Category: Opinion Page 1 of 3

Holding America hostage

In case you somehow missed the news, the U.S. government has entered shutdown mode. Congressional Republicans held up negotiations over the federal budget because Democrats wouldn’t delay part of the Affordable Care Act. At 12:01 Eastern time, since a budget had not been passed, the government shut down.

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Privilege: It’s a Thing

In my senior year of high school, faced with an otherwise empty slot in my schedule, I, on a whim, registered for an elective course entitled, simply, “Diversity.” Most of the other students I talked to about it–usually white males–scoffed at the subject matter. To a typical jaded high school senior, “diversity” is a word saddled with images of saccharine kids’ TV shows and painfully-contrived story problems in math textbooks that go out of their way to establish the non-white identity of their characters. After all, by high school, especially in a blue state like Oregon, nobody’s really racist anymore. Or sexist.1This, by the by, is total sarcasm. Maybe there are some homophobes, but really, is it worth taking a class about?

Well, yeah.

Under Bobby Cowles’ instruction, that simple elective opened my eyes to a world of injustice. Without being labeled as such, it was the first sociology class I ever took, exposing how ideas such as”race” are arbitrarily defined social constructs–still very real in their consequences, but entirely construed by society. It showed me the first-hand accounts of members of social minority groups in a way that I likely wouldn’t have encountered elsewhere during high school. But most importantly, it taught me about the concept of privilege.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. This, by the by, is total sarcasm.

Midnight thoughts on Occupy

It’s almost midnight here, but I’ve been watching what’s going on in America this week, and I really need to write about it.

I’ve been following Occupy Wall Street for most of its existence. I presented a short speech about it in Japanese class a week or two after it began, and I’ve been keeping my eyes on the news about it through the social media site Reddit since then. I’ve watched as it’s grown from a small protest in New York to a national, then global movement. And while I would almost certainly be following and thinking similar things while in America, from Japan, I feel like I can see things particularly clearly.

The long and short of it is that America is fucked up.

I could say “messed up”, or maybe “in trouble”, but that’s not really the feeling I want. This isn’t about being politically correct and not offending. America is fucked up.

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The Consequences of Usage-Based Billing

Just this week, Canada approved usage-based billing for the internet. What’s this mean? Now, Canadian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can place caps on the amount of bandwidth subscribers can use, and charge them heftily for crossing that cap. While this may make sense in the abstract, the implementation is where it’s all shot to hell: Bell Canada is switching to an incredibly low 25GB monthly cap, and is charging almost $2 for each gigabyte past that cap. (The cost to Bell to deliver a gigabyte of data is far less than a penny, for reference.)

This is bad in so many ways.

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A few things about Wikileaks

I have many strong opinions about WikiLeaks, but for now, a few thoughts will suffice:

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The growing power of the angry mob

According to numerous sources, last night, outside a political debate in Kentucky, a group of Rand Paul supporters threw a MoveOn member to the ground, incapacitated her, and one person stomped on the back of her head.

You read that right. Stomped on her head.Political activist being stomped upon

So, let’s be clear here, America. Maybe there’s been some confusion as of late. Not many people have stood up and opposed this sort of behavior. We’ve kind of let it slide.

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Actually, there are atheists in foxholes

Portrait of Corporal Patrick TillmanThis is Corporal Patrick Tillman. The name might seem familiar to you. This man ranks up there in the list of modern American heroes. He was a football player and a successful student of marketing, graduating from Arizona State in three and a half years with a 3.84 GPA. He played for the Cardinals, but in the wake of September 11th, Pat Tillman turned down a contract offer of $3.6 million in order to enlist in the U.S. Army. He served in Afghanistan, where he was killed by friendly fire in 2004.

Pat Tillman was smart and had a wildly successful future in front of him, but he gave it up to defend the country. Like so many others before him, he deserves our respect and our gratitude.

I bring Pat Tillman up because there’s a pernicious claim that’s been going around for years, and I think it’s high time to raise awareness about it, to shed light on how wrong it is– and show why it’s important to take a stand against the stereotype it engenders.

See, Pat Tillman was an atheist. He was an atheist when he was in Afghanistan, he was an atheist right up to the moment of his unfortunate death.

And yet there are still people who claim, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

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On the National Day of Prayer

Let’s say you’re a parent. Let’s say that one day, under pressure from a bunch of acquaintances who are convinced you’re doing something wrong by neglecting to do this earlier, you start giving your child dessert every night– not only that, but expecting her to eat it. You keep the practice up, night after night, and you see no harm in it, since she seems perfectly happy with it.

Your daughter grows up with this practice. One day, when your daughter is fifteen or so, a friend points out to you that expecting your daughter to eat dessert every night is definitely a bad parenting choice. It’s bad for her health, it fails to teach her how to act with responsibility– in short, it goes against many of the values you had when you became a parent. In light of this, you decide to stop making her eat dessert every night, and instead, to keep sweet options available without pushing them. Your daughter can choose to eat dessert, but you’re no longer pushing it on her. From your perspective, and from the perspective of an outside observer, you’re respecting her right to do what she wants, giving her options while remaining consistent with the beliefs you hold dear as a parent.

Your daughter, though, has grown up expecting this. She hasn’t been unhappy with it; her whims have been catered to for a good chunk of her life. She expects that you’ll provide her with dessert every night. To her eyes, what you’re doing is not an exercise in liberty, in fact she it as the opposite. She feels entitled to her dessert every night. What happened? She was given a privilege so long she began to view it as a right.

This, in a nutshell, is the National Day of Prayer.

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Stale Content Alert!

This post was written a long time ago, and my views have almost certainly evolved since then. Please keep that in mind while reading, commenting, or sharing.

I’m going to sleep tonight feeling as crappy as can be.

I have incredibly severe doubts about myself right now. I’m doubting my own capabilities, my supposed talents, and really anything that I once thought made me special. (Yes, it’s true, this is that kind of blog post.)

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Levenger Circa

Because Organization is COOL.

I am currently geeking out about this:

It’s called the Circa Notebook System, by Levenger. It’s basically best described as an intensely customizable notebook/binder/organizer. The design of the binding allows pages to be easily removed and replaced however necessary, without popping open binder rings or tearing pages. Dividers, a million different types of filler paper, and tons of other options are available in order to customize your notebook just as you need it, and you can buy a Circa hole punch so that anything can fit securely inside.

The idea of super-flexible, modular, and simple notebook/binder-type organization really appeals to me.


Header image: “My Levenger Circa notebook” by Jaime Wong. Original licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license. Modified: desaturated, edited exposure. My modification is released under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

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