Dec 22, 2016

#NickelbackHasSoldOver50MillionAlbums


The only thing that I learned from this is that Mark Zuckerberg made a joke about Nickelback.

Nov 14, 2016

The Anti-Trump Protests Are Completely Justified


Since Donald Trump was elected president last Tuesday, Americans throughout the country have taken to the streets to express their shock, anger, and worries. Every single night for almost a week now has seen protests of some sort occurring throughout the nation.

This has generated some controversy. Many are denouncing the protests, saying that they are unjustified. Donald Trump was elected fair and square, after all. If you didn't want him to win the election, you should have done more to ensure a Clinton victory. We need to stop arguing and acting like children and accept that we lost the election, we'll have a chance to vote him out in four years. Just stop protesting, they say.

I disagree wholeheartedly.

The protests condemning Donald Trump are completely justified. I'd like to address some of the critiques of the protests that I have heard over the last few days, as well as discuss why I believe that these protests are not only justified, but absolutely necessary.

I have attended two protests. At the first one I went to, I heard a television news reporter talking to some people off-air. When asked for his take on all of this, he said that he understands that Trump is scary as the president, but feels as though Trump needs respect. They gave respect to Obama when he came to office, after all.

There's a lot wrong with this take. Obama got respect when he came to office because he earned the respect (as have all the presidents that came before him). Donald Trump has earned little to no respect for himself. Throughout his life, and especially on the campaign trail, Trump has said things and done things that would make any decent person lose respect for him. At Trump's literal first campaign event, he claimed that Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers. Any person that makes such candid, racist, generalizing statements deserves no respect. When Donald Trump consistently makes statements that shows he thinks women are merely objects, the decent person loses respect for him. When Donald Trump wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States, the decent person loses respect for him. These are the things that we have read about for months now, we all know these things but he never apologizes for them or goes back on them. Yet another reason the decent person loses respect for Donald Trump.

Further, we need to ask ourselves if it is actually true that Obama's presidency was greeted with respect. I recall Tea Parties throughout the nation that showed absolutely no respect for the president. Obama was greeted with that even though he has never said anything or done anything anywhere near the things that Trump has said or done.

I have heard people saying that Donald Trump won this election fair and square, and that is a reason as to why we should accept it and wait to express our frustration in the next election. First of all, Trump lost the popular vote. This is the second time that a president has been elected despite losing the popular vote in sixteen years. Something is wrong with our system and people are upset. They have every right to protest this archaic system that is giving us presidents we don't want. Second of all, since when have we had to wait until an election year to express our discontent? We have to be silenced unless there is an election? We have to just take whatever the government throws at us if it isn't time to head to the polls? Protest is an American tradition, our rights allow for it to happen and we must never give it up. If dissatisfaction exists, there is nothing wrong with peaceful protest. You should support the right to be able to protest peacefully whether you agree with the cause or not.

Finally, a lot of people are talking about unity. The election is over, and they say that this is the time to unify as a country yet again, even if we are not happy with the election. The problem with this, though, is that Donald Trump is inherently a divisive individual. It is very difficult for many, including myself, to accept that his presidency is a reality. The things that Donald Trump has said and done should be disqualifying. They would be for anyone else. How can we respect a man that is so candidly racist, sexist, xenophobic, ableist, misogynistic, and homophobic?

It's true, unity is important. But we should never compromise our values of acceptance and dignity in the name of unity.

Nov 5, 2016

Where Are The Stickers?

This weekend, I left campus to spend some time at home (that's right, I'm back in the Field, ooooh baby!). As I live in a suburban area, that means that I have to rely on cars to get to places. This is a contrast to my life on campus, where I rely either on my feet or public transportation to get me to where I need to go. 

As the type of guy that is interested in politics, driving on the road at a time like this in a year like this always makes me excited. Why? Bumper stickers. And signs, those are cool too. In my area, you can always count on seeing predominantly Republican stickers/signs. 

But for some reason, I'm not seeing anything this year. What's up with that? I mean, there is that giant Trump/Pence sign up the street, and my sister got a Make America Great Again bumper sticker while trick-or-treating on Halloween (who does this?), but other than that, things are strangely quiet. 

Honestly, I was expecting to see a lot of Trump stuff. But I'm not seeing as much as I expected. It's true that when I do see a bumper sticker, it is for Trump 99.9999% of the time. This weekend, I have seen exactly 0 Clinton stickers or signs.

I was just expecting a lot more. Like back in 2008 or 2012, I remember seeing car after car adorned with a sticker advertising the driver's electoral preference, wave after wave of political yard signs. But not this year. It's very empty. Perhaps a symptom of having the two most unpopular candidates of all time?

Oct 31, 2016

Some Thoughts On Donald Trump and Polling

This past week, I heard two different people justifying their belief that Donald Trump will become president despite the fact that he has been consistently down in the polls with the Brexit vote. One of them was a girl standing in front of me in the sandwich line at lunch, and the other one was Milo Yiannopoulos.

I've never felt so embarrassed to pose for a picture.

This grinds my gears. It's too convenient to say that your candidate is going to win because polls are wrong. The logic is stupid: If polls were wrong for Brexit, then they will be wrong for Donald Trump. This is an apples to oranges comparison. It's not valid to compare a U.S. presidential election to a referendum that was, for all intents and purposes, happening for the first time ever. Presidential elections happen so frequently that there's quite literally a science to polling them. The same can't be said for a referendum that has very little, if any, precedents.

