Friday, February 29, 2008

Eat Your Heart Out, Wesley Clark

No President Yet, But...

So no Dartmouth alum has been elected President yet, but we came pretty close today. The AP headline: " White House aide accused of plagiarism." The plagiarized source: The Dartmouth Review.

Oh yeah.

A White House aide accused of plagiarism was chastised Friday and his actions were criticized as unacceptable. Timothy Goeglein, who has worked for President Bush since 2001, was accused of lifting material from a Dartmouth College publication and presenting it as his own work in a column about education for The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Goeglein plagiarized professor emeritus Jeffrey Hart. Read the excerpts from both men at the AP story.

The bad news? The aide has likely committed plagiarism on at least two other occassions, yet our government has not yet decided whether or not to fire him. Why does this not surprise me?

The good news? I beat The D, Dartblog, and Super Dartmouth to this story. (Dartlog doesn't count, given the Review connection.)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

For workers everywhere

There's diamonds in the sidewalks, there's gutters lined in song
Dear I hear that beer flows through the faucets all night long
There's treasure for the taking, for any hard working man
Who will make his home in the American land...

They died building the railroads, worked to bones and skin
They died in the fields and factories, names scattered in the wind
They died to get here a hundred years ago, they're dyin' now
The hands that built the country we're all trying to keep down

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Well this sucks

Per the AP, inflation is way, way up, the highest I've ever seen it in my short life:
The Labor Department said Tuesday that wholesale prices rose 1 percent last month, more than double the 0.4 percent increase that economists had been expecting. The January surge left wholesale prices rising by 7.5 percent over the past 12 months, the fastest pace in more than 26 years, since prices had risen at a 7.5 percent pace in the 12 months ending in October 1981.

And of course, there's an inverse relationship between inflation (way up) and consumer confidence (way down):
Consumer confidence weakened significantly as Americans worry about less-favorable business conditions and job prospects. The New York-based Conference Board says in a report released on Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index plunged in February to 75.0 from a revised 87.3 in January. The reading — the lowest since the index registered 64.8 in February 2003 — is far below the 83.0 analysts expected. The index measures how consumers feel now about the economy. It has been weakening since July, suggesting that wary consumers may retrench financially, which could fatigue the economy further.

These are numbers that affect all Americans directly, as opposed to the foreclosure and housing numbers, which affect some folks directly but affect the larger nation only through the general fallout. (Such numbers, btw, also continue to worsen.) Ok, I'm now willing to believe we are in, or will soon be in, a recession, and that some sort of economic stimulus package may indeed be needed. Still, I don't believe the package that actually did pass was a good one.

Wow, this is bad.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Adoption and Abortion

While I don't consider myself a part of the pro-life movement, for all my liberalism, I am indeed "pro-life". (I hate the terms "pro-choice" and "pro-life", but such is the discourse.) This position is informed by the fact that I was adopted as an infant, and so was potentially a prime candidate for abortion. I am very grateful things turned out the way they did, because I like the life I have.

I mention this because every Tuesday night, Dartmouth’s Edgerton Episcopal Campus Ministry holds a "Theology on Tap" discussion at a local restaurant, and this week’s topic was abortion. It was a respectful conversation, even though of the 16 participants, only about three were avowedly and openly pro-life. Only one comment offended me the entire evening, but surprisingly, it came from a dear friend. When I mentioned my adoption in order to admit any bias, this friend replied that if I had indeed been aborted, I wouldn’t known or cared about the life I was missing, so my point was "not valid." I was very offended by my friend's remarks, and very angry. It was, however, the second time I had heard that argument. I have two replies.

First of all, I find it very rude to dismiss someone's central views as "not valid." Disagree with them if you will or even respectfully argue about their relevance, but do not suggest that they are in no way valid. This is especially true if the argument you are being so flippant towards defines who the other person is at their core. My adoption is a central part of my identity, and it informs much of who I am – NEVER dismiss it, no matter what the subject. That is highly personal and deeply offensive. Second of all, I think my friend was just plain wrong, and possibly misunderstood my remarks. I was not talking about what I would have thought had my birth been prevented, but about what I do think in the here and now. I am slowly becoming aware of who I am and what I stand for; I revel in this world’s beauty; I am deeply appreciative of the people I know and the opportunities presented to me. When I speak about my adoption as it relates to abortion, I am not saying I would have been angry if not allowed these experiences in the first place. I am saying that I am grateful that I do have them, and that that appreciation for life is enhanced by the fact that it almost didn't happen. My adoption makes me more aware of existence in general.

