevant part below:
Most disturbing of all, perhaps, is that not since Saturday has Susan Boyle been Susan Boyle. It's a permutation of the Heisenberg principle: That 30 million people have heard her, seen her, embraced her has already changed who she is. The shy churchgoer who said that her recently deceased mother encouraged her to "take the risk," who admitted in her audition that she has never been kissed, who has forever lived as something of an accidental outcast - she now seems too much of this world. "I've been for a meeting with Sony BMG, but I can't say much about it," she said this week. "It's early days." Susan Boyle is now one of us. And that is really a shame.Aside from being a bit self-flagellating, writer Maureen Callahan utterly nails the cynic's response. Aside from the substantive change in Ms. Boyle's life, Ms. Callahan's larger point is that the performance would be eminently forgettable were it not for the contradictions. In other words, if Ms. Boyle were more attractive, might not we be less entranced? And, by extension, isn't Ms. Boyle a bit overrated?
Regardless, I leave you to decide. The video clip of Ms. Boyle's performance is below. Enjoy! (Or not).
Friday, April 17, 2009
The crux of Mr. Schmidt's pro-gay marriage argument is as follows:
"It cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un American or threatens the rights of others," he says in the speech. "On the contrary, it seems to me that denying two consenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union that is protected and respected by the state denies them two of the most basic natural rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence — liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
"That, I believe, gives the argument of same sex marriage proponents its moral force," Schmidt will say.
The point is an interesting one. Assuming conservatives truly support limited government, then it would be logically anathema to support a big brother (or little sister)-type ban on gay marriage. the argument follows, what bigger government intrusion can there be than for government to tell folks whom they can, and cannot marry? But the perspective put forward by Mr. Schmidt represents only one side of the debate. Expanding the definition of marriage to include gays has the net effect of imposing a definitional change on all those who oppose the practice, and on those who oppose homosexuality in general. This intolerance is no less striking than the other.
As the debate has played out, the matter is a zero-sum proposition. If the definition of marriage is changed, then members of faith communities opposed to the gay marriage will have their basic religious liberties infringed upon by a government that is supposed to have a wall of separation between itself and the church. On the other hand, if the privilege of marriage is denied to gay couples, then the argument put forward by Mr. Schmidt comes to the fore.
But does gay marriage really need to be a zero-sum game? The problem of such matters is one of framing. When civil unions first came on the scene in the late 1990s in Vermont, they sparked the same debate that gay marriage does now. But the substantive difference is that civil unions were an overt attempt to mollify both parties, and arrive at some sort of policy compromise. The basic idea was that while civil unions would afford gay couples the same privileges as marriage, it would confer the privileges using a different term to satisfy those concered about expanding marriage's definition. But the Vermont compromise (a term first coined by Dartmouth Music Professor Steve Swayne; explained in more detail here) quickly degenerated into a clash of the extremes. What we have now is a policy death match to the finish that will surely leave one side of the argument aghast, and the other side appeased.
My personal view is that Prof. Swayne's Vermont Compromise should be resurrected. If we are at all concerned about the divisiveness brought on by the political winds, then both sides should be willing to adopt a less than perfect solution that addresses the problem, while fully pleasing no one. Ironically, such pragmatism was formerly the mark of all good policy. Now pragmatism is tantamount to capitulation.
Funny how definitions change.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
The crux of the book, according to Freakonmics, is that a child reared in Sweden by unmarried parents has a lower chance of seeing its parents split than a kid reared by married parents in the United States.
Oddly, late last week Real Clear Politics featured an interesting harangue from Froma Harrop bemoaning the (presumably) recent numbers out from sociologists that put the percentage of babies born out of wedlock in the U.S. at 40%. After contemplating the implications of 40% of American babies being born to single mothers, Ms. Harrop muses:
I ask a sociological question: Does a marriage intensify one's sense of duty?
"Formality in the law serves some important purposes," Glesner-Fines responded. "It cautions people that what they are getting into is serious."
Yes, that's it. The seriousness of the legal bond between the parents -- as well as from parent to child -- helps foster a partnership in childrearing, even if that bond later dissolves in divorce. Why so many women take on motherhood without such formality in place is a mystery. The sad result is a growing sisterhood of drudgery.
Drudgery seems a strong way to put the matter of singleness. Then again, it is difficult to imagine that the 60% of children in the U.S. who have parents are somehow 'worse-off' than a child born out of wedlock in Sweden. But Live Science reported that the secret of a successful marriage may be having a high 'smile intensity,' so who really knows what the real state of marriage is?
