Jesus: Its what’s for dinner

December 17, 2007 at 6:17 pm (opinions, religion)

Oh, I love the sacrilege, and I have to thank my honey for this brilliant title.  It came to us as we were driving across this great country of ours, specifically, across northern Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, and we kept seeing either Jesus-lovin’ billboards or Beef-lovin’ billboards.  No, not professional advertisements, but the kind that are written on plywood with black paint by some god-fearing, beef-selling farmer.  Here are our favorites:

  • “Jesus is lord” – a real classic
  • Created in his image” – a Kansas specialty, and yes, Created was emphasized on the sign with bold fancy script.
  • “Righteousness makes a great nation, sin is a cancer to people” – well, in my opinion being righteous is one of the nastiest sins out there.
  • “Accept Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.  Or regret it forever.”

Just when I thought that I had found jesus, but wait, I was still pro-choice, this gem came up:

  • “Adoption=Life,  Abortion:Death,  Millions are waiting to adopt” – yes, that is the punctuation directly from the billboard.

Between those inspirational signs and the two gigantor crosses, one of which is officially the “largest cross in the western hemisphere”, I felt the power of jesus coursing through my veins.  I mean, in all honesty, people can practice whatever religion they want to, but what really chaps my hide is how Christians think these superficial and trite advertisements for their religion will sway even one person.  Frankly, I wouldn’t want anyone as weak-minded and easily persuaded to identify with my personal belief system.

I find it hard to imagine seeing cheesy advertisements like these in Saudi Arabia or Israel touting the benefits of believing in Islam or Judaism.  Maybe this is not a uniquely Christian thing, maybe its a uniquely American thing.  That would be par for the course in a country where our Congress would take the time to acknowledge the importance of celebrating a solely Christian holiday, as if we could ever forget with the spirit of Christmas and every other Christian belief being jammed down our throats by every media outlet within sight.

So if you’re ever feeling your faith waning, wipe your mind clear of deep thoughts, scientific knowledge and personal opinions and take a drive through rural America.  Its truly an inspiration!

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Bush Going for Broke?

November 3, 2007 at 6:38 pm (George W. Bush, opinions, politics)

President Bush strikes me as being the type of person keen on leaving a legacy behind. He is clearly arrogant, stubborn and affluent (affluent in the kind of way that you knew he grew up with everything handed to him and can’t begin to identify with the working class), all qualities that I think would lead to a self-aggrandizing individual. So what legacy is Bush going to leave behind, what are his options at this point? I can say assuredly and in an un-biased way that he will go down in American history as one of our least intelligent and nationally damaging presidents. So pretty much anything positive is out the window. Will he be known for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Of course. Will he be remembered for fostering a weakened economy and one of the biggest deficits in history? Yes. Will he be regarded as having incredibly poor judgement in regards to appointees (Meyers, Gonzales, M. Brown, many more) and for being guided by some of the most diabolical war mongers of our time? Certainly. But those things are out of his control at this point. The question is, what is Bush actively doing to cement his place in history?

In my opinion, he is going for broke as the least popular president in United States history. Follow along with me here, I think I have good evidence for this. Until the end of his 7th year in office, he had only used vetoes twice (against evil stem cell research). Now, he seems to be flying fast and loose with the veto power. First, it was the SCHIP expansion bill. This bill had popular bipartisan support (although not enough to override the veto) and would have continued to provide under-privileged children with health insurance. Bush cited the reason for vetoing this bill as that he thought the expansion was too inclusive and that middle class people that could afford private health insurance would line up for government hand outs. Right, because we all know that if you can afford private health insurance, you’d much prefer to have your child on government sponsored insurance with all the beurocratic fun that goes with it. Bush has also promised to veto any future SCHIP bill that includes expanded funding or coverage, even though the current funding won’t even cover those children already enrolled in SCHIP.