There are many things related to abortion that I could write about, and we went over some of them Tuesday night. I could talk about when life begins, compassion towards mothers, the importance of a respectful discourse, or a hundred other things, but abortion in and of itself is not the point of this post. My friend's comment was personal. She is an absolutely wonderful person, and I know she didn't mean anything by it, but it still hurt. Since this wasn’t the first time I'd heard the sentiment, I felt compelled to write about it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

March 4 Predictions

There's been a lot of talk lately about Democratic superdelegates. I'm saving my strength on that front for my thesis next year, but I will say this: I do believe that Barack Obama will ultimately win the Democratic nomination, though I hardly think he's got Hillary Clinton on the mat yet.

The next round of nominating contests are on March 4: Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island. There are four possibile scenarios, supported in part by this Bill Clinton quote: "If she wins in Texas and Ohio, she'll be the nominee. If she doesn't, I don't think she can be. It's all on you."

1. Clinton wins both states by a wide margin, and the contest continues with her as the frontrunner, even though Obama will still have more pledged delegates. (I don't see her getting the 65% needed to overtake him on that front.)
2. Clinton wins both states by a very narrow margin, and the contest continues as a virtual tie where Obama is ahead by a nose. Narrow victories in these two friendly states would close the gap but won't be big enough to give her any momentum.
3. Obama wins either state, and, given the expectations that both favor her, the contest continues with him as a very, very clear frontrunner. I doubt she would drop out, though - not the Clintons, not with superdelegate support and Pennsylvania looming.
4. Obama wins both states and has the nomination virtually locked up. She would almost assuredly drop out.

I would be surprised if number four happens, and surprised but not shocked if it's number three. The first is a little more likely than the third, but I predict the second, for the following reasons. (To be fair, there is a little voice in my gut saying "Obama's going to win both!" but I don't believe it.)

Both states could be affected by Obama's 11 for 11 streak in post-Super Tuesday primaries and caucses. It's also worth noting that Clinton's negative politics failed in Wisconsin (thin accusations of plagiarism) and South Carolina (Bill as attack dog). Voters are finally turning their cyncism about negative attacks and focusless campaigns into action. It helps that the attacks she's using are superficial and easy to see through, and I don't see any new strategy she could come up with in Texas or Ohio save holding her breath for an Obama mistake. And of course, we've all heard about her resource deficit, lack of a post-Super Tuesday strategy, and hilarious staff in-fighting.

In Ohio, Obama may be gaining traction among Hillary's blue-collar base: the state has similar democraphics to Wisconsin, which he won earlier this week by 17 points. She's still up substantially in state polls, but not as much as she was a week ago, and Governor Ted Strickland now worries he can't hold the state for her. Things are even worse for her in Texas. The rules are a caucus-primary hybrid, and Obama does well in caucuses. He's had his best organizers down there for a week or two already, and while she's still way ahead in Latino support, I think he does have more support among them than he used to. What's more, Texas polls are also narrowing, and she certainly didn't score any knock-out blows at last night's UT debate. (It's funny - once upon a time, all it took for us to say she "won" a debate was for her to avoid taking body blows, and now we say she's the one who needs to land them. Ah, punditry.)

So, my predicition is she'll win both states very narrowly but cede the nomination sometime before the Convention. If he does win one, it will most likely be Texas, in which case she'll pull out fairly quickly.

And hey, Vermont? Rhode Island? Don't worry, no one's forgotten about you - we just don't care. :(

(Photo Credit: Austin Statesman)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

In Which The New York Times Loses Perspective

The chattering classes are in a tizzy today about a New York Times front-page story attacking John McCain’s integrity. The article suggests, among other ethical insinuations, that McCain may have had an extra-marital affair with a then-32-year-old lobbyist about the time of his first presidential campaign, and that his aides took steps to end the affair and hide it from the public. The article reads:

Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

Politico’s Mike Allen, rounding up a bunch of juicy reaction quotes, sums it up well: “NOTHING ELSE is driving the conversation.” Other reaction here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Look, I voted for Barack Obama, not John McCain, but I think one needs to be honest about one’s reasons for taking a certain position. If the facts are good enough for you, they should be good enough for your audience, so don’t spin them or make up anything beyond your own reasons. This is similar to a point Jon Stewart made when he went on Crossfire several years ago: “[After debates,] you go to spin alley, the place called spin alley. Now, don't you think that, for people watching at home, that's kind of a drag, that you're literally walking to a place called deception lane?... I think they believe President Bush would do a better job. And I believe the Kerry guys believe President Kerry would do a better job. But what I believe is, they're not making honest arguments. So what they're doing is, in their mind, the ends justify the means.” I think the uproarious reaction to this story is an example of just that spin. When I read it, I don’t see evidence of an affair. What I see boils down to, “A man spent a lot of time with a woman, and some people thought it was sexual, but both he and she say it wasn’t.” Tell me, why does this amount to a scandal, or a front-page story? Indeed, McCain aide Mark Salter defends the Senator: “She ATTENDED McCain fundraisers, she didn't ACCOMPANY McCain.”

