New leading economic indicator

How much for a Philosophy Major?

Here’s an interesting economic number to look at: forecast the average salary for the first ten years of employment for a major. Then forecast the average amount of debt the person graduating with that major will be burdened with upon graduation. Then figure out, using standard loan repayment rates, how long it will take the average person to pay off the average debt with an average salary in that field. Salary average should consider unemployment rates for those first ten years.

That number should be on a label affixed to every college brochure ever sent out, with a separate label for every major that college offers. And the unit of measure shouldn’t be time, it should be the number of ramen-only dinners you’ll have to eat before your school loans are paid off.


It doesn’t always “get better” for everyone

Go watch this video.

Fucking hell, we can be horrible to each other. We can be beautiful to each other, we can do amazing things, but we can be so willfully ignorant and cruel and so damn stupid. And what’s crazy is how much the people in these videos have grown, and changed, and made their lives better… and how many of the people who bullied them probably haven’t.

I can be an optimist and pretend that the bullies “got better” too: they grew up, matured, realized how poorly they had behaved, changed their ways, learned to accept those who were different. But I can’t bring myself to be that big of an optimist, because I see grownups acting this way every day, and I know they didn’t appear out of nowhere: they went to high school too.

Just remember, “it” doesn’t just get better by itself. You and I make it better. Sometimes that means that the people who bully you and call you names DON’T get better, though: they will still be there, still be full of hatred and bigotry and stupid, unfocused, irrational rage. They will still try to do everything they can to make you feel small, to take away your right to live the way you want, to make you unhappy.

But you will grow and get stronger instead, and you will have friends and relationships and love and you will find your focus and you will set your goals and you will live your life. You will fight for your rights, and you will GET THEM.

And leave the bullies, the small-minded bigots, the hypocrites behind. Because you know what? Fuck them.

Newt lashing out at the Constitution

Newt Gingrich speaking to voters at Des Moines...

Damn you, Constitution!

I’m so tired of these people wailing about “activist judges” when the judicial branch is doing its job of interpreting the law. And of course it comes as NO surprise that the case he’s complaining about is one of separation of Church and State: they never complain about “activist judges” when the ruling is one they personally agree with.

Gingrich knows better, he knows that the case was ruled correctly, he’s been in government too long to not understand that.  He also knows that in a representative democracy, sometimes law rulings don’t favor the opinion of the majority of people in the U.S., especially when the ruling serves to protect the rights of a minority.  That’s EXACTLY how this democracy is supposed to work… but he also knows that railing against this type of ruling is a quick hunk of red meat to people who think that religion is “under attack” in this country, and will give him a sorely needed quick boost in the polls now that his numbers in Iowa are collapsing.

His comments in this matter are no more responsible or truthful than Rick Perry’s accusation that Obama is conducting a “war against religion”, and should be vilified to the same degree.  Maybe Capitol police should arrest Newt for his unconstitutional recommendations, and bring him before Congress so he can explain them. That would make just about the same sense, and be just as justified as his irresponsible comments.  To actually say that judges can and should be arrested to “explain their views” before Congress is reprehensible: what, exactly, would he say Congress should be able to do after that?  Throw the judge in jail?  Overturn their ruling?  Change the law on the fly to make the ruling inapplicable, so that people could be declared guilty for an act that wasn’t illegal at the time they committed it?

If you don’t like the Constitution, propose an Amendment.  If you don’t like separation of powers, go ahead and try to change our form of democracy.  If you don’t like checks and balances, then get rid of the branches you don’t like, see how well that works for you.  But don’t pretend that what is happening here is anything but a natural, BENEFICIAL result of our Constitution and form of government.

The NDAA: bad news for civil liberties, and a negative mark for the Obama administration

It’s interesting that the Obama-supported bill that could most be interpreted as anti-Constitutional (and therefore anti-American, you secret commie Kenyan Muslim, you) is the one that has the majority of support of Republicans and most Tea Partiers (other than Paul Rand), and only 50/50 support in his own party.  In MN, Republicans Chip Cravaack, John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Democrats Collin Peterson and Tim Walz voted for, Democrats Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum.  Michele Bachmann was nowhere to be seen, mentally or physically.
I wish Obama had the support and the spine in this matter to go through with his veto threat, but it’s not going to happen.  In any case, his threat appears to have been based not on the principles of  protecting constitutional rights, but on not wanting additional restrictions on Executive powers to perform the activities the bill references.  And now, with the war in Iraq supposedly winding down, the global War on Terror and the extended powers the government is granting itself to fight this interminable, poorly-defined conflict, continue to grow.
Not a good day for civil liberties, or for Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution, which dictates that nobody can be punished for treason without significant due process requirements being met.

Not a proud day.  I’m with the ACLU and Human Rights Watch on this one.  I had actually let me ACLU membership lapse, but it’s going back up today.

Perry wants constitutional amendment for prayer in schools

Let’s take this for what it is: Perry’s doubling down because he knows his Prez campaign is kaput and he wants to make sure he’s still in the good graces of his core base back home.

But even within that context, this is ridiculous.  Children can pray in school whenever they want, as long as they are not disruptive.  If Perry thinks that kids can’t pray, I suggest he lead a campaign of civil disobedience, getting kids to pray in their public schools.  The public would become quickly sympathetic to his point of view thanks to the resulting riots, police beatings and pepper-spraying of praying students, pictures on the front page of the newspapers…

Oh wait, that wouldn’t happen.  BECAUSE KIDS CAN PRAY IN SCHOOL, and they already do, presumably before and during tests.  What Perry seems to be frothing about is Supreme Court cases like Engel v. Vitale (1962), in which it was deemed unconstitutional for state officials to compose an official school prayer and require its recitation in public schools.  And many, many other cases in which it has been found unconstitutional for public officials to force prayer on students, regardless of whether they are religious or not.