Second, he just recently used another veto to override a bill that would help rebuild Hurricane Katrina ravaged areas of the Gulf Coast as well as restoring wetlands and preventing future flooding. Another smooth move, because if there’s anything the citizens of this country hate more than sick kids, its hurricane survivors.

And here, for everyone to read, I am making a prediction that I really hope is proven wrong. I am predicting the next veto item (that is if SCHIP doesn’t come up again first). As many of you may know, Congress “unintentionally” revoked funding that supplements the cost of birth control for low income clinics and colleges while passing the Deficit Reduction Act last January. The consequence of this is that poor students like myself will now have to pay more than double the previous amount for birth control pills (about $50/month). Because providing health care and welfare for pregnant women and unplanned children will be much more cost effective. Anyway, the Democrats in Congress are attempting to rectify the situation by passing the Prevention through Affordable Access Act. Because I have the utmost faith in President Bush to screw over any member of the poor or working class, I fully predict that he will veto this, citing money (even though it won’t cost tax-payers anything) and his Christian values, always a good fall-back excuse.

The Daily Kos published a map of the United States with states ranked by Bush’s approval rating. Finally, Utah and Idaho have hit 50% or lower. Quite a feat for a good Christian conservative like Bush. His current approval rating is running from 29-36%, depending on what poll you believe. So come on, W. You can do better than that. Instead of just taking away their health insurance, you could actually just start punching kids in the face. Direct, to the point and it’ll get the job done for sure.

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DVR Slave

October 26, 2007 at 3:04 am (opinions, random thoughts)

Since I’ve gotten back from my trip, I have been wading my way through days and days worth of recorded television.  Daily and weekly shows which I normally look forward to, now menacingly stacked 10 days deep and feeling like more of a chore to get through than relaxing entertainment.  I think that the general purpose of DVRs is to give one freedom from TV, but now I feel a weird pressure to watch all of this TV that I have recorded.  My fiance is so funny because when several shows record in a night he gets all anxious about watching them, like there’s some sort of time limit.  I kind of get the same thing from my Google Reader page (where I subscribe to all of the blogs I regularly check and all new posts pop up and wait for me to check them).  While on my trip, I would sporadically check Google Reader and get all harried because I had hundreds of unread new posts.  And I couldn’t just delete them, I felt like I had to read through all of them as if they were a school assignment.

So many of our recent technological advances make us feel obligated to either be available to everyone we’ve ever known at a moment’s notice (blackberries, email, social networking sites) or to not miss a single minute’s worth of back-logged entertainment.  Oh I know, its completely my fault because I willingly use (and love) my DVR and Google Reader.  There are certainly worse things in the world than planting myself on the couch and wading through old TV.  I just take my books to the gym with me so they don’t feel neglected and so my butt doesn’t grow roots into the couch.

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The Lost Spirit of the GI Bill

September 28, 2007 at 1:56 am (opinions, politics)

No “I was to busy to blog” excuses here for my latest hiatus. I actually got away from Arizona for a short few days to be with my fiance, my family and my own thoughts for a change.

Thinking through the latest news items which have peeked my interest, I keep coming back to one that NPR has covered for the past two mornings. The GI Bill, discussed in audio format from September 26 and September 27. I had given this little, well, no thought before these stories, but its an important issue to consider. Everyone says, “I may hate the war, but we need to support our troops” – but what exactly does it mean to support our troops? I think that it’d be quite easy to argue that our government is not doing anything close to what they should be doing to support our troops and veterans.

The GI Bill was enacted in 1944 to provide troops returning from WWII with and opportunity for an excellent and otherwise unattainable education. It is one of our Army’s strongest recruiting tools, as it promises money for education as well as living expenses while veterans search for civilian jobs. Just 8 years after it was enacted, the GI Bill was changed so that it no longer directly paid Universities for fees and tuition. Instead, vets were given $110/month (~$825 today) on which to live, and pay for tuition, fees and books. By the time Korean War vets were coming home, the basic principles of the bill were already being eroded. Throughout the 1970’s, the stipend was increased to $311/month (~$1125 today), encouraging more vets to pursue college degrees. As of 2007, vets are paid $1101/month to put towards education. As the NPR stories point out, this amount doesn’t touch a private school education, does not cover room/board at a public university, but just covers an education from community college. Not to belittle community colleges, they are certainly a great option for many students and many careers, but this does not comply with the original spirit of the GI Bill.