Perhaps my point will be countered by those who say that right-wing populist forces led to Brexit, and the same forces are fueling the rise of Donald Trump, therefore justifying a belief that it's inevitable that Donald Trump will win; again, this is the logic that if Brexit happened, Donald Trump will also happen. Again, stupid logic. Again, apples to oranges comparison. The point is, you just can't compare the Brexit vote to a U.S. presidential election. Unlike our presidential elections, there are absolutely no precedents for a Brexit referendum that will allow for any sort of serious polling to be accurate.

And there's another point that should be brought up. In the case of Brexit, support for both Leave and Remain crossed party lines. This makes accurate polling even harder. Perhaps you can argue that you're seeing some party-crossing here in this presidential election, but that's certainly something a Trump supporter would not want to bring up.

EDIT: May 27, 2017
lmao omg i was so wrong sorry

Oct 21, 2016

10 Things It Would Be A Shame To Forget

Waiting for statistics class today, my mind wandered around and recalled a few random things that we must never forget under any circumstances. Here are the precious memories:

1. That time Rand Paul was briefly detained by the TSA


 (I swear I had a dream about this incident once)

2. When the guitarist from Rage Against the Machine fried Paul Ryan for citing them as his favorite band in a Rolling Stone article

I wonder what Ryan's favorite Rage song is? Is it the one where we condemn the genocide of Native Americans? The one lambasting American imperialism? Our cover of "Fuck the Police"? Or is it the one where we call on the people to seize the means of production? So many excellent choices to jam out to at Young Republican meetings!

3. That hot summer day when Twitter kept talking about "daddy appropriation:"



4.  Pajama Boy, the photo advocating for Obamacare that conservatives freaked out about:


5. When Michelle Bachmann tweeted that "All Labs Matter" picture, inducing uncomfortable shifting in seats all throughout the nation:



 Bonus: remember when Michelle Bachmann won the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll?

6. That poor, poor raccoon who lost his cotton candy in a puddle: 




7. When David Cameron tried to impress Angela Merkel by making a slideshow of them embracing:
"Wooing Merkel is a major pre-occupation... she is coming to a private dinner in Number 10 that evening. Cameron has an idea: 'Why don't we show her a PowerPoint and give some of it in German?' The team likes the idea: it is a way of engaging her and injecting humour and informality.
... Hurriedly a presentation is cobbled together, including pictures of Cameron and Merkel hugging."
8. The time that Tony the Tiger went on a spree blocking innocent furries:



9. Those weird, somewhat disturbing tweets from Scott Walker:




10. And, finally, that tweet from Bill Kristol:



I hope you enjoy reminiscing as much as I do.

Oct 17, 2016

Something Interesting About Roman Sculptures

Here's an interesting thing about Roman sculptures that I learned today!

It's true that there are many similarities between Greek and Roman art, but one thing that was very important to the Romans was that there was a distinction between the two cultures. The Romans didn't want to rely on the the Greeks, they wanted to make a name for themselves. This distinction can be seen in the differences between the portraits of Greece and Rome.


Take a look at this Greek portrait of Alexander the Great. We see a very handsome man indeed. There's a dreamy look in his face, an ideal man. Why? Greek artistic conventions expressed ideas about what the ideal person should look like. Perhaps Alexander didn't look exactly like that, but that's what Greek conventions made him look like. The important thing to take out of this is that this portrait shows an idealized image.

Now let's shift our attention to a Roman portrait:


Here we have what looks like an extremely detailed, extremely realistic depiction of a Roman man. One will immediately think that this is a stark contrast to the idealistic style of the Greeks. It's true that differences between the Roman style and the Greek style exist, but they are similar in ways you may not expect.

I learned that there is a style called verism. With this style, artists seek to include super fine details quite meticulously. This is apparent in the wrinkles visible on the subject's face. So you might think that because of this, the artist is depicting the subject in the most realistic, accurate way possible. This is not true. 

Verism was the convention of the Romans, just as idealism was a convention of the Greeks. Rather than portray people realistically, they portrayed them with as much detail as possible in order to express the unique Roman values of wisdom, maturity, and service to the state.


So luckily for this guy, he probably didn't actually look like that. Rather, through this portrait, the sculptor is showing that the subject bears the ideal Roman virtues. Artists did this so frequently that it is nearly impossible to distinguish between who is who -- everyone pretty much looks the same as a result of the conventions.

I thought that was really interesting!

Monday Music Sharing

Yes, yes, I know that I shared an Alex G song last Monday, too. But here's the thing: Alex G is fantastic. Beach Music has been on repeat all week.

I am of the opinion that the top three songs on the album are Walk (shared last week), Kicker (which I probably won't share because literally everyone has heard that song and loves it -- I'm no exception), and Salt. My favorite song on this album is Salt. And here it is for you:




And there you have it! My favorite song lately. Enjoy, have a great week.

Oct 10, 2016

Again, I Told You

Yes, I am allergic to beef. Many people don't believe me when I tell them that, and even less people believe me when I tell them that it is the result of a tick bite.

