Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mitch Daniels on drugs

Paul Waldman nails Mitch Daniels for his breathtaking hypocrisy on drug laws. It's certainly eye-opening to learn that as an undergraduate at Princeton Daniels was popped for possession of enough pot to fill two shoeboxes, along with LSD and prescription drugs.

Daniels got off with a $350 fine, which as Waldman notes is impossibly merciful by today's standards. If someone else were to do the same thing in Indiana, according to the Clark County prosecutor's website they would be charged with a class D felony, a crime punishable by 1/2 to 3 years incarceration and up to a $10,000 fine. That's just for the weed; we haven't even touched upon the acid or the pills.

We've talked about empathy before on this site. There's another side to empathy, though, there's what happens when you turn that empathetic eye back toward oneself; we might call it "awareness of privilege." Daniels recognizes that he made a bad decision and that it could have profoundly curtailed his future career prospects, but he doesn't seem to understand why he didn't have it worse. There's no consideration here of the role of his race, background, and port of call (i.e, Princeton University) in the incredible leniency with which he was treated, not to mention the privilege of having sown his wild oats before the days of mandatory minimums and enhanced drug penalties that his own party ushered in.

But, of course, Daniels enjoys all manner of privilege in other ways as well. He never had to worry about his career plans being derailed by pregnancy. He never had to attend a struggling inner city school or live in a neighborhood reduced to chaos by the drug trade. His parents could afford one of the finest universities in the country. Nobody assumes that he got into Princeton because of Affirmative Action, or that Eli Lilly was just filling a racial/gender quota.

Former Texas governor Ann Richards once quipped that George Bush "was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." The quote was so devastating in part because it's widely applicable to his entire party.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

fun with numbers: Wisconsin edition

This guy does the honors for me:

I will add one small contribution to this conversation, though. In general, income taxes are withheld from each paycheck so no one has to pay it all at once. That means every adult's contribution wouldn't actually be $32 in one fell swoop; it would actually be $2.66 per month.

Friday, February 18, 2011

calling out kids

When I was a teenager, I was very religious. I also came from a place that held a very high regard for "chivalry." Partially because of these things, I held views and made decisions I would not hold or make today.

I don't like that Salon published this story. I read Salon, but I'm always aware that their articles are generally intended as grist for the liberal mill. They're intended to incite liberals and point out conservative idiocy/hypocrisy.

Not that I'm striking some faux-centrist "above it all" pose. I'm liberal. I read Salon because I like those stories!

In this case, though, the person whose words are put under the microscope for scrutiny and, ultimately, ridicule is a 16 year old boy of Pentecostal upbringing having to deal with a situation none of his peers in the state have ever had to deal with before (and, we should mention, with his pastor elbowing his way into the story with his medieval views about touching women in "familiar ways"). Sure, he made a decision I would not make, and made it based on moral/religious premises with which I strongly disagree. Nevertheless, he's 16 years old. He's just a kid. Does he deserve to be strung up by a nationally read magazine for failing to completely re-examine his beliefs and those of his parents, his home, and his church, with his pastor and Lord knows who else whispering nonsense about women in his ear the whole time, all before his 17th birthday? How many of us are ok with being held to account for our teenage beliefs and choices?

That being said, it sucks for the girl that she's not being allowed to prove herself and participate in the tournament she qualified for fair and square. You want to write that story? Cool, but make it about her.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

party like it's 1955

Karen finds some examples of lessons from actual abstinence-only sex ed lectures. They're eye-opening.

I expected to hear misrepresentations of data on condom effectiveness, and claims that abortion makes you crazy. I did not expect to hear stories about how making suggestions to boys makes girls unattractive, or an explanation of how boys carry their books so as not to look gay. I think one of the less discussed problems with these programs is the stuff that's not directly related to sex, but rather to gender roles and aptitudes. Girls can't analyze things without their emotions getting in the way? It's boys who seek accomplishment and adulation, while girls really only care about relationships? What does that even have to do with abstinence?

The Choosing the Best course series, from which the knight story was pulled, claims to have already been taught to over 3 million kids. Speaking of, I looked around a bit for some confirmation that these came from actual curricula as opposed to some puritanical teacher speaking off the cuff, and I found the knight story referenced both in the company website's list of revisions, and also in the Waxman Report on abstinence education. The Waxman Report is very skimmable and similarly damning. I recommend a read.

don't become a teacher

That's the lesson from this article in the South Bend Tribune today. Take a look at it. It's a marvelous case study in choosing facts to make your audience jump to conclusions.

I guess it's always important to remember that journalists call their pieces "stories," as in narratives that conform to literary structure and tropes.

What the "story" is just begging us to take away from it, of course, is that Carol Wallace is an overpaid buffoon who doesn't give a hoot about the well-being of her students. No need for nuance when we're talking about the Tea Party's welfare queens!

Am I seriously supposed to believe that a 35 year veteran of the South Bend School Corporation with no prior suspensions actually tried to make two of her students fight, and then up and pimp slapped one of them for apparently no reason? The story is patently ludicrous.

I'll tell you what really struck me about this article, though: it mentioned her salary. I've never seen that before in a "teacher gone bad" story, and it's never been my impression that newspapers routinely report the salaries of their subjects. It also happens to be completely irrelevant, not to mention a breach of Ms. Wallace's privacy!

Anything to get more clicks from the teabaggers, I guess.

