Saturday, January 30, 2010

A thorough schoolin’

Biden as Sam I enjoyed watching the State of the Union address on Wednesday night. (Picture stolen from Darren’s Facebook page. It made me laugh.) I liked the President's mixture of confidence and resolve and feistiness (you all know I love feisty!). I thought he got back on track with his message of what he wants to undertake in our country, and in the process, sent a clear message to the GOP that if they continue to obstruct every single item that he proposes, they will own part of the responsibility when the American people say that nothing is being done in Washington. Calling out the Supreme Court on their recent decision concerning corporate campaign donations was also a nice touch. (I understand that it is a free speech issue; I hope they can pursue this a little further and make sure there are limits.)

I was happy enough with that speech and his performance. Last night, I read the transcript and watched the video of his meeting with the Republican Caucus on Friday, and I cannot begin to express my sheer delight and utter glee at his response to their questions! This is why your supporters voted you into office, Mr. President, and I'd like to say "welcome back!"

It was masterful. With every lame question thrown his way, each question seemingly designed to make the questioner appear knowledgeable and ready to take on the Evil Socialist, he showed how much the GOP has underestimated him. The thing I liked about him from the very beginning was his incredible grasp of not only facts, but all the nuances of various issues; the guy really does take the time to study the issues and learn about all sides of them. Everyone knows that the most effective debater is one who studies the other side as well as their own, right? Well, not everyone, as was apparent in the stunned response from the right wing. Mike Pence, the moderator (he's from Indiana, but he's not my Congressman, and I don't claim him), actually stopped the session after Obama had gone a half an hour past his scheduled time; Fox News cut their broadcast of the session short. I think that was quite telling.

President Obama2 text As much as many of us would like to see more of these sessions, I'm guessing that it will be a long time before we see another one...if we ever do. Somewhere, someone is asking "Whose bright idea was it to allow a fucking camera in there? Someone's head is going to roll!"

As each questioner approached him with talking point after talking point, he thoroughly dismantled their argument; when they threw out platitudes that we've heard time and time again from ClusterFox and their imbecilic talking heads, he threw them right back in their faces, even calling out one Congressman, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, by telling him, "I’ve just got to take this last question as an example of how it’s very hard to have the kind of bipartisan work that we’re going to do, because the whole question was structured as a talking point for running a campaign." The President was also quick to point out that this is happening on both sides, and I also acknowledge that--I see it happening with some of my own legislators (which reminds's time for more emails to them).

By the way, I wonder if from here on out, all of Jeb Hensarling's friends are going to start calling him Jim? I sure would.

I also think it's time to give the teleprompter thing a rest, folks. People came to him with their questions they had thought about and written out beforehand; he answered them off-the-cuff, with no teleprompter and no notes. The guy knows his shit, you have to give him that.

Obama and GOP2 With the State of the Union and this question and answer session, I believe he has shown that he is willing to listen to ideas from the GOP, but they obviously have to be good ideas, and the numbers have to add up. He outlined some of the ideas that came from the GOP that have been incorporated into the health care reform bill. The GOP continues to say that he is ignoring everything they are saying; that is simply not true (if I may quote Justice Alito). Of course, he's not going to give across-the-board tax cuts, so that someone like Warren Buffett gets a tax cut. Even Warren Buffett has said that he shouldn't get a tax cut! Wealthier Americans can afford to pay more in taxes proportionately, and I believe they should. If middle class Americans believe that a billionaire is entitled to the same kind of tax cut that they are getting, you might want to see your doctor about that brainwashing you have apparently received. That's just sad. Oh, and stand up straight, and get rid of that Vaseline. It's embarrassing to see you beg for it.

The President has effectively placed the onus on the GOP by showing that he's a reasonable guy willing to listen, willing to talk, willing to take phone calls, and willing to compromise in order to reach a consensus in order to get things done. If the GOP continues to block every attempt by this administration to enact legislation, they will only solidify their reputation as the "party of no." Remember, it was GOP Senator Jim Demint who said this about the President's health care reform efforts: "If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him." That doesn't sound like much of a willingness to cooperate to me. That sounds like someone who wants nothing more than to ensure that our President fails in whatever endeavors he undertakes, even if it is to the detriment of the American people. (It also sounds like someone who has their own excellent health insurance.)

There were flashes of humor, and moments of sarcasm. Whether it was backing off of a compliment in order to not hurt one of the attendees' reelection bid, or ridiculing the portrayal of health care reform as a "Bolshevik plot," the Pres was on a roll, and he was having fun. Why wouldn't he? Each attempt to shoot him down (and I give them credit for being a respectful bunch...I guess Joe Wilson wasn't invited) was unsuccessful and was repelled with skill and precision. Why? Because the guy knows his shit.