Why would The Grey Lady print something so unsubstantiated, and place it so prominently? Because they didn't want to get scooped or smeared themselves. Again per Salter, the New Republic was going to run a similar story next week with the added angle that the Times was dragging its feet, and the Times, rather than continuing its reporting and its discussion with the McCain camp, sacrificed truth and integrity and raced to be first AND save its name. I'd call that losing perspective. It's expected of cable and Politico, but not of the New York Flippin' Times. (UPDATE 4:34pm: The New Republic posted said story today.)

The Salter quotes are just the tip of the iceberg. Reaction from the McCain campaign has been fast and furious. Politico: “The McCain campaign is using a two-pronged attack to push back against the story. First, they’ll argue it was a thinly sourced piece of innuendo journalism. But McCain aides will also strike at the source, using the Times’ liberal reputation as a means of self-defense to draw sympathy from the GOP’s conservative base.” I’m ok with the first part of that quote – it’s part of my own argument. But the second attack, that the Times is tabloid rubbish out to destroy the Senator, strikes me as dishonest, the same as the article itself. Remember, the Times did endorse McCain. Attack what they DID, but don’t claim they did even more misdeeds than are true, don’t make up motives or reasons that the article is wrong. The truth is enough. Admittedly, attacking the Times is like attacking the Clintons for the right and might help McCain unify conservatives, but there is never enough justification to engage in distortion.

Ultimately, though, the onus is on the Times. I’m open to truthful attacks on anyone, but not unsubstantiated smears, and without more evidence, printing this seems to be a smear, even if an unintentional one. I probably won’t vote for McCain, but look, let’s not make up reasons for that vote. Again: The. Truth. Is. Enough. And if this article is the truth, fine, prove it before you print it.

The one good thing, I suppose, is that this is early enough in the cycle that by November, it may not matter. True, the flip-flop charges came this early against Kerry, but the difference is Kerry didn’t hit back the way McCain is doing.

(Picture: McCain at Dartmouth College on NH primary day, 01-08-08. I took it.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

ESPN: New Orleans Slowly Coming Back

Yay, two Katrina posts in one day! Oddly enough, one of the best media outlets for New Orleans coverage has been ESPN. They're not a news station, of course, so they don't cover recovery news often, but when they do it's spot-on. ESPN's Page 2 had a great article yesterday from Bill Simmons, using the aftermath of the NBA All-Star Game to discuss how well the French Quarter is doing as compared to the rest of the suffering city. It's long, so here are the best six paragraphs if you don't have time for the whole thing. These first four are very poigniant and insightful.

Like so many others I thought she destroyed the city as a tourist attraction, that too much happened, that there was no going back. So, imagine my surprise as I'm standing there in front of the Du Monde, plowing my way through the best bargain in the United States -- three beignets for $2 -- with powdered sugar spraying my clothes just like old times. Imagine me looking around and thinking about how egregiously I underestimated the city's rebuilding effort, and thinking to myself that New Orleans might make it after all. Imagine those dormant memories from Super Bowl XXXVI flooding through my brain, one of the single greatest weeks of my life...

That's the thing about life. You never know what's going to happen next. New Orleans was fine, and then it wasn't. Twenty-nine months after Katrina, the city remains in pain. You can feel that anguish everywhere you go, just like you can feel the love, the joy and the resiliency. The locals don't feel sorry for themselves anymore. Too much time has passed. They have to live their lives. They have to keep their heads up. They have to keep moving forward. And they're doing it without us.

See, here's the thing about downtown New Orleans: It's ready for us again. It has been ready for a while. For all intent and purpose, it looks the same. Bourbon Street looks the same. The Superdome looks the same. So does the Convention Center. So do Harrah's and Pat O'Brien's and Cafe du Monde. So do the waterfront and Canal Street and all the hotels. You could go back to New Orleans. You could have fun there. You could do all the same things you did before. Unfortunately, you don't want to go back.