But it's legitimate. So legitimate, in fact, that The Guardian reported on it Friday:

People living in tick-endemic areas around the world are being warned of an increasingly prevalent, potentially life-threatening side effect to being bitten: developing a severe allergy to meat. 
The link between tick bites and meat allergies was first described in 2007, and has since been confirmed around the world.

Sufferers of “tick-induced mammalian meat allergy” will experience a delayed reaction of between two and 10 hours after eating red meat. Almost invariably, they are found to have been bitten by a tick – sometimes as much as six months before. 
...

Due to the role of cofactors like exercise, alcohol consumption and other medication in allergic reactions, and the risk of death that comes with anaphylaxis, many often follow vegetarian or vegan diets. 
Sufferers are also advised to prepare their food at home, as fish and poultry are often combined with mammalian meat products such as stock, and to avoid cross-contamination between utensils and cooking surfaces. 
Pearce has cut out all meat bar poultry and seafood, and eats dairy in only limited amounts after developing an allergy in late 2012. 
The possibility of a third anaphylactic shock, she said, was “too scary” for her to take the risk of eating red meat again.

I feel validated. Thanks, Guardian.

p.s. Once I heard a great joke about The Guardian -- what is The Guardian guarding? Neoliberalism.

Monday Music Sharing

Welcome back to the second weekly Monday Music Sharing! Yay!

This week's song of the week: "Walk" by Alex G.

"Walk" is a nice little instrumental tune from indie artist Alex G. A song great for walking down a street lined with metamorphosing leaves as the breeze blows maybe a little too strong for comfort. Your hands are in your pockets and things are going really well for you. But at the same time, sadness is pecking at the back of your mind, begging for attention. You give, and memories begin to flood and nothing really seems right anymore. This isn't right. This isn't me. I miss the way that things used to be.

Enjoy, and have an excellent week. 

A Memory From 2015

Remember that one week in late June last year, where all of those progressive things kept happening and it was really incredible?



One of those incredible things happened to be the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in every state throughout the country. I remember being on Twitter that morning and seeing so many happy tweets. Yes, there were some tweets from hateful people that were not so nice (many people were unfollowed), but many more happy tweets.

But this story isn't about a tweet. It's about something more physical, and as terrible as it is, it's hilarious and I can't believe that I've never blogged about it until now.

So basically there was this woman, and for whatever reason I was engaged in an interaction with her. The decision had just come out a couple of hours before this story takes place, so a conversation about same-sex marriage was topical at the moment. Her daughter mentioned that same-sex marriage had been legalized nationwide. Knowing that things like this was something that I was interested in, she asked me for an explanation. So I explained.

She took a deep breath and placed her hands on her hips.

"So that's what they're doing in Washington," she sighed. "Doesn't Obama have something better to be doing, like fighting ISIS?"

OH MY GOSH

1. President Obama did not legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, the Supreme Court did. Yes, maybe he played a role in this by nominating justices that were more likely to do this, but nominating justices is part of his job as president. He's doing his job.

2. So is she saying that as long as ISIS exists, all domestic issues need to be put on the backburner? Injustices such as refusing to recognize the legitimacy of love between two individuals of the same sex should just be ignored until we diminish the threat of terrorism? Yikes.

3. I won't even get into why it's ridiculous to support LGBT issues...

Thanks for reading, just wanted to get this off my chest.

Oct 3, 2016

Monday Music Sharing

Here's "I Follow You," by Melody's Echo Chamber. This song has been stuck in my head all day and I love it!


I am very ready for a new album. Soon, I hope. Have a nice evening, everyone :-)

Sep 5, 2016

How Come People Can't Realize That Some Things Are Just Generally Bad?

There's a great article in the New York Times today, titled: 'Rolling Coal' in Diesel Trucks, to Rebel and Provoke. It caught my interest because this strange and idiotic trend of "rolling coal" is something that I witnessed on more than a few occasions in my town in central Virginia.

What is "rolling coal?" Simply, it's a way of showing the world that you are a selfish excuse of a human that isn't intelligent enough to realize that maybe you're playing a part in making the world a worse place. More precisely, "rolling coal" is modifying your diesel truck in such a way that allows it to spit out thick, black smoke into the air. See for yourself:

What's a video of trucks doing gross, stupid things if there isn't a metal song in the introduction?

Personally, I have a problem with diesel trucks to begin with, but I think that we can all agree that this is just objectively bad. If it's objectively bad, then why are trucks like this on the market? It's true that you can't go out and get a truck that fouls the environment just like that. These trucks are capable of doing this only because their owner spent extra money on a kit that enables them to modify the vehicle in a way that will override emissions control.

So yes, there are people out there that will spend money and take the time to modify their trucks so that they don't comply with environmental laws. Why? What's the point? What I want to know is why there is such a large population in the US that seeks to rebel against the government in literally any way possible, even if it means ultimately harming themselves and the society that they are a part of. Seriously, these trucks are nothing but potential danger: the black smoke that spews out of them obstructs the views of other drivers on the road, the trucks are intentionally in violation of environmental laws, and exposure to this type of smoke can lead to a plethora of health issues. Why would somebody want to do this? I just don't get it. 