Well, despite the disadvantage of having a less than intense smile, the disadvantage of preferring drudgery to excitement, and the disadvantage of being from America rather than Sweden, yours truly has opted to take the plunge and give married life a shot! The announcement comes admittedly late to these quarters, but while home in Oklahoma over spring break, my now fiancée, Gwyn Hamrick, and I became engaged!
Wedding planning has commenced with a vengeance, and the big day is slated for August 15, 2009 in her hometown of Bloomington, IN. For those interested, you can read her account of our engagement on her blog Life as a Wanderer here.
I mentioned the stories as a prelude because it strikes me as odd how 'interested' we are as a society about the entire notion of coupling. I suppose our interest in sex is obvious enough, but of late the presses and talking heads seem to be acutely interested in relationships and their potential for success.
As noted in the stories, we are interested in whether the US or Sweden has the market on how to start a family; we are curious about whether unmarried women with children are doomed to a life of drudgery; and somone is curious about the effect of one's smile on our long term prospects for marital bliss. (For the record, some 43% of married people report being 'very happy' while only 24% of unmarried people boast as much). I would make a crack about being interested in Salma Hayek's $2 million wedding, but that would be too easy - and it might raise eyebrows from the fiancée.
The bottom line of our fixation with coupling is that no one (viz., not a blessed soul) has the market on how to ensure happiness. Marriage, I suspect, like most of life is all about the trial and error. I have no delusions that ours will be a perfect union, but I am not nearly so dour, and overly pessimistic as the piece from Freakonomics would suggest I should be. And, I am not entirely convinced that it is the mere legal formality of marriage that makes me committed to my future wife as the piece from Ms. Harrop would have us believe. Arguably, the chief legal benefit of marriage is filing joint tax returns. Surely, marriage is about more than its legalities.
My view of love, marriage, and the like, as informed by my faith, is that it is primarily a commitment. Certainly a feeling, but a feeling cemented in a commitment to another person. So, to the extent that marriage solidifies our commitment, I cannot help but hope for good things. What engaged or newly wedded couple would pray for anything less?
I may post a few sporadic updates about our plans, and some of the errant thoughts I have about marriage. Or, if I find something interesting about coupling like the articles above, I may post those as well. But for the most part the conversation will remain business as usual. In the event I deviate from the status quo, here's hoping you patient readers will indulge a soon to be married man a sentimental flourish from time to time as the date draws near.
They have cloned a goat.
Reasonable minds around the world are left to wonder whether this is the best way to go about solving Iran's social issues.
That said, Mr. Morris is making a lot of sense when it comes supporting President Obama's plan for student loans. The President called for a 100 percent direct-lending program that would take student lending out of the hands of banks and set up direct lending between the Federal Government and individuals.
The upshot is that the Feds stand to save around the neighborhood of $100 billion by cutting out the middleman vested in private lenders. The federal government already subsidizes the banks' lending, and guarantees the loans they dole out. Removing the banks would do little more than strip their ability to charge government for handling the program. It would also create a 'quasi-entitlement' for needy students who would be guaranteed some type of loan to cover the costs of their education. Suffice it to say, President Obama has had worse ideas.
Dick Morris's column explains the private lending process and outlines some of its more nefarious aspects - including the utter ruthlessness of private loan officers and collections agencies.
As a current student with much future debt on the horizon, for once, I am glad to support this aspect of the President's agenda.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Regardless, the lolcat below aptly sums up the generally blase feelings I have toward this semester.
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Fearing yet another gaffe, the White House, naturally, insists that he did not.
Really, the whole thing is a non-starter: of course the President bowed. White House assertions to the contrary amount to little more than damage control come too late. The mainstream press has been mum on reporting the issue, but then again, most people don't pay attention to the mainstream press anyway.
Since taking office, President Obama has been nothing if not inept in his bungling of foreign affairs. From calling America 'arrogant' in Germany, to bowing before the Saudi King in London, Mr. Obama has repeatedly taken the opportunity to thoroughly embarrass the United States before the rest of the world. With a President like this, who needs enemies?
Assuming embarrassment is a new pillar of American foreign policy under the Obama Administration, take another bow Mr. President. Job well done.
Update: Below is a video of the President's capitulation to royalty. You decide.
Either way, the lolcat of the week below is perfectly appropriate for an overcast Wednesday.
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
The students were clearly mad as hell and not going to take it. Radical students carrying on the grand tradition of muckraking. Sticking it to the man. Ho, ho.
Today, word has leaked that the University of Arizona intends to pay its next head basketball coach, Xavier's Sean Miller, some $18 million over seven years with a $1 million signing bonus. With that bit of news, the Arizona Men's Basketball coach is officially the highest paid public official in the State of Arizona.
Astonishingly, the streets along University Avenue were silent here in Tucson. Gone were the protesting students, damning the man who would wastes their education dollars. Apparently, Arizona's need for an expensive, high-profile basketball coach trumps the wasteful use of the university's money.