And that's a problem. The city's economy and future hinge on outsiders accepting the fact something horrible happened here, then coming back anyway. The city needs our money to rebuild the surrounding areas that were destroyed by Katrina -- only the money isn't coming in because you won't come back. And why would you? Vacations are supposed to be fun. Nobody wants to drive by houses with giant X's on them on the way from the airport, or think about how the place was underwater with dead bodies and dead dogs and raw sewage drifting through the streets. Post-Katrina visitors can't help but think about those things, just like New York visitors can't help but think about the missing Twin Towers when they see Manhattan's post-9/11 skyline for the first time. Downtown New Orleans didn't change after Katrina; fundamentally and spiritually, it's still the same. Shaken and battered, but the same.

Simmons goes on to commend the oft-criticized NBA Commissioner David Stern for giving nay-sayers the finger and bringing the All Star Game to New Orleans. (The picture is NBA star LeBron James working on a house.)

In December 2005, the commissioner took a tour of the devastated areas and couldn't shake the things he saw. He committed to the city right then and there, vowing the Hornets would return someday and floating out hope the city could host the 2008 All-Star Game. Everyone thought he was crazy. (Including me.) After a particularly sketchy All-Star Weekend in Vegas accumulated a mountain of crazy stories and bad publicity, most sane people were positively mortified at the thought of spending an NBA weekend in New Orleans. Even Billy Hunter ripped the idea and discouraged players from going, which was a bad thing since he's the head of the players' union and all. Everyone I know in and around the league expressed real concern about the safety of players and patrons alike; even as recently as six weeks ago, I joked to a friend that All-Star Weekend in New Orleans was going to unfold like the first 30 minutes of "Cloverfield."

Fortunately for us, the Commish never wavered. Not only did he keep the All-Star Game in New Orleans and pull off a safe weekend, but he committed to the single largest day of community service in the history of professional sports -- a group of 2,500 people that included players, NBA employees, media people, investors, sponsors and politicians spending Friday afternoon at 10 different locations -- that lifted the spirits of everyone in the area. At the age of 65, following a tumultuous 2007 season that had insiders quietly wondering if he should step down soon, David Stern turned in what was unquestionably his greatest moment. I really believe that. It's one thing to make everyone rich; it's another thing to enrich people's lives.

Steve Kelley Cartoons

Although this page started out 17 months ago as a Katrina recovery blog, it’s been a long time since I actually wrote about Katrina. It’s worth mentioning, then, that Steve Kelley ’81 has been visiting the College the last few days as a Montgomery Fellow. Kelley is not only a Dartmouth alum and a good guy, but a stand-up comic and the editorial cartoonist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. I was unable to attend Kelley’s lecture yesterday, but I and about 15 other students did have dinner with him on Monday night. We talked a little about New Orleans, but most of the discussion and lecture focused on humor and comedy.

I frame this as a Katrina post because this, from January 15, 2008,, is my favorite Kelley cartoon:



For more Steve Kelley cartoons, see the Times-Picayune.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Well It's About Bloody Time

(Wow, three posts today... that's gotta be some kinduva personal record... be sure to read the Herbert post below, I'd say that's the day's most important. Also, if you've clicked through from HBO, please take a quick look at "My Own Little Campus Controversy, probably my best post since the last time DFO featured me.")

President Bush is currently in Africa. I commend him for the visit, and the One Campaign is pushing for the presidential candidates to pledge to visit the continent once in office as well. Thankfully, this trip seems to have finally brought Bush around on the genocide in Darfur. That brings two thoughts to mind: on the one hand, Darfur is an important issue and it's good to have the Executive Branch aboard, but on the other hand... what the hell took you so long???

When New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof visited Dartmouth last year, he said Bush cares very much about Darfur and frequently asks his aides about it, but that they have convinced him there is nothing he could realistically do. I suppose, then, that I should be grateful for today, as it's certainly better another year of neglect.

"One of the lessons of the genocide in Rwanda was to take some of the early warning signs seriously," Bush said at a news conference with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame on the third stop of his five-nation African tour...

Bush called attention to the conflict in Darfur, which he has labeled genocide, and criticized the United Nations for moving too slowly to send more peacekeepers. He said it "seems very bureaucratic to me, particularly with people suffering."...

Bush also announced the United States was making available $100 million to help train and equip peacekeepers for Darfur, including $12 million to Rwanda."