Do you see the difference between the two?   Because Perry apparently can’t.

You can’t force people to pray in school.  State officials can’t force your kids to pray in specific ways, to specific god(s), and saying specific words at state-required times.  And you also cannot prevent kids from praying, as long as they’re not disruptive.  That’s the situation we find ourselves in today, and Rick Perry finds it unacceptable.  But other than frothing evangelicals that seem bent on forcing their religious beliefs on everyone else in the country, almost everyone else seems to be fine with it… unless they are presented with lies like “it’s illegal for children to pray in school, therefore we need a constitutional amendment to let them.”

I know it when I see it… on pay-per-view

Brigham Young

Check out that sexy, sexy beard.

Fun fact of the day! Provo is the 3rd-largest city in Utah, and home to Brigham Young University, which is operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 2000, Larry Peterman of Provo, Utah was charged with selling obscene material at his “Movie Buff” chain of video stores. A jury found him not guilty: his defense demonstrated that in Utah County, a place that often boasts of being the most conservative area in the nation, the amount of porn being viewed on pay-per-view and at local hotels was “disproportionately large” compared to the rest of the country. Since obscenity is generally legally defined by local community standards, what Peterman was selling could not be classified as “obscene”, because local residents were watching METRIC CRAPLOADS of the stuff. This led to the word “Pornmons” being coined, which I just did.

That’s what I think of when I see Mitt Romney on TV. And now you will too.


Secretary Clinton – “Free and Equal in Dignity and Rights”

In a very moving and historic speech at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva to celebrate Human Rights Day, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for the protection of rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, and discussed President Obama putting into place a  U.S. Government strategy dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT persons abroad.  Here’s a link to the transcript if you prefer to read it.

This was a great speech, in that it didn’t shy away from recognizing that the U.S. also still has a ways to go in its path towards providing full, equal human rights to those who still suffer from abuse and discrimination thanks to bigotry and small-minded homophobia. Read the whole thing, it’s worth it for the sense of historical context it provides for the long struggle for equal human rights for all.

“The Obama Administration defends the human rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy.”

That sounds like a great idea, President Obama and Secretary Clinton, so let’s make sure it’s not just words: let’s see a repeal of DOMA, and a formal recognition of equal rights for gay marriage at a Federal level.  Let’s have the U.S. set lead by setting a shining example, and show the world we can overcome centuries of abuse, hatred and bigotry by recognizing and celebrating our common humanity.

Texas Governor, failed Presidential candidate and Separation of Church and State denier Rick Perry immediately pandered to his religious fundamentalist conservative base by responding “This administration’s war on traditional American values must stop.”

That’s right, Perry: if you’re talking about “traditional” pre-21st century “values” like homophobia, discrimination, bigotry and hatred, then there’s an open war going on right now against them.

And you’re on the wrong side.

P.S. to Minnesota readers: Vote “No” on the Marriage Amendment next November, and you too can brag to your grandchildren that you were on the right side of history when human rights were on the line.

Being Liberal

So now we know what being “liberal” means for social conservatives. Newt’s being accused of being one, because he had a relatively humane response to a question on immigration, one that recognized the difficulty of the issue and the ethical and financial problems associated with separating families.

Liberal: someone who makes a humane, considered response that takes into account multiple sides of a difficult issue, shows some compassion and doesn’t assume every problem has a clear-cut, black and white solution.

Don’t get me wrong: Newt “cleared up” his remarks after the debate, probably at least in part due to the howling fantods unleashed by his almost-human response. He’s not a liberal.

But by the above definition, I am. And the people I vote for will be too.  And if your philosophy on practically ANY issue is simple, black and white, then I’m probably not voting for you.  There are too many complex issues on this planet and in this country that require careful, considered thought, and do not have a simple answer. The reality is that if there were a simple answer, they wouldn’t be issues any more: we would have already fixed them.

Life is complex.  Ethical behavior is complex.  Responsibility is complex, and morality is complex.  If being a liberal involves understanding that and recognizing the difficulty and nuance of navigating the solution, instead of bumperstickering the answers, then count me among the liberals.

Keith Mason, co-founder of the group Personhood USA, which pushed the Mississippi “personhood” ballot measure, said before the vote that a win would “send a message” to the rest of the country. But now he says he intends to renew efforts in the state.

So I guess his group’s initiative loss also sends a message, but he chooses to ignore it.

My message to Mason is that if you can’t get this initiative to pass in one of the most conservative states in the nation, you should give it up. But I’m guessing he’ll ignore my message too.

Citizens United, Freedom of Speech and Money in politics

Hmmm… I’m cautious about this one. While I vehemently agree that it’s undemocratic to have the loudest voice be the one that has the most money, there are a LOT of bad ways to implement this, and I don’t automatically trust the Senate to do it in a good way that respects overall freedom of speech.

The right to participate in elections and support a candidate is a critical part of democracy, and there is a fine line between allowing unlimited spending and allowing only certain voices to be heard. Freedom of speech is a critical issue, and in my opinion the SCOTUS had no choice but to to rule the way they did on Citizens United, given the unconstitutional restrictions on free speech that any other ruling might have entailed. As unpopular as the decision was (I don’t particularly like it), it was the Constitutionally-aligned one to make.

To clarify: I hate the amount of money in politics, I really dislike the fact that corporations can spend all they want to buy elections, I hate that they can do so anonymously.  But I also believe we can’t implement restrictions on this type of activity without a lot of careful consideration and forethought: I don’t get the impression we’ll get that.

I agree with the motivation, I can see where they are going with this and agree with the general direction, I just hope they don’t over-reach in way that ends up having unintended negative consequences for our freedom of speech.