Musings of the Great Eric

Archive for March 2007

The Republicans are screwed, according to Pew

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A couple of days ago Pew Research Center published a study on trends in core political attitudes, showing a substantial shift towards traditional Democrat and liberal positions since 1994. The immediate implication is that the political future looks pretty good for Democrats in 2008 and beyond.

According to the study, the attitude towards the role of government has been shifting since 1994, when the Republicans took over, and social conservatism has seen an accelerated decline. It begs the question of why though, and that’s what I’m curious about. The sentiment against the Republican party is understandable enough, but why have core political values been shifting like this?

Try as I might I can’t think of a good explanation for it (and I’ve had this half finished post open all weekend trying to think of one). So I’m basically throwing it out to any readers or passers-by of this blog. Any theories you’d care to leave in the comments would be much appreciated.

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Written by Eric

March 26, 2007 at 9:03 am

Posted in Culture, Politics

Criminalizing Being a Teenager

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This pisses me off:

A growing number of shopping malls are turning away teenagers during evening hours unless they’re accompanied by adults.

Restrictions at some malls apply every night, others on Fridays and Saturdays. Hours and ages vary. The rules are meant to reduce fighting and ensure that adults and families don’t avoid malls where rowdy teenagers take over stores, corridors and food courts.

The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., was the first U.S. mall to create an “escort policy” in 1996, says the International Council of Shopping Centers. The idea has caught on: 39 malls now have limits on teenagers. Fifteen implemented such policies in the past two years and dozens more are considering them.

I hate this default assumption that all teenagers are criminals; it bothered me when I was a teenager and my attitude hasn’t changed since. It’s the last acceptable and perfectly legal form of discrimination. Some teenagers cause trouble, so rather than punish the behavior we punish someone for being a certain age; that’s the very definition of discrimination and contrary to the ideals of a supposedly free society.

Further, while this might solve the problem for the malls – it does nothing to solve the root problem and in fact exacerbates it. The root problem is that there’s just nothing to do in the suburbs but go to the mall. These monuments to consumerism are unfortunately the new public squares; and without any real recreational options for teenagers, it’s no surprise that they become mallrats. It’s a signal that there’s something profoundly wrong with our society.

More than that – what’s left that a teenager can legally do with their spare time? They can’t go very far, since they lack transportation. They don’t have a lot of cash. In my experience, police will harass any group of teenagers hanging out in a public place, irrespective of whether they’re doing anything criminal. It seems that society just wishes they’d stay in their parents’ basements until they turn 18, at which point they’ll go outside for the first time.

When we treat all teenagers like criminals, irrespective of their own personal behavior, what are we teaching them? Is it any surprise that so many become socially maladjusted?

Written by Eric

March 15, 2007 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Culture, Society

There’s just something delightful in this headline

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Zogby: Bush Job Approval Up to 35%

When 35% represents a marked improvement over where you’ve been at, it’s really saying something…

Written by Eric

March 14, 2007 at 7:27 pm

Posted in Politics

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Captain America dead at 66

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Captain America, defender of liberty, freedom, and justice and using a shield as his only weapon against the threats of fascism and communism, is being killed off in the last issue of his namesake comic book.

Art imitates life.

Written by Eric

March 8, 2007 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Comic Books, Entertainment, Politics

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Can a holy book be written via wiki?

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If the Book of Genesis is any indication the answer is a glorious yes:

2:17. Darwin said, “Let there be change from generation to generation in a population’s inherited characteristics, or traits. Let minor random changes in the genes that encode these traits cause organisms to have slightly different traits than their parents. Let organisms with traits that help them to survive and reproduce tend to have more offspring. In doing so, they will pass more copies of these beneficial traits on to the next generation. Let advantageous traits become more common in each generation, and let disadvantageous traits become rarer.”
2:18. God said, “Well, Charles, it’s a nifty idea, but I’m working on a one-week schedule here, and what you’re proposing will take at least double that time. Maybe even triple. Sorry.”
2:19. God said, “Let the earth put forth grass, herbs yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with its seed in it, on the earth;” and it was so.
2:20. The earth brought forth grass, herbs yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with its seed in it, after their kind; God smoked the grass, and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, futher on.

Written by Eric

March 7, 2007 at 11:37 am

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Swiss Army Accidentally Invades Liechenstein

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I can’t possibly say anything that could add to the awesomeness of that headline. Here’s the link to the story.

Written by Eric

March 3, 2007 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Politics

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The AP, Paris Hilton, and Orwell’s memory hole

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One of the greatest crimes that the news media commits against society is “celebrity news”. There is no universe in which Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, or Anna Nicole Smith has ever done anything newsworthy, yet they’re covered with an almost gleeful zeal, and often get better coverage than, you know, stuff that matters. Democracy depends on the fourth estate to inform the electorate and enable them to make rational decisions at the voting booth. Every time that attention is given to Britney Spears’ haircut over, say, the economy or corruption in Congress, our constitution dies a little.

The worst offender on the celebrity side of this is Paris Hilton – who’s done nothing in her life other than raise “media whoring” to an art form. So when the AP says there’s a boycott on coverage of Miss Hilton, even a temporary one, there’s a part of me that cheers. And I’m glad to see I’m not alone in that:

Also by then, an internal AP memo about the ban had found its way to the outside world. The New York Observer quoted it on Wednesday, and the Gawker.com gossip site linked to it. Howard Stern was heard mentioning the ban on his radio show, and calls came in from various news outlets asking us about it. On Editor and Publisher magazine’s Web site, a reader wrote: “This is INCREDIBLE, finally a news organization that can see through this evil woman.” And another: “You guys are my heroes!”

However, while a world where Paris Hilton isn’t news is one I’d love to live in – there’s a scary side to this. The most striking thing about this isn’t the newsworthiness of celebrities getting traffic tickets, but rather what it highlights about the news publishing process itself. This is a demonstration of just how easily the news, and therefore public discourse, can be manipulated. Just as the AP (among other news organizations) created the Paris Hilton media phenomenon, the AP can also make Paris Hilton effectively disappear for millions of readers. If coverage of her were to simply stop, it would be as if she stopped existing, to the vast majority of the public anyway.

That might not sound too scary when it comes to Paris Hilton, but as one person quoted in the article mentioned, what if they decided to ignore North Korea? Or the evidence against the existence of WMD’s prior to the Iraq War? (oh, wait…)

Now, I don’t think we’re on the verge of an Orwellian nightmare here. Even if the AP did permanently stop covering Paris Hilton, there’s no doubt others would pick up the slack. So what the AP prints (or doesn’t) has minimal impact in the grand scheme of things. But I still find something unsettling in it – the mere possibility of a memory hole is a scary thing, regardless of how much I agree with what’s being put down it.

Written by Eric

March 3, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Media, Politics