Of course, her salary is notable, though not for the reasons Kim Kilbride apparently believes. Carol Wallace makes $61k/year. She has a master's degree, has been with the same employer for 35 years, and works long hours while still bringing lots of work home with her. Her work is not only physically taxing, as she probably stands most of the day between 8am and 3pm, but dangerous seeing as she works in one of South Bend's "troubled" high schools dealing, as we see here, with belligerent adolescents.

Is there any other job requiring that much education, demanding that much of the worker, and compensating so little? She has about as much schooling as an attorney, the workload of a business executive, and a job similar in danger and environment to a prison guard. And after 35 years she makes $61k. The only comparable job I can think of, interestingly, is that of a public defender, a profession similarly -- though not equally -- reviled.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Super Bowl notes

Great game. Lots of great Super Bowls lately, in fact. It's nice to see the old Midwestern guard of the NFL in the big game, a couple of the teams we've seen so many pictures of from the '40's and '50's, grinding out rugby-style football in the snow.

Adding to some of the conversations around the TV:

*One sports writer apparently tweeted that the first fumble of Super Bowl XLV came from Christina Aguilera. Heh.

*Before coming to Green Bay in 2006, Charles Woodson played for the Raiders. He was even part of the team that played Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl.

*Woodson's injury was more than a dislocated shoulder. He broke his collarbone.

*We weren't the only ones noticing the uncanny resemblance.

*Aaron Rodgers' stats: 24 of 39, 304 yards, 3 TD, 0 Int, and that's considering 4 of those incomplete passes were beautiful throws dropped by receivers. How stupid good are those stats? Stupid enough, apparently, to give him the highest playoff passer rating in NFL history. The previous record holder? Former Green Bay QB Bart Starr.

People are talking about "the torch has been passed" now that Rodgers has his ring. Rather than Rodgers getting a monkey off his back, I think this was bigger for the legacy of Brett Favre. Now Packer Nation can safely say It Was All For The Best and maybe start the process of forgiving Favre for going over to the Dark Side.

*The Chrysler commercial: we heard it again this morning as NPR was discussing it. I've decided now that I didn't like it. I think it was effective in the sense that people are talking about it and still remember what it was advertising. I admit that. I also liked a lot about what they were selling. I liked the hard-scrabble city fighting to pull itself up thing. I liked the contrasts of gritty/refined, Eminem driving a luxury car and ice dancers in parks with smokestacks in the background.

Still, at the end of the day the commercial made the same mistake as previous Detroit ad campaigns: the message was "buy our cars because it's your patriotic duty" rather than "buy our cars because they're awesome."

*The meme. The picture:

Thursday, February 03, 2011

American actors not "manly" enough for superhero roles?

So says this article, echoing sentiments I've heard elsewhere lately. What garbage.

First of all, since when have superhero movies relied on "manly men" for their stars? Was Christopher Reeve oozing with machismo? Michael Keaton? And while we're at it, would anyone describe Ryan Reynolds and Andrew Garfield as "manly?" Though comic books themselves tend to "roid up" everyone in them, superheroes aren't necessarily "manly" types. See Spiderman, for example, who's a nerdy college student by day. Superman's alter ego has to pass for a mousy reporter, and Superman himself conforms to a World War II era vision of masculinity that's quite different from our own.

Meanwhile, two of the most "manly" superhero leads I can think of off the top of my head are Punisher and Hellboy. That's Thomas Jane (Baltimore, MD), and Ron Perlman (NYC). Perhaps one could add Wild West-style comic book hero Jonah Hex to the list, and thus Josh Brolin (Los Angeles, CA). Yes, Wolverine should be included as well, but there are plenty of Americans here holding their own against Hugh Jackman.

It's not like there aren't still a shitload of Yanks playing leading/manly superhero roles. Possibly the biggest superhero movies of the last 10 years this side of The Dark Knight was Iron Man. That's Robert Downey, Jr. (NYC). Then there's the last three Spiderman movies (Tobey Maguire -- Santa Monica, CA), Ghost Rider (Nicholas Cage -- Long Beach, CA), Kick Ass (Nick Cage again), Blade: Trinity (Wesley Snipes -- Orlando, FL), the Fantastic Four movies (Chris Evans -- Sudbury, MA, Michael Chiklis -- Lowell, MA, and Doug Jones -- Indianapolis, IN), and the list goes on.

One could perhaps make the case that Brits and Australians are still overrepresented in superhero movies, but that's because they are so in all movies. Remember all the talk about the Australian invasion of Hollywood a few years back with Eric Bana, Russell Crowe, Naomi Watts, Hugh Jackman, etc.? The British, meanwhile, have always done pretty well for themselves in Hollywood. Canadians, too.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

best sign in Egypt

Heh. As I write this Mubarak's getting his walking papers from the Egyptian people.

It drives home a good point: this isn't about the US, what government we want, or what we should do about it. It's their protest, their government, their dictator. I hope for democracy for their sake, and I think they deserve a better, more accountable form of government, but it's up to Egypt to decide who will rule, and in what form.

getting white and angry in middle America

Because my Facebook wall is covered in idiocy again in light of today's meteorological event, I will break with tradition for a moment to posit an analogy:

Claiming that a snowstorm disproves climate change is like claiming the obituaries page disproves overpopulation.

Trust me, your snide comment about Al Gore doesn't make you look clever.