But in reading the New York Times article, a couple of explanations are offered. One truck driver featured, who named his truck "Public Enemy" (how apt), said that "rolling coal" is "an adrenaline rush." But surely the temporary satisfaction of feeling powerful behind the wheel of a vehicle is not enough to justify the gross carbon footprint it leaves on the world, not to mention the negative health effects it will have on not only the driver but also those in the area. 

"Smoke's pretty. I like seeing it," another truck driver was quoted as saying. I think the stupidity speaks for itself on this one....

One truck driver wrote a letter to his state representative, who wanted to impose a fine on those who attempted to bypass emissions controls. The New York Times quoted the letter: "Why don't you go live in Sweden and get the heck out of our country..... I will continue to roll coal anytime I feel like and fog your stupid eco-cars." This sounds like such an immature and childish thing to say, I can hardly believe that a grown man ever said this. It's easy to laugh it off with an eye roll, but it's this very mentality that causes many of the problems in our country. It's this same line of thinking that causes people to object to gun control, or something like transgender rights. These people have a way of life that they refuse to give up, even if it's dangerous or toxic to both themselves and the world at large. All they see is that their "rights" are being taken away from them. Their minds are too narrow to realize that maybe there are certain things that you just don't do, because that's what makes the world a better place. 

Aug 4, 2016

Deep Disappointment at the Kaine Rally

On Tuesday, my favorite local politician, Tim Kaine, came to Richmond to speak for the first time after becoming Hillary Clinton's running mate. As an intern with the Democratic party, I had the privilege of helping to ensure that the event ran smoothly.

Ensuring that it runs smoothly? For me, a lowly intern with no prestige whatsoever, that essentially meant I stand out in the sunny, eighty-eight degree weather from 2:30 to 7:30 ensuring that attendees were signed in. More on that later.

Of course I was excited when I found out that I would be going to a Kaine rally. I'm not one to miss a political event nearby, I even (tried) to see Marco Rubio earlier this year. I was thrilled at the prospect of seeing a politician I sort of agree with speak in my area. But in complete honesty, this event was totally garbage for me. As soon as I got there, I wished that I hadn't come. No amount of Tim Kaine's gentle jokes could change my mind.

I woke up on Monday, August 1st in a good mood. I saw an email that said to be at the event location at 2:30 dressed in business casual. Cool! Maybe I would get to meet Senator Kaine! I got dressed, head over to Panera, ate some bread with Elizabeth, always a 10/10 lunch. Then it was time for me to leave for Richmond, full of excitement. I listened to Neutral Milk Hotel in the car and everything seemed to be going nicely. Yay! Then I got to the high school where the event was taking place. Uh-oh, all the entrances are blocked off with cones! No big deal, I'll just park in the middle school parking lot right next door, it's a little bit of a walk but that's alright, it's a beautiful day outside.

I exited my car and began the walk. I looked to my right and saw that the lot I had parked in was being closed off to the public. That could be a problem, I thought, but decided to deal with it later. I had a job to do. What that job was, I didn't know yet, but I had a job to do nonetheless.

About fifteen minutes later I arrived at the front of the high school. There were a lot of people from the Secret Service there. I asked if I could go inside, as I was an intern with the party and I was almost certain that my organizer told me to meet inside the gym. Well apparently that was a really stupid thing to do because they laughed at me and told me no way. I then questioned if I was even in the right location at all as I leaned against a wall to call my organizer, next to a very sweaty member of the press. Yes, I learned, I was in the right spot, I just had to walk to the other side of the school. No big deal. I rolled up my sleeves.

I finally found the rest of the organizers and interns. Upon finding my organizer, he suggested I take off my tie, it was bound to be a long, hot day. Wait, what? Aren't we setting up inside, or signing people in inside, or just anything inside? Nope. I soon learned that I was to spend the next five hours of my life standing outside, ensuring that all the hot, grumpy people waiting outside to see Tim Kaine were signed in to the event. The exact type of task I enjoy doing so much.

So there I was for the next few scorching hot hours, walking around on the hot, bright pavement, attempting to reduce the glare of the sun on my phone so that I could sign people in ("Make sure you guys put your phone on low power mode, it's going to be a long day and it's vital your phone stays charged. Oh yeah, also make sure you download Google Chrome, that's what you have to use, and it won't work unless you're in incognito mode. Get people excited! Stronger together!!!"). What do I mean by "signing people in?" Signing people in consists of asking everyone in line to give me their name, zipcode, email, and phone number, despite the fact that an email told them to give that information to the campaign in an "RSVP" the night before. If there's one thing people hate more than standing in a long line on a hot day, it's standing in a long line on a hot day and being forced to give information that you already supplied the night before so that twentysomethings can call you every day for the next three months making you feel guilty about not volunteering for Hillary. I have to say, I understand their pain.

My favorite part of the day was when I had to stand by the doors for an hour and a half, telling people that they couldn't bring their water inside the building, despite the fact that fifty yards in front of me another group of interns were handing out water to all of the sweaty attendees (who says political parties are organized?). What do you mean we can't bring water inside, they would say to me, their voices full of disgust, their eyes full of hatred, they just gave us water down there! Yes, yes, I know, but please just throw it away, you can get more once you get past security. (Quick aside: I was horrified at the lack of recycling opportunities present at the event. I thought Democrats were supposed to care about the environment? Do better next time, please.)

