11 May 2012

Jeff Flake's War on Political Science

Here we go again. Another member of Congress has decided to introduce an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act which would ban the National Science Foundation from spending money on political science research. And if this story seems familiar, it should. I wrote about Senator Tom Coburn's (R-OK) amendment to the 2010 CJSRA Appropriations Act which would have done the same thing back in October 2009 in my post Is Political Science a Science? You can read the particulars of that fiasco by clicking on the link, but the gist is, Sen. Coburn submitted the amendment, which read, "None of the funds appropriated under this Act may be used to carry out the functions of the Political Science Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation."

So two nights ago, attached to the 2013 CSJRA Appropriations Act (HR5326), Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ06) submitted House Amendment 1094: "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to carry out the functions of the Political Science Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation." Eerily similar to Sen. Coburn's amendment, which failed to pass in 2009. Earlier that day, Congressman Flake attempted to cut over $1.2 billion from the NSF budget in order to save taxpayers from purportedly frivolous scientific research studies in everything from biology to sociology to astronomy, and tried to convince the chamber that NSF spending should be brought back to 2008 pre-stimulus levels (the 2011 NSF budget was approximately $6.8 billion - about the same level as the country of Singapore spends on their National Science Foundation). 

In advocating for the anti-political science amendment, Congressman Flake, who holds a Master's degree in political science himself, it must be said, called government funding of political science research "a meritless program" (Congressional Record H2543) and espoused that since 75% of the grants being given by NSF were going to large universities, shutting down the NSF political science grant programs wouldn't make much of a difference anyway. On behalf of the 25% minority (and the 75% majority regardless of the numbers) I beg to differ. 

Congressman Flake eventually got his anti-political science amendment to pass, posting on his Facebook page that 
"You'll be pleased to know that my amendment to the Commerce/State/Justice appropriations bill to prohibit more spending on questionable political science studies passed early this morning by a vote of 218-208. One of the studies taxpayers recently funded, for $200,000, asked 'Why political candidates make vague statements.' I guess it's because...well, because, well, our children are our future?... Enough said. Good riddance to this waste of your money!"
The study Congressman Flake cites is NSF Award #0921283, given to a pair of researchers collaborating on the research question of "why do candidates employ ambiguity, and what are the consequences?" (Please note that nowhere in the award do they ask the question "why do candidates make vague statements?" This is ambiguity on the part of Congressman Flake.) The award was handed out in 2009 (not exactly recently, given that most research studies of this nature take less than two years to complete) for $216,884.  The project involves undergraduate and graduate students helping practice doing scholarly research and employs potentially innovative new methods for experimentally studying campaigns. Surely the congressman, with his Master's in political science, realizes that the advancement of research and scientific knowledge depends on studies like these.

What's even more interesting to me is that Congressman Flake has singled out the NSF political science research as something that is going to save taxpayers money. In fact, it's not "good riddance to this waste of your money" at all. Congressman Flake's amendment doesn't cut any money from NSF's budget. It redirects the funds that were going to be spend on political science research questions to other hard science or social science research questions. Instead of "Why political candidates make vague statements," the money could be going to "Peer Influence and Aesthetic Taste" (Award #1203426 researching if people's opinions are influenced by what other people think) or "Major and Minor Element Ordering in Minerals" (Award #8318674). Both of these studies have just as much - or in Congressman Flake's case, just as little - merit as any political science research funded by NSF. So why the war on political science?

Speaking of money, I wondered just how much money was going to political science research from NSF in the first place. I mean, Congressman Flake had to be targeting political science because it represented some major source of research funding that stands out against the backdrop of all other research, right? To get something in your sights, you first have to be able to have it large enough to see. According to NSF's website, the organization made 74 grant awards in fiscal year 2011 (FY2011, going from October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011) for a grand total of $6,229,523. Out of the entirety of the FY2011 NSF budget, this represents 0.00092% of all NSF appropriations ($6.8 billion). Congressman Flake is targeting political science research that represents nine-ten-thousandths of one percent of the budget. (I did try to find statistics showing whether or not this was greater than or less than the amount the US Congress spends on Post-it notes and pens in a given fiscal year, but such numbers have eluded me. I suspect the Post-its win, though.)

Sadly, this cut-everything Congress decided that NSF's political science funding deserved to be transferred to other departments, and late Wednesday night (Thursday morning in DC), H Amdt. 1094 passed the House of Representatives by a roll call vote of 218-208 with five not voting. Five Democrats sided with 213 Republicans to pass the amendment, while 27 Republicans and 181 Democrats had a little more respect for scientific research.

(The Republicans who voted against the amendment are: Aderholt, Bartlett, Biggert, Bilbray, Cole, Dent, Dold, Fitzpatrick, Gibson, Grimm, Hanna, Hayworth, Hurt, Johnson (IL), Kelly, King (NY), Latham, Lucas, Platts, Reichert, Renacci, Stivers, Thompson (PA), Tiberi, Tipton, Turner (OH), and Young (IN).)