Veterans returning from WWII had the option to go to any college to which they were accepted, from community college to Harvard. It is on the shoulders of these men and women that the middle class was largely built. Before the GI Bill, higher education was quite uncommon and almost exclusively for the rich. NPR emphasizes how veterans who took advantage of this education opportunity went on to be our senators, presidents, business icons and Nobel prize winners. There is good reason to call them “the greatest generation”.

It is shameful that our returning veterans, who put their lives on the line just as much as any previous veteran, are not given the same critical and deserved chance at education. Obviously I am not discussing other issues that need immediate attention like the physical and mental health care for vets. It is time for our government to stop with the irrefutable and empty rhetoric about supporting our troops. They need to take action to bolster and revitalize the GI Bill.

Update:  I saw a news story yesterday about the Minnesota National Guard, aka the Red Bulls.  Many members of this group were ordered to serve 729 or fewer days.  This is significant because they are required to serve 730 days to receive GI bill benefits, including the education benefits.  Talk about losing the spirit of the GI Bill.  They seem to be intentionally screwing these brave men and women out of their earned and deserved education.  Disgusting.

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Politics and Personality

September 12, 2007 at 3:30 pm (opinions, politics)

I have often wondered how relationships can survive in which one person is a conservative and the other a liberal.  Oh sure, it makes a cute movie, but in real life, how would this actually work?  I think it could only be possible if both people in the relationship were a bit apathetic or not very passionate about the issues.  On a funny personal note, the man I am engaged to nearly cut our relationship off before the first date because I USED to identify as Republican (eww, I feel dirty even saying it) – mainly because that’s how my parents identified (pre-Bush, that is).  But then G said that he kept talking with me and realized I was liberal after all, I just didn’t know it yet!  I’m glad he saw through the ruse.  But it is an important distinction when getting involved with a potential partner.  It seems to me that one’s personality, outlook on life and political affiliations are so integrated that I just don’t see how two people could have a successful relationship when they differ on so many fundamental levels.

Well, my pet theory was bolstered thanks to G, who alerted me to a recent study done which highlights some of the behavioral/psychological differences between liberals and conservatives.  There are actually a couple of studies out there, but I thought this was a really nice and thorough one if anyone is interested.  I will give some of the highlights which I found interesting.  And to give full credit where it is due, I originally linked to it from another blog which published a short piece on it as well.

I’ll just bullet point a few of the key differences between conservatives and liberals listed from the article, and I will do my best to write all traits in a non-biased manner.  For fun, I will put in bold the personality traits which I identify with.  (some of the following are direct quotes)

Liberals:

  • Their homes are messier, have more clutter, and more color
  • Display more flags, maps and travel documents in their home
  • Have lots of books, and books on a wide variety of topics.
  • Enjoy classical music and jazz
  • Optimistic
  • Enjoy abstract art
  • Enjoy romantic comedies (men)
  • Enjoy reading, writing poetry, writing in journals, playing musical instruments and acting
  • Individuals who grow up to be liberal at age 23 were described as having the following types of personalities as children:  energetic, impulsive, self-reliant and resilient.  They formed close bonds with peers.
  • Intellectually curious
  • Excitement-seeking
  • Creative
  • Craving for stimulation in areas of travel, color, art, music, and literature
  • “[M]ore likely to see gray areas and reconcile seemingly conflicting information”
  • Have more education, with the exception of advanced degrees in business, medicine and law.  With the latter degrees, financial security commonly leads to conservative leanings.
  • People who study abroad are more liberal.