It was at this point in the evening (maybe around 5:15 or so) that many people began to project their dissatisfaction onto me. A man and his toddler son walked by me and politely as possible, I asked if they would throw away their water bottle. They did, though they must have been angry about, for the man turned to me and said "thanks for the important info, buddy" with rage in his expression as he took a picture of me with his phone camera. Later, a woman who must have been in her mid-fifties came up to me and told me that I did a horrible job of planning this event. Without missing a detail, she described to me that she had to walk four blocks to get here and then she had to climb underneath a railing to get into line (yeah, that was actually horrible. Be better, Democrats.) and then she had to stand in the hot sun for half an hour and had thirteen, can you believe it, thirteen people ask her to sign in, and then to top it all off, she couldn't peel the sticker off of the sheet it came on. This sounded horrible, so I told her that I was really sorry about everything. "No you're not, you don't care one bit, you're not sorry." She then stormed away, getting back in line to go through security. But the thing is, I actually was sorry!!! I was being sincere!!! It sounds like she was having a truly miserable day, and I could truly relate to her! The poor thing, going through all of that to see a mediocre guy make lame jokes about Donald Trump for an hour.

At 7:30, I finally made it into the building, two and a half hours after the event started. But just in time to Tim Kaine's wife, Anne Holton. Cool! Except, I couldn't hear a word she said, thanks to the protesters right behind me that seemed to be exceptionally upset Holton had resigned as Virginia's Secretary of Education. How dare she refuse to teach our children.

At about 8:00, Holton completed her "main goal tonight, to bring out [my] hubby," (ew) and out came "America's dad," Senator Tim Kaine (he is really digging that nickname). I wish that I could say something cool about his stump speech but I thought it was just alright. The usual jabs at Trump, the same old stuff about how qualified Hillary is. He got emotional about the fact that he was speaking in Richmond, he does seem to love this city. The highlight of the speech for me was when he talked about how nothing makes the former mayor of a city happier than when their children brag about the town; he quoted his son: "Dad, Richmond's a hipster town now." Oh yeah, baby! Nothing like gentrification! Right on!

The speech ended and Taylor Swift's song "Shake It Off" came on, because of course it did, it's the Hillary campaign. But no amount of pop music targeted to millennials could get me to shake off my deep disappointment. To top it all off, the police that were blocking the parking lot I had parked in at the beginning of the day were unhappy about my request to leave. All in all, a day I will look back on bitterly for some time to come.

Jul 23, 2016

Yesterday Was Horrible for Progressives

While yesterday may have been a big day for the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, for American progressives, it was marred by infuriating leaks and frustrating announcements.

The biggest news of the day: Clinton selected Virginia senator Tim Kaine as her running mate. A clean cut pick from a battleground state? Sure, but is he really the right pick for Clinton in a year that's going to be remembered for its populist fervor? Probably not. And progressives are reacting accordingly.

Kaine has already been receiving criticism from progressive groups like the PCCC over his support of the TPP. In fact, Kaine voted to fast track the trade deal that so many populists - including both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders - vehemently oppose.

Kaine is also under fire from progressives over his support for decreasing banking regulations. It's worth noting that the third biggest industry contributing to Kaine is the securities and investment industry. This won't help Clinton's image as the "Wall Street candidate."

But perhaps the worst thing about Kaine is that he is a giant slap in the face to Sanders supporters. Clinton had a chance to pick a running mate that would have appealed to a split party, acknowledging the vocal progressive wing that is reluctant to switch support from Sanders to Clinton. In selecting Kaine, Clinton seems to be simply turning her back on a potential schism in the party. Filmmaker and ardent Sanders supporter Michael Moore summed the situation up nicely in a tweet: "Show me 1 voter gained by naming Tim Kaine. Att'n Hillary campaign: It's not Trump who'll beat u. It's the people who are going to stay home."

But in the disaster that was yesterday, Tim Kaine was only half of the bad news for progressives.

Progressives on Twitter were fired up about a WikiLeaks dump that released 19,252 emails from the DNC. It seems as though the suspicions of Sanders supporters were confirmed: the DNC was deliberately working against the Sanders campaign.

The emails show not only an obvious bias towards Clinton during a time the DNC claimed to be neutral, but also an intense dislike of Sanders. Some of the leaked emails that were particularly fascinating to me included one in which the Sanders campaign was laughed at for wanting a debate ahead of the California primary, an email where DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver an "ass," and my personal favorite, in which Wasserman Schultz calls the prospect of a Sanders presidency "silly." Perhaps the most objectively horrible email is the one where the DNC seems to be trying to use Sanders' faith against him. 

Between a disappointing running mate for Clinton and a leak that proved the DNC was working against Bernie Sanders, progressives truly had a horrible day yesterday. Maybe this isn't the best way to go into the convention....

Jul 22, 2016

Why Do You Do This to Me, Žižek?

My dream: to understand Žižek. I am fascinated by the guy, I love him. And there are moments in which I will be reading one of his books, and everything seems crystal clear, and it's beautiful!!! I understand!!! I can see through ideology!!

........

and then I'm hit with a sentence like this:

Marx described the mad, self-enhancing circulation of capital, whose solipsistic path of parthenogenesis reaches its apogee in today's meta-reflexive speculations on futures.