Early warning signs?? EARLY WARNING SIGNS??? I recall talking to State Department officials about this issue myself four years ago! Mr. President, if you are so keen on early warning signs, why wasn't this $100 million freed up back then? And as for the UN, if you had made Darfur one of our most visible and consistent foreign policy issues four years ago, I guarantee you the UN wouldn't be so slow! You're just as bad as they are!

But like I say, we should be grateful. Bush's actions today may well save lives - not as many lives as had he taken these steps four years ago, but certainly more lives than if he continued to sit on his hands puzzling at BBC World. I really do believe that the President is the compassionate conservative Christian he claims to be; the problem is he just doesn’t know how to properly act on those principles. So, just this once I say, grumbled under my breath, thank you.

Bob Herbert: Child Slavery Isn't Just An African Thing

Bob Herbert writes today about a 13-year old forced into prostitution by New York City cop, highlighting the real social ills of our world and condemning the mainstream media's wreckless irresponsibility about them. Like always, Herbert is a must-read that no one reads:

Our perspective is twisted. It was a big story when a television newsman was crude and thoughtless enough to use the term “pimped out” in a reference to Chelsea Clinton. The comment generated outrage — as it should have — and the newsman was suspended. But if someone actually pimps out a 13-year-old child, and even if that someone is alleged to be a police detective, it generates a collective yawn.

Across the country, young girls by the many thousands — children — are being drawn into the hellishly dangerous world of prostitution. They are raped, beaten and exploited in every way imaginable...

If no money is involved, the youngster is considered a victim. But if the man pays for the sex — even if the money is going to the pimp, which is so often the case — the child is considered a prostitute and thus subject in many venues to arrest and incarceration.

“We often see the girls arrested and the pimps and the johns go free,” said Carol Smolenski, the head of Ecpat-USA, a group that fights the sexual exploitation of children. “One of the big problems is that there is this whole set of child sex exploiters who are not targeted as exceptionally bad guys.”

What’s needed is a paradigm shift. Society (and thus law enforcement) needs to view any adult who sexually exploits a child as a villain, and the exploited child as a victim of that villainy. If a 35-year-old pimp puts a 16-year-old girl on the street and a 30-year-old john pays to have sex with her, how is it reasonable that the girl is most often the point in that triangle that is targeted by law enforcement?

Teach Me To Pray

I subscribe to a daily prayer e-mail service from Beliefnet. I rather like today's. I think it expresses two basic fundamental truths about prayer - one, God knows exactly what's on your heart and mind even better than you do, and two, God knows the world better than you do. Rather than asking for specific things that may well conflict with God's will, ask for guidance and that God's will be done. Ask God to show you how to pray and what to pray for. Here's the prayer:

Teach Me to Pray

My Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee.
Thou and Thou alone knowest my needs.
Thou lovest me more than I am able to love Thee.
O Father, grant unto me, Thy servant, all which I cannot ask.
For a cross I dare not ask, nor for consolation;
I dare only to stand in Thy presence.
My heart is open to Thee.
Thou seest my needs of which I myself am unaware.
Behold and lift me up!
In Thy presence I stand,
awed and silenced by Thy will and Thy judgments,
into which my mind cannot penetrate.
To Thee I offer myself as a sacrifice.
No other desire is mine but to fulfill Thy will.
Teach me how to pray.
Do Thyself pray within me.
Amen.

- St. Philaret of Moscow
Eastern Orthodox Tradition

Monday, February 18, 2008

;

The New York Times has a fun (and brief) article today about semicolons. Apparently there's a subway ad that features one, and it's generated several appreciative responses from various authors and scholars. Ironically enough, the article itself had only one semicolon. Perhaps this is why: "In literature and journalism, not to mention in advertising, the semicolon has been largely jettisoned as a pretentious anachronism." Ignoring the fact that the words "pretentious anachronism" are a bit of a pretentious anachronism in and of themselves, I couldn't agree with the basic sentiment more. Spokane Spokesman Review and Dartmouth Free Press editors always seem to find giddines and joy in massacring my semicolons, and it hurts me so much; they are my faithful companions, the Chewbaccas to my Han Solo. (Thanks to my friend Rob for sending the article my way.)

BTW, I failed to mention it at the time, but Saturday's post about Springsteen was my 250th, a nice round number. Woohoo.