Conservatives:

  • Homes are neater, well organized and well lit
  • Enjoy country music
  • Religious
  • Prefer traditional entertainment like TV and talk-radio (men)
  • Individuals who grow up to be conservative at age 23 were described as having the following types of personalities as children:  easily victimized and offended, rigid, inhibited, indecisive and fearful
  • Have little tolerance for ambiguity.  Tend to see things as black and white.
  • Are comforted by having a strong leader.

The article goes into a post 9/11 shift towards conservativism, and why/how this is guided by fear and thoughts of death.  I won’t get into that hear, but it is worth reading.

It is truly interesting to me that all of these personality traits can be correlated with political affiliation, and it underscores my belief that our politics are not just about who we vote for.  How we identify politically is determined by how we view the world, what we think is right and wrong, and how we think are the best ways to achieve such goals.  It is no wonder that not only our partners, but also our close friends and the people we work with best tend to be of similar political leanings (those are only my own personal observations).  These beliefs run much deeper than red vs. blue, they are indeed indicative of who we are on the whole.

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Thompson: A Real Revolutionary

September 9, 2007 at 9:25 pm (feminism, opinions, politics, presidental race, rants)

Gee, I’m so excited that Fred Thompson decided to grace the presidential candidate pool with his presence.  He’s a real breath of fresh air among all the other crotchety old white men running on the Republican ticket.  He also has ground breaking views on all of the social issues dominating headlines these days (and yes I did get this link from Feministing).  This makes me want to vomit:

Thompson praised Bush’s performance on Iraq, the economy and Social Security. While criticizing the president for presiding over “too much spending” at the federal level, he said he backed Bush’s efforts to try to overhaul Social Security with private investment accounts. He also praised Bush for “doing a good job” on the economy and said, “I give him credit for the Supreme Court nominations that he’s made.”

Yea, go Bushie for nominating two more conservative white men to the Supreme Court, who needs diversity?  Its only the group of people that determines most of the rules by which ALL Americans live by.

The other part of this that disturbs me pertains to the abortion rhetoric.

Don’t punish women who have abortions,” presidential hopeful Fred Thompson says. Punish the doctors who perform them.

This is a point on which I have engaged in discussions on other blogs, but not here that I remember.  It is the idea that an abortion is something that is done TO a woman, not an informed decision that SHE makes.  Not that I agree at all that anyone should be punished for the practice of abortions.  I just don’t understand why only the doctor is held responsible and not the person that chose to go to the clinic.  This is so patriarchal and condescending.  Treating the woman as if she is a helpless victim of abortion.  ‘Gee, I just stumbled into this clinic and, wait – what is that evil doctor doing to me?????’   I guess, given that he’s about 120 years old, Thompson still believes that it is our “wandering uterus” which makes us so crazy.  Clearly we don’t possess the intellect or logic to determine how to manage our own bodies.  Which is why its a good thing that President Dumb Shit had the presence of mind to only put more men on the Supreme Court.

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Sexy Cancer?

September 3, 2007 at 9:20 pm (feminism, opinions, television)

In the weekly Feministing reader I came across this article about the “Crazy Sexy Cancer”
story.  I have seen ads on TLC for this and for reasons I cannot quite articulate, it really bothers me.  I guess the whole point of it is to show that these women are empowered to fight this horribly disease, which it truly a worthwhile message.  These women are putting a positive spin on their strength and determination.

Here are a couple of explanations I could come up with, and these apply just to the title and premise of the show:

  • It implies that even in the face of pain and illness, women are expected to be upbeat, cheerful and sexy.  Their ultimate goal is to go into their MRI or their chemo treatment, or surgery with a big, toothy smile on their face .
  • The name of the TV show itself is quite flippant and juvenile and evokes images of bright pink Chick-Lit novels one would read over a margarita at the beach.
  • It somehow gives the impression that there is always some happy ending, which there isn’t.  Cancer treatments have advanced by leaps and bounds in the last few decades, but it is still and incredibly difficult disease to treat and live with.
  • I think the women battling cancer can be crazy, beautiful, sexy, empowered, whatever she wants to be, but the disease itself is none of the above.