Please have mercy on the 99% of people that are idiots, Slavoj Žižek. I'm begging you.

Jul 15, 2016

Fun Facts

We live in an age where random facts are thrown around and labeled as fun. But what makes a fact fun? Where do we draw the line between fun facts, and facts that are just simply facts?

Think for moment of a fun fact that you can recall hearing recently. Maybe you’re thinking about how if you eat too many carrots, your skin will turn orange. Or maybe you’re a bit blown away by the fact that a duck’s quack does not echo. These are just two examples of the bits of information that we as a society deem as “fun facts.”

What is a fun fact? Society says that a fun fact is a bit of information that is simply fascinating or interesting to hear.

But today I am calling for that to change. Let’s stop saying that facts are fun when they are really pretty common. I believe that we should push for the definition of fun facts to change: let’s only consider a fact fun if it is fascinating and not widely known.

Let me be clear. In order for a fact to be fun, it must meet the following (pretty simple) criteria*:

1. It must be fascinating and interesting.
2. It must not be widely known.

I’m not saying that the consumption of carrots causing your skin to turn orange is boring, don’t get me wrong. To be honest, I think that this is actually a fascinating piece of information that I have many questions about. So it meets requirement #1 of the fun fact criteria. But it falls short of requirement #2, nearly everyone is aware of the fact that eating too many carrots will turn your skin orange (this knowledge of this fact is so widespread, it makes it a boring fact, if anything).

Let’s consider another so-called fun fact: the average car weighs 1.3 tons. Is this a widely known piece of information? Probably not. I don’t think that most people would be able to tell you that a car weighs 1.3 tons, it’s a pretty specific number. So this fact meets requirement #2. But is the fact that a car weighs 1.3 tons fascinating or interesting? Absolutely not. In fact, I could not think of a more mundane piece of information. This is certainly not a fun fact.

Now you’re probably thinking, what is a fun fact? There are plenty out there. People are just lazy. A quality fun fact requires effort to find. And in a world of social media where content is everything, people want to find the best content as soon as possible, and this is where the laziness come out. And with this laziness comes lame facts - facts that are fun in name only. Good fun facts require effort to find. Until we really get to work finding quality content for our blogs, timelines, and walls, we will be stuck with the same old facts.


Let’s remember the difference between facts and fun facts.




* I should note that there is some ongoing discussion about adding one more requirement for fun facts. Elizabeth Farris, my go-to expert on fun facts, is in favor of a requirement stating that fun facts must not be dark. In her opinion, fun facts cannot be about subjects that many would consider dark, such as war, famine, genocide, etc. Fun facts should be light and happy, fun, really. This is an interesting idea that should be considered when determining whether or not a fact is fun.

This post originally appeared on one of my older blogs, I thought it was more suitable for this one. This is the criteria I use when selecting fun facts for the weekly newsletter. And yes, that third requirement has become official. 

Jun 23, 2016

Told You

From the New York Times:
On Tuesday, observers were reminded that Mr. Zuckerberg, 32, is not just a normal guy who enjoys running and quiet dinners with friends. In a photo posted to his Facebook account, he celebrated the growing user base of Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. An eagle-eyed Twitter user named Chris Olson noticed that in the image’s background, his laptop camera and microphone jack appeared to be covered with tape.
The article is titled "Mark Zuckerberg Covers His Laptop Camera. You Should Consider It, Too." This made me incredibly happy, as I have been advocating for this for years now.

I told you guys I wasn't crazy!!!

Jun 22, 2016

Thoughts on Libertarians and Sit-ins

I don't know if many people know this but I was a libertarian for a while, probably for about a year or so on my dramatic shift across the political spectrum from the right to the left. For me, part of being a libertarian meant following some libertarian accounts on Instagram. Don't get me wrong, I really respect libertarian philosophy (I still admire what Ron Paul did for the American political landscape, I'll probably make a post about that one day.) (also I'm a liberal so of course I respect libertarian foreign/social policy). But I do have to say, there are some crazy people on Instagram that identify as libertarian. It's true that there are going to be crazy people in every party, but the whole thing with libertarians being a third party kind of amplifies the degree to which these people say crazy things. Like, they're really into conspiracy theories. The people behind these accounts were anti-vaxxers, hated GMOs with all of their hearts, and loved throwing out evidence about chemtrails and FEMA camps. And of course there was that stuff about government officials are actually reptiles, or whatever.

One thing that these people were really adamant about was their belief that big news stories were usually manufactured by the government so that the masses don't notice something sneaky going on. Let me make up an example: say there's a hurricane coming. Some of these libertarian accounts will say that the news is covering this extensively only because the government is trying to pass something into law that they don't want anyone to know about, for fear of mass opposition. So if the news is covering something extensively, watch out, it's because the government is doing something it doesn't want you to know about.

I'm recollecting these awful memories of sophomore year tonight because, in case you haven't heard by now, Democratic congressmen and women are staging a sit-in on the House floor, trying to get a vote on a gun control bill (watch live here).  Also happening tonight is a Libertarian town hall on CNN. It's awesome that CNN is giving coverage to a third party, I'm all for that, but the sit-in is getting much more attention (as it should, in my opinion).

And tonight all I can think about is how red with fury the faces of the people behind those libertarian Instagram accounts are right now.