Oh, and one other thing today - I am almost 21. This means that Ronald Reagan is history, not politics or current events. As far as I'm concerned, Jay Leno has always been the host of the Tonight Show. Duck-and-cover is a hunting term. Yup, it's that time of year again: happy birthday, Dad! ;)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A New Dartmouth Blog, And Bruce Springsteen

Dartmouth alum Matt Nolan '07 has started a blog called "the Natural Condition." TNC is about "life, health, and medicine," and has featured several posts about Dartmouth, including a couple about the Stonehill column. I find it amusingly ironic that Matt blogged about obesity in America last month, then made his very next post about how he eats potato chips. For the record, Matt's manly presence on the Fighting Mullets softball team is missed.

On another note, it's cold here. The average low is 10, but it got down to nine below once. But as they say, if you don't like the weather in New England, wait ten minutes - today's high is 22, then 49 on Monday, and back to 26 on Wednesday. This has led to a nasty, alternating mix of disgusting slush and dangerous ice. Normally I enjoy the cold, but as you can imagine, my iPod (brand spankin' new, just got it this week!) has been wearing out the Bruce Springsteen song "Girls In Their Summer Clothes" from his new album "Magic." The album is a real return to his rock roots, and only his second studio project with the E Street Band since 1984's Born in the USA, with which it has been favorably compared." It features everything from the standard Springsteen ballads about freedom and small towns to an angry rant about the state of rock & roll to an anti-war tribute to John Kerry. Overall, I like it, but do feel like it's holding something back. This is partly because the busy musicians recorded separately and mixed it all together later, and partly because there is no climactic anthem. Still, it is a genuine post-"Devils and Dus" return to rock, and it stays bright and punchy the whole way through. Rolling Stone named "Magic" the second top album of the year and it won two Grammies.

Amazon.com's Scott Holter says of this particular song, "Credit producer Brendan O'Brien for the wall of sound that backs 'Girls in Their Summer Clothes,' which sets the atmosphere for one of the great vocal performances by Springsteen, who plays the misfit 'in the cool of the evening light' watching the girls 'pass me by.'" It's one of those songs that just seems to match whatever mood I'm in. When I'm feeling melancholy alone in my room, it sounds wistful and morose too. If I've been thinking about gender relations, its talk of watching generic girls walk by sounds like offensive, superficial slop where all girls are lumped together as the other gender, meant for desire, rather than appreciated for the amazing unique individuals they are. But most importantly, when I'm walking across the Green wishing for brighter, sunnier days, the song feels incredibly upbeat and inspirational, and is just what I need to transform the campus in my mind, the girl talk becoming more a description of life. All in all, I love this song, and it's kind of too bad I'm listening to it so much, since that probably means I'll get sick of it before too long and shelve it for a few years before rediscovering it down the road. The only real problem I have with it is the cheesy rhyme about the diner waitress, but what can you do.

Friday, February 15, 2008

My Own Little Campus Controversy

Last Wednesday, Dartmouth’s daily school paper, The [Daily] Dartmouth, published an op-ed by Lucy Stonehill ’10 titled “See You in Hell.” Stonehill spent a majority of her column attacking an unnamed classmate for what she described as “rigid close-mindedness” in an English course discussion of the Genesis creation story. This student, she said, was a religious zealot “using obscure religious reasoning and citing isolated, irrelevant examples to give the illusion that textual evidence supported his points.” She accused him of living in “denial”, failing to objectively analyze the text, and “frantically[ing] rack his brain in order to regurgitate the memorized snippets of Sunday School ‘fact’ that leave no room for alternate interpretations of God’s benevolence.” Oddly enough, she never actually explained what it was her classmate said to tick her off, implying that the reader should just trust her to be a better judge than her classmate of what is and is not relevant for Biblical understanding. She spent her final few paragraphs arguing the point that religion has no place in the classroom. Her poorly written attack on religion spawned several more op-eds, which you can read here, here, here, and here.

I mention this because I am the student Stonehill attacked. While not technically named, I was described in such a way that made my identity painfully obvious to anyone who knows me well or was in the class. You would expect the editors of The D to have a sense of balance or fair play and allow me to respond, but no such luck. I submitted a reply on Monday afternoon, but according to Editor-in-Chief Katy O’Donnell, “The campus dialogue on this issue has run its course--at least in the Opinion page of The D--and the Opinion editors must also consider space constraints and other logistical minutiae... The campus reaction, though, has been both passionate and responsible--and we have reflected it in our Opinion page.” I do admit that my reply was a little late, I do understand space constraints, and I agree that most of the reaction has been responsible. Nevertheless, I find those poor excuses for The D to deny a man the chance to respond when attacked by their paper. Yes, my identity was technically not revealed, but that is irrelevant as it was still fairly obvious and word travels fast on a small campus.