Perhaps if the university had hired Russ Pennell the student masses would have been up in arms?
As is often the case when dealing with liberal students and their protests, the problem is not that we are spending money that we shouldn't spend (in this case on a basketball coach). The problem is that we are not taking more taxpayer dollars to subsidize our frivolity. Simply put, students tend to complain about that which they know not.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
After his election, President Obama trumpeted his plan to use "smart power" (sounds tougher) in dealing with the likes of North Korea and its ilk.
Today, President Obama called for a world without nuclear weapons.
In response to President Obama's warm fuzzies, North Korea shot a satellite equipped missile into orbit over Japan.
Friday, April 3, 2009
The Pax Plena song of the week comes to you courtesy of the Cox Cable commercial below. While watching TV this past Monday, the Cox commercial came on and it had the catchiest little background song that I had ever heard on a Cox commercial. This really doesn't say much for Cox, but, even so, I couldn't get the jingle out of my head.
For those of you who clicked the video above, you have to admit that the little robots dancing to the music are quite fetching. Not long after seeing the spot, I found myself errantly half-whistling the tune. Finally, the haunting became too much. This afternoon, I scoured the internet using the only lyrics I could recall ("I love you so very much" & "Wake you up") looking for the title of the song, and a music video. The song is called Sleepy Tigers from the band/recording moniker Her Space Holiday.
The band is really no band at all. As best I can gather, all recordings are done by artist Marc Bianchi who imports a 'folk and jam' sound to his songs while placing an emphasis on lyrics and song writing. The focus pays off. The lyrics of Sleepy Tigers are easily the best part of the song. The track provides a clear instance where lyrics dictate music, and some how the perfect balance is struck.
The tenor of the song is largely up beat. Cox's dancing robots would have it no other way. Neither would yours truly. Anyone in need of a new 'happy' song for your play list will be well served. I will not expand on lyrics that can easily say much more for themselves. But the biography discussing the musician's underlying philosophy is a good read in narrative form. The suppressed existentialist in me is actually quite sympathetic.
Per usual, a video of the song appears below. (It's actually a surprisingly interesting fan piece). Lyrics follow after the jump. Enjoy!
By Her Space Holiday
Oh I like you so very much so much in fact I gotta wake you up
It’s not that I have words to speak
I just wanna see you looking at me
In a way, that states
In an hour when the sun comes up
We’re gonna put on our shoes we’re gonna shake the dust
Open the door with your brand new key
We won’t be afraid of being sweet
Or anybody! anybody else!
Oh I miss you so very much so much in fact i gotta call you up
It’s not that I have news to bring
I just wanna make your telephone ring
So it shows and you know
In a week when I fly back home
We’re gonna jump in bed and be all alone
you’ll make biscuits and I’ll make tea
We’ll curl up close and then fall asleep
To the sound… of no one else, no else around
And if Ive learned anything at all
In this short life of mine,
If you hear that joy has come to town
Track it down, take a picture and tape it to your eyes
Oh I love you so very much so much in fact I'm gonna switch it up
I'm gonna take this room that I built for fun
And burn down the walls in front of everyone
So they see, you and me
Dancing in our sleepy clothes
With two big smiles and a bowl of hope
That we’ll drink down like ginger tea
The heat will help us forget everything
That you and I, that you and I have seen
And if Ive learned anything at all
In this short life of mine (it’s this)…
If you hear that joy has come to town
Track it down, take a picture and tape it to your eyes...
President Obama apparently gave British PM Gordon Brown a bunch of DVDs on his state visit to Washington in March. This week, he followed up his gift gaffe with an encore performance, giving an iPod to the Queen.
Naturally, many an opinion has been aired. But the Red State Update of our Great Leader's oafish gifting is the best reaction by far.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Given Philadelphia's track record for handling priceless artifacts I'm beginning to question the wisdom of Florence's Museum of the History of Science.
The only other major historic artifact located in Philadelphia has a big crack in it...
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Senate Democrats are now poised to 'fast-track' and 'reconcile' competing versions of the President's budget by excluding Republican input from the process - presumably because the GOP would object to its plans for nationalized health care, and left-wing environmental regulations.
Just to recap the new definition changes under President Obama and the Democrats:
-Bipartisanship no longer means that both parties have input.
-The free market no longer means that companies get to decide how to compete.
Welcome to the USSA.
A blog created by Tory
Pax Plena has been providing organic, free-range thought since 2004. And me? Well, I'm just your average, coffee-addicted, American Indian, Republican, academic. Post-Doc @UWYOAIST. The thoughts here are mine alone and should not be attributed to my employers, colleagues, or any other sentient being.