I know it seems cold and callused to criticize this, and I have absolutely no idea how I would view it if I were personally affected by cancer.  With my work, I am definitely on the periphery of how cancer affects the patient and their family.  I know a lot about the molecular workings of cancer, but my education is lacking any emphasis on the emotional or even symptomatic aspects of the disease.  As a cancer researcher, I am always eager to learn from those who are more intimately affected by the disease.  I’d be interested to hear what others think about the idea of this show.

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News of the Week

September 2, 2007 at 12:30 am (Current Events, opinions, politics)

We all knew it couldn’t last.  And in Iowa of all places!  After a brief legalization of gay marriage in Iowa, it was taken away, but not before 20 couples could get their marriage licenses!  Now of course Iowa will have to add a constitutional amendment to guarantee that something so heinous never ever happens again.  So sad.

And everyone’s favorite Fox “news” analyst turned Press Secretary, Tony Snow, is leaving his post, apparently because he’s one step up from having to pan-handle for his chemo.  Are we really supposed to believe, or find it reasonable, that he left his White House job because $170,000 is not enough for him and his to live on?

Mr. Snow said. “I’ve told people when my money runs out, then I’ve got to go.”

This I just do not understand.  Either he is leaving for completely different reasons (my guess) or this was the best of the lies they could come up with.  How can someone say with a straight face that $170K a year is not enough to live on when the overwhelming majority of Americans survives on much, much less.  What evil arrogance this is.  It is my personal interpretation that he may have mounting medical bills due to his extended battle with colon cancer that his insurance has been unable or unwilling to cover.  Someone working for our government in a public and powerful position isn’t able to support both his family and extensive medical treatment on the generous salary of $170K.  Isn’t irony a cruel mistress?  I know this is only my guess at the real reason, but its still better than the reason we are supposed to choke down.

And of course there’s the latest train-wreck of a sex scandal that has rocked Washington D.C.  I won’t even touch that one because really there is nothing new to say and I honestly don’t know what to believe in this case.

However, just because I can’t let it go without saying anything…I will say that overall, it is incredibly sad that homosexuals aren’t able to be both openly gay and openly Republican.  Really, its actually the case that few politicians on either side of the aisle are open about homosexuality.  Statistically one in ten are gay, so that would mean 10 senators and about 43 representatives.  And we are supposed to believe that only 3 actually are (Rep. Barney Frank D-MA, Rep. Jim Kolbe R-AZ, Rep. Tammy Baldwin D-WI)?  That math certainly does not add up.  And these representatives aren’t even all currently serving.  (On a side note, Kolbe just happens to have been the representative from my own district until last year, and I didn’t even know he was gay!  You learn something new every day!)

Now I didn’t do an exhaustive search on openly gay Congress people, and I didn’t include all of the former openly gay Representatives.  So if you’re saying, well duh, there’s also so and so, please correct me!

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Vile in any Color

August 25, 2007 at 6:08 pm (Current Events, opinions, rants)

I had to put my two cents in about this Michael Vick thing because its just making me sick. And its not even the horrifying aspect of animal abuse that has me so upset this particular morning. Listening to NPR this morning I heard some “expert” or another talking about how Vick is being persecuted more harshly due to his race. However, when pressed by the NPR interviewer, the “expert” admitted that if that dog-abuser had been white, he’d probably receive the same legal and social ramifications. So I’m confused. Which is it, fair or racist? I certainly have my opinion on the topic and I hesitate to even start in on the racial issue. So before I say anything else, I have to acknowledge that I am very aware that harsh racial inequality is alive and kicking every minute of every day in our society, not only against Blacks, but against Middle-Easterners, Asians, Latinos, and many more groups. However, I very much dislike when the tactic of accusing the media or the public of racism is used to defend someone as vile and despicable as this.