Jun 20, 2016

The Trump Campaign is Wild

Today I read a profile of Hope Hicks, Donald Trump's press secretary, by Olivia Nuzzi. One quote in the piece says that Donald Trump is the "most fascist candidate in recent American history," and Hicks seems to have been swept into her position as if by accident.

This piece is really great and I highly recommend you read the whole thing (read it here), but some of the details about Trump's staff shocked me. There was a lot I had to read twice, thanks to disbelief. This campaign is literally wild.

Apparently Hicks and (as of today, former) campaign manager Corey Lewandowski asked Trump to fire a political adviser, Sam Nunberg. And now we have this, and all I can say is goodness gracious:
Nunberg still seemed wounded eight months later, when we met. “Of course she ratfucked me, which makes me proud,” he told me. Nunberg maintains no feelings of warmth for Lewandowski. “I literally will suck the fucking blood out of his skull by the time I'm done with him,” he said like a screwball gangster.
Though she worked with Lewandowski to get Nunberg out, her relationship with the campaign manager didn't seem so awesome:
[Hicks] landed in the New York Post after she was spotted on East 61st Street, screaming at Lewandowski. The spectacle was dismissed as an interoffice dispute. Though if that's to be believed, the emotional scene, as described to me by people who saw it—Hicks's fists balled, her face streaked with tears—makes you wonder what the hell goes on in the Trump War Room.
And as if we needed any further proof that Lewandowski is a terrible, horrible human being, here is his reaction to Hicks' initial decision to not serve as press secretary for the Trump campaign:
[Hicks] told Lewandowski he'd have to find a new press secretary, which apparently set him off. “He made her cry a bunch of times,” Nunberg said. In Nunberg's telling, Lewandowski said to Hicks, “You made a big fucking mistake; you're fucking dead to me.”
Everything about this implies that the entire Trump campaign is utterly wild. It seems less like a political campaign and more like a group of scary, alpha-men types competing for power.

Jun 17, 2016

Can I be Condescending?

Sarah Cooper wrote a nice piece on Medium this week, acknowledging that many liberals like herself are considered to be "condescending" and "smug." Cooper admits that liberals do, in fact, fall into those stereotypes at times. Sometimes we on the left regard those on the right as less intelligent than ourselves. She is correct in saying that we need to stop doing this if we wish to cease stooping to the conservative's level.

I completely agree. We charge conservatives as intolerant, but there are times where we refuse to listen to the other side. This should change. We should look to the other side with an open mind.

But then came Donald Trump......

Where do we draw the line between what is worth listening to, and what is just complete garbage? And should we sift through that "garbage" to try and find understanding? Cooper sums things up excellently:
...I don’t want to be a judgmental, condescending, smug liberal who won’t try to understand the other side and see their perspective.
But at the same time, they are supporting this man who is breeding hate and fear and racism and xenophobia and misogyny and I just. don’t. understand it.
 When is it okay to just stop and say: this guy is crazy? It's true, I don't want to be a stereotypical teen liberal that shouts out vague mantras about how a politician I don't like is a scary, racist, hateful idiot, but Donald Trump is kind of fitting the profile.

I mean, in the Thursday Morning Briefing last Thursday, this was a real life New York Times quote:
His candidacy has drawn warnings from both the left and the right about the potential rise of fascism in the U.S.
THIS IS A MAJOR YIKES!!!!!

So all I am asking today, very nicely asking, is if I can be a stereotypical teen liberal for a little bit. Can I be just a tiny bit condescending until November? Please? This is just too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Jun 4, 2016

Summer Reading

Summer vacation has started, and that means that there is no more required reading for school! No required reading means that I get to start reading whatever I want, as much as I want. I've spent the last few months incredibly excited about this time, as well as thinking about what to read (obviously).

Here is my planned reading list for the summer:
  • The Beautiful and Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Despair, Vladimir Nabokov
  • Existentialism is a Humanism, Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Great Expectations, Charles Dickens (hahaha we will see about this one)
  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe
  • Women, Culture, & Politics, Angela Y. Davis
  • Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche
  • The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
  • Violence, Slavoj Zizek
  • The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
And of course, I will attempt to finish my long term reading project over the summer, Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (I'm about halfway through and this book is so, so good).

This list is maybe a little too long to finish over the summer, but lately I've been in the good habit of reading frequently, and I have been reading several books at once. Maybe there's a chance that I will make a decent dent in this list.

Any recommendations?

May 31, 2016

Millennial Bros

The rise of Donald Trump is tremendously interesting to me. All year I've been thinking about how crazy it is that an outsider comes into the race, breaks all of the rules, says some things that would have completely ruined anybody else, and somehow maintains the front-runner position from practically the start.

And perhaps even more interesting to me is the enormous following he has among people my age. I'm in high school. Throughout the school year, I've been fascinated with my peers that have been die-hard Trump supporters from the beginning. It's interesting to me. The ones that are most vocal about their support for Trump are the ones that are the "bros," the ones that speak excitedly of joining frats next year in college, the ones that would be the classic high school jocks, if that was still a thing. I call them millennial bros. I love that term.

So what's the deal with this? Why is this happening?