Here is the Op-Ed The D has refused to publish. My sincere thanks to Christine Tian ’10 at "Dartlog," Zak Moore '09 at "Dartblog", and Matt Nolan ’07 at "the Natural Condition” for helping me publish my defense. I begin by giving the context of the class that Stonehill failed to describe, and then take the opportunity to explore the differences between atheists and people of faith. I struggled to make sure this column was not arrogant or patronizing, and hope that I succeeded.

****
Though she was courteous enough not to mention my name, I was the classmate taken to task for “religious zeal” in Lucy Stonehill ‘10’s column “See You in Hell.” Though I was at first surprised – I hardly recognized our discussion from her description – I am now grateful. Her column has given us the chance for a rare but valuable public discussion of religion. With this response, I would like to explain just what was said in class, and examine an unfortunate disconnect between atheists and people of faith.

Stonehill spent much of her column accusing me of “regurgitat[ing] memorized snippets of Sunday School ‘fact’ that leave no room for alternate interpretations” without ever actually telling the reader what my arguments were. It should be understood that the assignment was not just to “read and analyze the Genesis creation story”, but to compare that story with another culture’s creation tale and understand the distinct traditions. Stonehill insisted on a very literal reading of the Biblical text, which, if accepted as the only proper interpretation, would lead students to believe all Christians believe something that they in fact do not. I did not dismiss her literal reading, but I did try to broaden the discussion by adding the metaphorical interpretation held by many mainline Christians and the academic view that Genesis has four authors and two creation stories. This is what Stonehill dismisses as “obscure religious reasoning” and “isolated, irrelevant examples.” How, I ask, can including multiple perspectives be considered “rigid close-mindedness?”

Stonehill’s main argument, that religious zealotry has no place in the classroom, is well taken. Unfortunately, in implying that all religion is religious zealotry and focusing the majority of her column on our discussion, she distorts her otherwise valid point. As has been noted in subsequent opinion pieces, we all have different individual perspectives that shape who we are and how we contribute. This diversity can enrich both academic and cultural discussions. Lucy’s background and beliefs, whatever they may be, are a welcome addition to the classroom, as should be my own Texas roots and Episcopal views.

This brings me to my larger point, that there is an acute lack of understanding between atheists and people of faith. I do not mean to imply that Stonehill is an atheist – I don’t know what her beliefs are – but her article is an effective springboard for the topic. She argues that personal “creeds” should be checked at the classroom door. This suggests that faith is like a winter coat – something that can be worn when appropriate, but shed when things get a little too warm. I beg to differ. My faith is not a lens through which I view the world, but the actual eyes behind that lens, irrevocably attached to the head. I can no more set aside my belief in God than I can set aside my belief that the earth revolves around the sun.

I am reminded of two friends who experienced a painful breakup. Though neither realized it at the time, they grew apart because of faith issues – one was a devote Christian, the other an atheist. The atheist asked the Christian to make certain sacrifices of faith that seemed reasonable, and was offended by the Christian’s refusal to make those sacrifices for the sake of their relationship. The atheist did not realize that the existence of God is not something we choose to believe, but something we see when we look around us, as real as the Collis porch. Spirituality is not another idea in the world, spirituality is the world, and we can’t prioritize anything above that no matter how much we may want. The only difference I see between telling a Professor I slept through a midterm but still expect an A and telling God I forgot about faith for a few hours but still love Him (or perhaps Her) is that God matters more than any professor.

Yet just as there are things atheists do not understand about people of faith, there may well be things I do not understand about atheists. I will happily discuss the topic with anyone so inclined.

I should also note that I have never called myself a “priest-in-training.” While I do hope to become an Episcopal priest, seminary is years away. Given the matter’s seriousness and the unpredictable nature of the future, it is something I try not to talk about very often.

Just as I believe in evolution, I also believe that adherence to a particular faith is not a pre-requisite for a happy afterlife. It is in that spirit that I say, no, Lucy, I will see you in Heaven.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Hooray for the… Republicans???

Well, it’s official. The United States Congress has decided that I, and all other Americans my age and younger, don’t matter. On Thursday, the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed a bi-partisan $168 billion economic “stimulus” package that the President will soon sign into law. The New York Times describes the bill thusly:
The plan will provide tax rebates of up to $600 for individuals and up to $1,200 for couples filing jointly, with an additional payment for families of $300 a child, and a minimum payment of $300 for individuals who pay less than that in income taxes.

