30 September 2004

I really liked this article on conservative viewpoints and the conservative case against G. W. Bush.

I hope everyone is watching the "debate" tonight, even though the use of that word for the display we'll see tonight is a semantic stretch. I've copied a forward I got about the debate that I think everyone should be aware of:

*****Connie Rice: Top 10 Secrets They Don't Want You to Know About the Debates

The Tavis Smiley Show, September 29, 2004 ยท After weeks of political wrangling, Sen. John Kerry and President Bush will square off for the first of three key presidential debates. Both camps have agreed to an elaborate, 32-page contract that spells out everything from the size of the dressing rooms to permitted camera angles.

But the controversy over the debates threatens to overshadow the events themselves. Some citizen groups complain that the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) isn't as non-partisan as it should be, and that Kerry and Bush won't be pressed on urban issues. Commentator Connie Rice says that's just the tip of the iceberg, and she's got another Top 10 list
-- this time:

Top 10 Secrets They Don't Want You to Know About the Debates.

(10.) They aren't debates!

"A debate is a head-to-head, spontaneous, structured argument over the merits of an issue," Rice says. "Under the ridiculous 32-page contract that reads like the rules for the Miss America Pageant, there will be no candidate-to-candidate questions, no rebuttal to your opponent's points, no cross questions or cross answers, no rebuttals, no follow-up questions -- that's not a debate, that's a news conference."

(9.) The debates were hijacked from the truly independent League of Women Voters in 1986.

"The League of Women Voters ran these debates with an iron hand as open,transparent, non-partisan events from 1976 to 1984," Rice says. "The men running the major campaigns ended their control when the League defiantly included John Anderson and Ross Perot, and used tough moderators and formats the parties didn't like. The parties snatched the debates from the League and formed the Commission on Presidential Debates -- the CPD -- in 1986."

(8.) The "independent and non-partisan" Commission on Presidential Debates is neither independent nor non-partisan.

"CPD should stand for 'Cloaking-device for Party Deceptions' -- it is not an independent commission on anything. The CPD is under the total control of the Republican and Democratic parties and by definition bipartisan, not non-partisan. Walter Cronkite called CPD-sponsored debates an "unconscionable fraud.'"

(7.) The secretly negotiated debate contract bars Kerry and Bush from any and all other debates for the entire campaign.

"Under what I call the Debate Suppression and Monopolization Clause of the contract, it is illegal for the candidates to debate each other anywhere else during the campaign," Rice says. "We need a new criminal law for reckless endangerment of democracy."

(6.) The debate contract effectively excludes all other serious presidential candidates from participating in the debates.

"This is what I call the Obstruction of Democratic Debate Rule, which sets an impossibly high threshold for third-party candidates... Where are we, Russia? Isn't Vladimir Putin wiping out democracy in Russia by excluding all opposing candidates from the airwaves during his re-election campaigns? Most new ideas come from third parties -- they should be in the debates."

(5.) All members of the studio audience must be certified as "soft" supporters of Bush and Kerry, under selection procedures they approve.

"It's not enough to rig the debate -- they have to rig the audience, too? The contract reads: 'The debate will take place before a live audience of between 100 and 150 persons who... describe themselves as likely voters who are soft Bush supporters or soft Kerry supporters.' We should crash this charade and jump up in the middle to declare ourselves hard opponents of this Kabuki dance."

(4.) These "soft" audience members must "observe in silence."

"Soft and silent... In what I'm calling the Silence of the Lambs Clause of this absurd contract, the audience may not move, speak, gesture, cough or otherwise show that they are alive and thinking."

(3.) The "extended discussion" portion of the debate cannot exceed 30 seconds.

"Other than the stupidity of the debate contract, what topic do you know that can be extendedly discussed in 30 seconds?"

(2.) Important issues are locked out by the CPD debate rules and party control.

"Really important but sticky or tough issues get axed, because the parties control the questions and topics," Rice says. "For example, in 2000, Gore and Bush mentioned the following issues zero times: Child poverty, the drug war, homelessness, working-class families, NAFTA, prisons, corporate crime and corporate welfare."

(1.) Fortune 100 corporations are the main funders of the CPD-sponsored debates, and the CPD's co-chairs are corporate lobbyists.

The CPD is run by Frank Fahrenkopf, a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, and Paul Kirk, a top gambling lobbyist," Rice says. "And the biggest muliti-national corporations write the checks that fund the CPD -- Phillip Morris, Anheuser-Busch and dozens more. The audience may have to be silent and motionless, but the corporate sponsors can have banners, beer tents, Budweiser girls handing out pamphlets protesting beer taxes -- a corporate-sponsored circus to go along with the Kabuki Debates. Could we get a more fitting description of our democracy?"*****

Yup, scary. I sat in on the moveon.org teleconference last night. I listened over the internet, and it was amazing to watch little dots come-up on a map of the U.S. as people logged on. A smattering across the country, concentrated on the East coast, of over 3,000 people. Seven of us were tuned in from Tompkins County, New York. At the end they had a call out for volunteers, whether you live in a swing state or not, to help with phone calling for the leave-no-voter-behind initiative to turn out 440,000 voters for Kerry in swing states. The poll of people who volunteered came up on the screen. 3000 volunteers and only 33 had said no, they couldn't volunteer by the time I logged off. I guess I had expected more people, but there was a second confrerence running later in the evening for West coast people. Definately a reason to be hopeful.