This is the Barack Obama who engaged and motivated a large segment of the population; this is the Barack Obama we elected.

I have never regretted that I voted for him. After this week, I am even more happy and proud to say that I did so.

President Obama

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Contextual Text

Cherry picking I've always called it cherry picking, although my friend Darren calls it quote mining.

Either way, it's the height of laziness when it comes to debate, argument, and research.

I'm sure that every politician has been subjected to his or her words being taken out of context; in fact, that's a common defense when they are caught making a boneheaded remark. I'm sure that most of us have experienced the same thing, when we've had someone throw our own words back at us (usually with an obnoxious "You said--direct quote!--blah di blah blah") and have to tell them that they took that completely out of context.

The truth is that if one is dead set on proving their point to the exclusion of the facts, they will probably be able to find a quote to support their misguided opinion. I love a good quote as much as the next person, and if it is merely a nice turn of phrase or a sentiment with which I agree, I'll simply enjoy the quote for what it is. However, if I'm trying to build a case for my argument, I make sure that I have a broader understanding of the context in which the quote appeared, as well as the person's overarching philosophy.

For example, do you want to make an argument that Einstein felt that religion had a place in science? Sift through some of his writings, and you'll undoubtedly find a quote buried in there that matches your argument. But if you take the time to do a little research, if you have the intellectual capacity to comprehend the bigger picture, you'll find that he believed no such thing, stated repeatedly that he did not believe in a personal god, and in fact found such a concept "childlike." If he had any inclinations toward faith at all, it was the faith that certain physical truths in the universe must hold true; that is the faith that he spoke of scientists having. Conversely, he wrote of people of a religious bent needing to have faith in the unalterable precepts of science, understanding that such concepts are a given. Einstein wrote of faith in facts, not in unknowable entities. He did not argue that such entities are undoubtedly nonexistent or forever unknowable, but believed that scientific research should seek to understand as much as possible, and that as we continue to seek answers, more arcane knowledge of our universe will be revealed.

Quote mining Einstein had plenty of faith...but not in the widely accepted notion of a personal god. He had faith in science, research, and the knowable and measurable forces of our universe. I find Einstein’s writings about science and religion more philosophical than scientific. Being a scientist does not negate philosophy; however, when I discuss such things with those of like mind, our thought processes lean towards factual musings, not magical or unprovable ones.

Cherry picking and quote mining is fine for when you want an inspiring or fun quote to share, passing along pithy wisdom from Paul Harvey or RuPaul; when you are attempting to put forth a coherent argument, unless you take the time to understand the broader meaning behind a person's words, it will probably come back to bite you on the ass. Sifting through quote sites on the Web can result in a big ol' blob of protein on your face. Egg, I mean. Just ask that mavericky Sarah Palin. Better yet, ask her mavericky ghost writer. In her mavericky Going Rogue book, Palin (exaggerated finger quotes) quoted the legendary basketball coach John Wooden (the jury is out on whether or not he's mavericky):

Our land is everything to us... I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember our grandfathers paid for it--with their lives.

That seems like kind of a strange thing for John Wooden to say, doesn't it? That's because he didn't say it. The actual quote belongs to a Native American activist by the name of John Wooden Legs:

Our land is everything to us. It is the only place in the world where Cheyennes talk the Cheyenne language to each other. It is the only place where Cheyennes remember the same things together. I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember our grandfathers paid for it--with their life. My people and the Sioux defeated General Custer at the Little Big Horn.

Well, that's completely different, isn't it? In this case, not only did they leave out significant portions of the quote, they didn't even attribute it to the right person.

If you really want to put forth a convincing argument, you probably need to spend a little more time learning about things, rather than lazily stringing together something that merely fits your own narrow minded viewpoint. If you don't, you're liable to have some smartass like me make like Prometheus's liver-picking eagle and pick apart your argument.