Payments will be reduced for individuals with adjusted gross incomes above $75,000 and couples with incomes above $150,000, with the wealthiest taxpayers receiving nothing. The Treasury Department said checks would be distributed beginning in early May, after the crush of the tax filing season.

Let me get this straight. Our current economic crunch was caused by banks giving loans to folks who couldn’t handle the cash and by people spending beyond their means, and Congress thinks the solution is to have them spend… even more???

There is no way to know if our nation is indeed entering a recession. A recession is defined as two back-to-back quarters of negative growth, and we don’t even know if we’ve had one such quarter yet. Yes, it is true that growth has at least slowed down, but last I checked, getting upset when you make a small profit instead of a large one isn’t defined as a recession, it’s defined as GREED. The truth is that our economy may not even need to be stimulated, and even if it does, it’s going to take more than a $152 billion gift to families to turn around a $13 trillion economy driven by corporations. All the current plan will do is help create the largest deficit we’ve ever seen, adding even more to the already unpayable $9 trillion national debt. What’s more, we won’t see a dime of it until May, even though the worry is that the recession may be NOW. Yes, Congress gets to pat itself on the back for pretending to help the little guy and managing to look like it actually accomplished something for once, but don’t let the rhetoric fool you. For anyone not elected to office, the long-term burden this creates will far outweigh the short-term pleasure of a tax refund: no gain, but lots of pain. And who has to put up with that debt? ME! My generation is the one left holding the bill. Has the President forgotten just how young his two daughters are???

Now, I’m all for helping out veterans, seniors, and poor folks, but we’ve got to do it in a way that makes fiscal sense, and dressing it up as an unwarranted economic stimulus package that adds to the deficit does not catch that particular fish. Freshman Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said it well:

“Instead of dealing with the fundamental issues that have led to our country's current economic ills, the U.S. Congress is on a fast track to pass a so-called economic stimulus package to be paid for — entirely — by those same schoolchildren, and their children… I'm always happy when I see Americans receive refunds from the federal government, but I find something extremely inappropriate about a deficit-ridden federal government borrowing money from our grandchildren and sprinkling it across the country for a short-term fix that will do little, if anything, to jump-start our troubled economy.”

This un-stimulating addition to the national debt passed the House 380-34 and the Senate 81-16 with overwhelming support from both parties. So why, then, am I applauding the Republicans in the title of this post? Because while their behavior on this matter is deplorable, it’s still not quite as bad as that of my fellow Democrats. Thanks to 40 Senate Republicans who put fiscal sense ahead of political points on Wednesday, the bill is $40 billion smaller than what Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wanted. Unfortunately, every Democrat, and most of the Republicans I admire (Snowe, Collins, Smith, and Specter, among others), voted for that 200 billion-headed monster. When the final package passed on Friday, all 16 of the Senate’s opposition votes came from Republicans, including Gregg of New Hampshire and Craig and Crapo of Idaho.

Dartmouth Economics Professor and Director of the Rockefeller Center Director Andrew Samwick has been blogging pretty consistently about the foolishness of this non-stimulus package, and even had an Op-Ed in the Washington Post about it last month. I’ve been meaning to quote him and link to that Op-Ed for some time, but alas, midterms got in my way. Nevertheless, I tip my hat to Prof. Samwick.

But not to Congress. To them I say, pbbbbbbttttthhhhh.

Oye

I didn't intend to disappear for a week, but first it was midterm week and now it is Dartmouth's Winter Carnival, the "Mardi Gras of the north," so the quick hiatus was tough to avoid. I'd like to say I'm back now, and you can read my first post-midterm piece by heading over to MyDD. I made a quick post explaining why it's not really a surprise that we will have two senator nominees for president this year - the "Senators can't win the White House" conventional wisdom line is pure bunk.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

In preparation for tomorrow

The greatest Super Bowl ad ever, from 2000:

Campaign 2008 Photos

There's no substance to this post. I just feel like showing off.

The night before the NH primary in Rochester, NH: me with Mike Huckabee, and some Dartmouth College Republicans:


Primary morning, voting day rally with Barack Obama at Dartmouth College. I'm directly behind Obama's podium with my roommate Adam on national TV. Interesting side note: the night before (while I was at the Huckabee rally), it was in the very same room as this rally, Dartmouth's West Gym, that Bill Clinton set off a media firestorm by calling Obama's campaign "a fairy tale."





In this last picture, Obama is making the point that Americans are excited about this current election "because they know George Bush's name won't be on the ballot next October!"

Ok, bragging over.