Mac is one of the 500 professional organizers they've hired for the task. He's based in Philly, very near where he grew up, and is responsible for 25 precincts and turning out 44 voters in each precinct. A lot of responsibility, that seems to be weighing heavily upon him. I'm driving down this weekend for his birthday to cheer him up. I coudn't be prouder to know that he's a key player in what I see as one of the largest and most important grassroots initiatives of the decade. I find it amusing that his title is "professional organizer" considering the disarray in which he left, and usually leaves, his things at home. But that's just uxorial chiding. I couldn't be prouder of him for taking on this task. I know how hard he's working and the deep obligation he feels to all moveon.org members who are counting on him to make a difference in this election. If YOU are a moveon.org member help him out and volunteer your time, even if you're not in a swing state, by offering to make phone calls to recruit volunteers in swing states. Sign up to volunteer here!

23 September 2004

So I was sitting at my kitchen table, having my dinner (hummus, whole wheat crackers and orange juice) listening to NPR, reading The New Yorker, and feeling so mainstream. A man on NPR does a piece critizing the lack of racial diversity in New Yorker cartoons. I flip through the magazine. He's right. I wonder if his polite critique will change anything.

The news moves on to the much talked about influence of political blogs. And I started thinking about this poor little blog that I've neglected for the last few weeks. While I'm not one of the influential political bloggers, my ears perk up anytime I hear or read something about blogs. Hey, that's me! I'm a blogger. I'm a pulbisher in the blogging community and I have a group of readers that care enough about what I have to say to visit my site and leave comments (even if sometimes that group is limited to my loving mother.)

I have lots of things I'd like to talk about from the last few weeks: things from my environmental ethics class and how Shelly Kagan's Normative Ethics has given me a new tool to examine truth telling in fiction; incidents from the wood construction class I'm taking; new insights from my Women, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership class; and so much more. I finally bought a computer. My first ever. I'm getting high speed internet at home, also for the first time ever. Hopefully this will mean more time for this space, more time for writing, more time for me. I AM a blogger.

05 September 2004

Everything has been settled. The ombudwoman told me that she spoke with the professor. Apparently he co-owns a tract of land and a camp in the adirondacks with 13 other veterans, many of them veterans of WWII. For nearly the last half a century these men have gotten together twice a year to fix-up the place. The men are aging and can't do all the repairs on the place themselves, so my professor has taken it upon himself to bring in a new crop of young men to help with the more labor intensive tasks. The ombudwoman said he didn't seem to understand her explanation of how offering a weekend for men only was disadvantaging his female students. She asked him if he had daughters, and he does, but apparently even that didn't make him understand why he couldn't only invite men to go on the trip, or why the women in his class might take offense to not being included.

At any rate, he canceled the trip for men only. The e-mail explaining the cancellation went like this, squeezed in between a bunch of other class info:

"Note about the Adirondack Weekends. Due to unexpected consequences the 1st planned "Guys Only" Weekend of 17-18-19 September has to be scrapped. I had hoped for a different response. This will eliminate some helping hands at camp that weekend but we'll survive.

Please plan on attending the following weekend starting Fri. 24 September. Sorry for the inconvenience this may have incurred and I certainly meant no harm when offering the option."

A weak apology, at best. And the first part, "I had hoped for a different response" sounds incredibly accusatory of whichever female(s) put a stop to his original plans. Like he was expecting everyone to just be OK with his blatant discrimination. No apology or explanation in class either, which brought him down another notch in my eyes. Really he's just a sad old man living in the 1950's. What can you do with such people?

His manner is reminiscent of every high school ag teacher, shop teacher, and FFA (the acronym for the group formerly called the Future Farmers of America) advisor I've ever had. He stands on a raised platform in Riley Robb 105 pontificating on the ills of taking shorcuts during the cement mixing and pouring process. His gender insensitive language irks me (You 'guys' might be doing this commercially someday, so here's what you gotta remember...). I've always got questions and I'm never shy about asking them. He doesn't take the time to really understand the question being asked, and hardly ever explains things to my satisfaction.

(As a side note, I think every teacher should surround their explanations to questions with two statements. First the teacher should say, "Good question," the explanation should follow, and at the end of the explanation they should ask some variant of, "Does that answer your question?" This way of answering questions validates the students question, encourages more questions, and shows the teachers genuine desire to help a student understand a concept.)

It's hard to engage with the material when he seems so removed from the class, so unwilling to interact, and not at all concerned with his students' understanding of the material. In addition his quizzes over the material are rote memorization from a study guide, which has the exact questions that will be on the quiz. Completely useless for long term retention or mastery. (List 5 positive qualities of cement)

I'm also hyper aware of how I'm reacting to him as a female student receiving information from a grey-haired, old man. I think the class would have an entirely different feel if it were taught by a woman. I have this assumption, whether it's valid or not, that the men in the class know much more about the subject than I do. That they have more experience, that they aren't asking questions because they know it already. I don't know how valid this assumption is. I know there are varying skill levels in the class among the men and women. It's hard to shake the stigma, though, that I don't know as much about carpentry as a man just on merit of our sex.

Lab has so far been great. The professor is his usual macho self, but the men in my class have been great. Being in a shop situation with young, male students at Cornell University is so different than being in shop in high school with boys who were, for the most part, not planning on attending college. They care about quality, they don't make offensive jokes, they are safety conscious, etc. They are everything 16 year old boys are not.

More thoughts to come.