Kind of like what just happened here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Not-So-Little Ponies

Colts Jeopardy That's right, my Colts have made it back to the Super Bowl, three years after they won it against the Bears. The Jets gave them a good game at first, but I think it's safe to use the word relentless. Yes, just like that, Ponies! (Say it in a Cartman voice, for you "South Park" fans.) Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, two of their main receivers, didn't have big games; instead, Peyton went to a couple of younger guys, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. With four prolific receivers and a great running back in Joseph Addai, they're going to be hard to stop. Oh, and Peyton, of course. Can’t forget about him. heehee

The Saints barely won their game against the Vikings in what had to be one of the sloppiest playoff games I've seen in a while. There were like leventy-leven fumbles and turnovers and it was just plain fugly. Based on the Colts' consistency, the fact that the Colts have been to the Super Bowl before, and the Saints' struggles to win their game, Vegas oddsmakers are setting the early spread at Colts by four. Based on the play I saw in that game, the Colts would handle either team pretty well, but the Saints it will be. I happen to like the Saints, and I think it's great that they're doing well. I know it means a lot to the city of New Orleans, and I'm glad they made it to the Super Bowl. But they're goin' DOWN!

So I've got two weeks to wait before the big game. I'm going to be a basket case.

Who wants to watch it with me? We'll have so much fun as you watch me pace, listen to me hurl epithets, and observe my general and disturbing anxiety. Sounds like a blast, eh? Actually, it was a lot of fun to hang with other friends on Facebook who were watching today. We got sidetracked a few times with discussions of a player being a Mormon, and then Hugh Jackman, but it was all fun.

Yay Colts! I love you guys!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thanks, Mary!

IMG_2060 That would be the Mary of the Bloody variety.

Yesterday it was a party for my pal Jillian (that’s her on the left, and Aubrey on the right). Her birthday is today, but it was also a celebration of her getting her teaching certificate and no longer working at the lab. Congratulations, Chica! I know she's going to do great--she was always wonderful with the students. Wow...I remember teaching her when she was a student at the lab. It was obvious right away how smart she was, and how much she "got" Microbiology. She is one of my favorite people from the lab, and I wish her great success in her new endeavors. She's a peach!

I really had fun, and got to see lots of people that I hadn't seen for a while. I had a good long chat with Aubrey, talked plenty with several others, got caught up on what was happening with folks and a little bit about what was happening at the lab, talked some sports and politics, and had lots of laughs. It was great to see everyone, and like I told someone last night, although I don't miss the daily grind and the stress of the lab, I really do miss all my friends there. *sniff* They really are a great bunch, and I was so happy to see them!

Beth and Jim In fact, I was awfully happy in general. I didn't have much to eat all day, and that beer was mighty tasty. I was feelin' no pain, believe me. I didn't feel too bad this morning, but not 100%...thus the Bloody Mary, which is definitely hitting the spot!

As you can tell from the pictures, I had some Colts gear on, and I'm nervous and excited for today's game against the Jets! Kickoff is in 45 minutes. If I were a nailbiter, I'd be nibbling right now, believe me. ::num num num:: You might also notice that I have several tall friends. It kind of looks like Jillian and Aubrey are crouching down a little bit, doesn't it? Awww, they're trying not to tower over me, isn't that sweet? I think Jim is crouching down, too, because he’s a lot taller than me, more than this picture looks like. I have a sneaking suspicion that he made me laugh and snort right when this picture was taken!

I finished Under the Dome yesterday. I really liked it; there were a lot of great characters (both cool ones and dastardly ones), and I just liked the whole premise in general. Having grown up in a small town, I can imagine all too well what it would be like if it were suddenly cut off from the outside world. (I'm not giving anything away there...after all, the name of the book is, you know...Under the Dome, and the cover shows a town under a dome.) The Stand remains my all-time favorite of his (and pretty much my favorite book of all), and that also has a doomsday, apocalyptic theme, with the extra zip of an infectious disease. Hard to go wrong there! But Under the Dome was very enjoyable, and I recommend it.

You know, something occurred to me when I wrote just now about growing up in a small town, and what it would be like to be cut off from everything. There is a politician in the book who uses his power in the town for ill-gotten gain, and he is...well, he is not a good guy. I'll leave it at that. He reminds me very much of a politician from my hometown of Lakeville, and that politician is Jackie Walorski. If Lakeville were to be cut off from everyone, Walorski would probably try to take over. Talk about a Stephen King horror novel! Now that is some scary stuff!

You might have noticed that I've changed my font. That is thanks to Milwaukee Dan #2, who said that he can't quit me, despite my use of Comic Sans on this blog. After an email exchange, I have decided to leave the Comic Sans behind and go with Trebuchet. I appreciated Dan's honesty, and I'm proud of myself for taking constructive criticism. Believe it or not, I do listen sometimes!

On a related note, thanks to everyone who left comments on my previous entry. They were kind, fun, and funny, and made me smile and laugh. You guys are great.

Now it's time for some football. Let's go Colts...I want to see you back in the Super Bowl!