Earlier this month, Politico Magazine actually ran an awesome story about this very demographic that is flocking to Trump, even using the term "millennial bro" in the subtitle. I like this article because it does provide some answers as to why these males support Trump so fanatically. This line in particular really stood out to me:

The deeper one ventures into the strange world of [a Trump-centric Internet forum], the more the country’s problems become laced with an array of white-male-themed anxieties—men are apologizing for their maleness, the users say; policies are lifting up the weak and punishing the strong; and culture at large is becoming more feminized.

And really, I think that this is what it is. Bros are feeling emasculated. They look up to Trump, who some of them describe as an "alpha male" type, as some sort of masculine superhero. And it kind of makes sense; Trump is a rugged individualism type of guy, he's got a dominate personality, and he's incredibly assertive: this is the ideal male, I guess? Many think it is. And that's why bros are following their alpha male leader.

So is that the reason Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee? Men feel like they can't be "men" anymore and are looking for the alpha male himself to save them from this atrocity?

Maybe.

Last week I read an excellent piece by Tyler Cowen, who hypothesizes that one reason for the rise of populism around the world is in part fueled by a feeling among men that the world is no longer theirs. He states that "the contemporary world is not very well built for a large chunk of males," citing a feminized culture, and the fact that there is a higher likelihood of American men aged 18-34 living with their parents, rather than with a romantic partner. So a lot of men are feeling less masculine.

Could this be the reason for the rise of populism, in not just the US but also around the world? What about economics? Cowen points out that the American labor market isn't that bad right now. And when it was bad back in the 70s, we didn't see this populist response. Something is different now. It seems as though men are leading this populist movement. Look at Austria: 60% of Austrian men voted for the far-right (yikes), populist candidate in the presidential election last week. That's crazy. Cowen also references the infamous "Bernie Bros," some very vocal male supporters of populist Bernie Sanders.

For me, reading all of this was very enlightening. It's in line with what I have observed around me. Did anyone else notice that the same millennial bros that now worship Trump were the same guys proclaiming themselves as "meninists" like, a year ago? The same ones that deny the existence of a wage gap? The ones that take any opportunity to try to tarnish feminism? These are the millennial bros, and they want to live in a world where they are in charge. They despise political correctness and oppose a more feminist culture, a culture that threatens their hegemony.

It's interesting to think about. But millennial bros are totally a demographic to watch, dude. 

May 29, 2016

The Rights of Robots

In my junior year of high school I took AP Lang, a class in which you learn about writing and analyzing things like rhetoric and tone, etc. In all honesty, I learned very little in the class as the result of having three different teachers throughout the course of the year, all seeming to have a different idea of how the class should be taught. When I talk to friends about that class, my diction is usually dripping in disdain.

But there was one assignment in that class I will never forget: we were to write an essay about our thoughts on artificial intelligence. Something about this assignment lit a spark in my mind, and I was determined to go all out on this paper. This was the prompt I was waiting for, and I took advantage of it. My paper received a perfect score, and I really wish that I could find it because it was just so, so good.

Basically I said that artificial intelligence is something that will happen one day, and it is nothing that we should be afraid of; in fact, we should embrace it! Many good things could come with artificial intelligence. For example, robots may be able to take over the economy, allowing people to live a life of leisure. The government could begin distributing a basic income to those put out of work by the robots, and things could just generally be better (the basic income sentiment got the greatest teacher comment I have ever received: "you trust the government THAT much?? Hmmmm...").

But about halfway through the paper, I realized that we as humans are being selfish in our concerns regarding artificial intelligence. We aren't looking past our own interests when we fear world domination by computers and warring robots. These things just won't happen. But what could happen is the denial of rights to robots, and that could be a problem.

For a moment, let's consider the very real possibility of a robot becoming artificially intelligent. The robot will be able to think for itself. That's a pretty significant accomplishment in science, an achievement for the human race. But let's also think about the thing that now has the ability to make decisions on its own. The robot would be in possession of a living mind.

Quickly, I would like to point out that in much of Western philosophy, a "person" is defined as
any human (or non-human) agent which: (1) possesses continuous consciousness over time; and (2) who is therefore capable of framing representations about the world, formulating plans and acting on them.
A couple things stand out to me about that definition. First off, a person could be either a human or a non-human. That means that robots and computers are eligible to be persons!!! Secondly, a computer or robot with artificial intelligence would also meet the requirements to be considered conscious. And finally, an artificially intelligent computer would by definition have the ability to think for itself. Therefore, a robot with artificial intelligence would qualify for personhood.

This leads me to the topic in which much of my amazing essay was about: the rights of robots with artificial intelligence. Robots that can think for themselves deserve rights. And it's quite inevitable; once a robot can think for itself, it will begin to demand rights. As soon as a robot speaks up for itself to demand rights, we must give it those rights, as it is exhibiting the qualities of a person.

All persons have rights. The rights of all persons must be protected, always, no matter what.

What happens when a robot demands shorter work hours?  We listen, we shorten the robot work day. What happens when a robot, inevitably able to fall in love, wants to marry? We listen, and allow it to marry. Again, all persons have rights. The rights of all persons must be protected, always, no matter what.

Artificial intelligence is still far away. It will happen one day though, and we should be ready. But now let's focus on what is at hand currently. The rights of many marginalized groups are being denied. We need to remember that the rights of all persons must always be protected no matter what, now and forever. It's fun to think about the future, but don't forget the world as it is today.