One of the main arguments I have heard in defense of Vick is that dog fighting is part of the black culture and highly prevalent in the inner cities. This is quite a slippery-slope argument, because it could be used at one time or another to defend gang violence in the inner cities, white supremacy in the South, or even Antisemitism in the Middle East. Just because it is prevalent and part of the culture does not make it right.

Actor Jamie Foxx had this to say, although I truly have no idea why anyone gives a crap about his opinion:

“It’s a cultural thing, I think,” Jamie said. “Most brothers didn’t know that, you know. I used to see dogs fighting in the neighborhood all the time. I didn’t know that was Fed time. So, Mike probably just didn’t read his handbook on what not to do as a black star.” While he has a way of lightening even the most sensitive of subjects, Jamie is sincere in his belief that the quarterback is not being given a fair shake.
“I know that cruelty to animals is bad, but sometimes people shoot people and kill people and don’t get time,” Jamie continued. “I think in this situation, he really didn’t know the extent of it, so I always give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Apparent Vick also hasn’t read his handbook on being a decent human being either. I know that the issue of cruelty to animals is fraught with hypocrisy since we eat animals, test drugs on them, wear them, etc. But there is a distinct difference between consuming animals for survival/nutrition or using them for the betterment of human health (although a debate on those topics could fill an entire blog) and causing them harm for our entertainment and pleasure. And its not even the dogs vs. chickens debate. I recognize that it is a cultural construct that we value the lives of dogs and cats more than pigs or chickens. I know that in certain Asian cultures, the consumption of animals that we consider “pets” is a common practice. However, countries like China also have a long history or massive starvation and famine. I would never fault someone for consuming a dog or a cat if the alternative was death or surviving on tree bark and dirt (which many people did). But I would go out on a limb and say that I doubt that the Chinese would torture dogs before killing them for consumption. Humane treatment and sacrifice of animals should always be a priority.

That being said, I was literally nauseated when I heard about these charges, and in truth I avoided reading/hearing about them for about a week because I absolutely can’t stomach cruelty towards animals. And not being much of a sports fan myself, I had no idea that Vick was even black when the story first broke. It sickened me nonetheless. There are many things in our society which are illegal and vial no matter what color you are, and the ruthless torture and killing of animals is probably near the top of that list.

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Something Else That Makes Me Feel Old

August 21, 2007 at 1:12 am (grad school, opinions)

I had another one of those moments today when I caught myself thinking, “man, those kids today”, which lead me to feel old and gray haired (which I am, gray haired, not old).  A new young woman joined my work-place today (and by young I mean probably 21, not that much younger than me) and it got me thinking, do young people not even try to make a professional first impression anymore?  This woman was wearing extremely casual cargo-capris with a ribbed very tight, very tiny tank-top, under which her bra was clearly visible.  Am I being a total fuddy-duddy or is this not work-place appropriate?  I’ll be the first to admit that I dress casually, I’m a grad-student for god’s sake, but it seems to me that women in college are taking the “casual” dressing to quite the extreme.  Teeny-teeny shorts, miniscule skirts and tank-tops are everyday apparel.  Granted most guys wouldn’t put up a fight to change this, but does anyone really give these women the respect and credit they probably deserve when they’re dressed like this?  And this applies to not only students, but teachers as well.  I had a professor a couple years back who wore clothing that I wouldn’t even go to the grocery store in while she lectured.  Her paint-stained t-shirts complimented her torn socks and Crocs quite nicely.  Now how am I supposed to show her the respect she deserves when she clearly put no effort into presenting herself in a professional manner?  I firmly believe in the rule that you will be treated according to how you present and project yourself, for better or worse.

It may be shallow of me to judge someone by a first impression, but it is also naive of others to believe that they won’t be judged by how they look.

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