This has been Congressman (and current Senatorial candidate) Jeff Flake's big problem for me: he tends to focus on issues which sound great to fiscal conservatives - cutting poli-sci money from a big government science foundation - but which really make absolutely no difference in the grand scheme of reforming anything in Washington DC. Even the Congressman's quest to eliminate earmarks, while a good idea, hasn't really resulted in saving the taxpayer any money. That money that would have been hidden as an earmark in some giant bill somewhere simply got shunted off and spent on some other program that Congressman Flake probably had just as much of a problem with. I keep wondering why the most conservative member of Congress - as he is consistently voted by a variety of groups - doesn't use his influence and his stature to tackle entitlement reforms for Medicare/Medicaid, cut spending to the bloated Department of Defense, or work on the other actual problems this country faces instead of spending time and energy trying to redistribute money for political science research!

The congressman calls many of the studies done by NSF "meritless" and questionable. I have to wonder who he is that he can prognosticate the future and know what research will be valuable and what will not. I also wonder why he thinks it is a good idea for the federal government to be in the business of telling people what science is questionable. That kind of thinking leads in one direction: toward government control of ideas and knowledge, and you get "1984" all over again.

Congressman Flake has disappointed me with this amendment, but there is hope. The Senate and the House will have to meet in conference committee to hash out the differences between their passed versions of the Act. It is possible that the amendment will be taken out during that time. I urge everyone who reads this to contact Congressman Flake's office at the numbers below and make your voices heard. It might not be a bad idea to let your own congressmen and women know your thoughts as well! Together we can help beat back a bad idea.

Jeff Flake:
Washington, DC office: 202-225-2635
Mesa, AZ district office: 480-833-0092
Mailing Address: 240 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515

Feel free also to leave comments below. I will work to forward any I get to the congressman's office myself.

23 March 2012

Calico Joe

Warren Tracey, an egotistical, aging, mediocre pitcher for the New York Mets toes the rubber as Joe Castle, the Chicago Cubs' record-smashing phenom rookie hitter digs in at the plate, having clobbered a ball over the wall at Shea Stadium in his previous at-bat. Warren's son, Paul, sits in the stands, watching as his father proceeds to deliver an intentional beanball to the head of Joe, ending a brilliant, albeit short, career in a split second. Thirty years later, whatever happened to Joe Castle and Warren Tracey?

John Grisham's latest novel, Calico Joe, tells the sometimes sad, but ultimately heartwarming story of that fateful moment in baseball lore and Paul Tracey's journey to reconnect the two men to bury the hatchet that killed their careers. 

I was sent a copy of Calico Joe to read and review on this blog (free of charge in exchange for my honest opinions), and being a huge fan of John Grisham's courtroom thrillers, I jumped at the chance to see his take on America's pastime, and my favorite hobby. He doesn't disappoint, with a combination of allusions to all the great players of the 1970's - Juan Marichal, Rick Monday, Don Sutton, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver, Willie McCovey - and the great stories and stat lines of the all-time greats - Mays, Mantle, Cobb, Williams, DiMaggio - as I was quickly immersed in the story. Everyone with a passion for the game will immediately connect with Paul Tracey, the kid who collected all the Topps baseball cards, memorized his favorite players' statistics, kept scrapbooks with stories about the Great Ones, played Little League, and displayed a love for the game in its most pure form. 

Then came that game, and that pitch, and in an instant not only was Paul's love of the game ripped from him, but his father became the most hated man in baseball and alienated his already broken family. As a passionate fan of the game myself, I can only imagine the confusion and upset that little boy must have felt - even as a fictional character - having that one constant, solid passion torn from him in the milliseconds it takes to throw a ball 60 feet, six inches. It would certainly have crushed me. 

On the other hand, Paul's journey thirty years to the day later to reunite his father with Joe Castle and get him to apologize for hitting him and destroying not only his career, but his ability to live life is very much a reclamation of that youthful passion, and I got the sense that Grisham was trying to convey that a love for the game never truly dies. For Paul, I suspect it was just as much a chance to close a chapter in his own life that had never been resolved as it was to give his father a chance as some small measure of redemption for a life squandered.

For those big fans of John Grisham, Calico Joe is written in much the same tone and style as The Last Juror, which I absolutely loved as well. It's told as well as any Southern story could be, taking its time while capturing the imagination and making you hesitate to put it down, even in the wee hours of the morning. And at just under 200 pages (for my galley copy, anyway), it's easily a book that can be read and fully appreciated in just a couple of sittings. I would recommend Calico Joe to fans of John Grisham's novels (especially if you enjoyed Bleachers), fans of baseball who want to see another side of the game and its consequences, and to people who simply like to read heartwarming tales of love and forgiveness. 

Grisham wins again in my honest opinion. Calico Joe was an exceptional read, and one that will stay on my bookshelf for many years to come and be reread often.

Novel Info:
Calico Joe
by John Grisham (website)
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (release date April 10, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0385536070
ISBN-13: 978-0385536073

I was sent an advanced reading copy (ARC) of this book at no charge to me in exchange only for my honest review on this blog from Doubleday publishers. All opinions are my own. The photograph is my own, and is of the ARC; the published hardcover first edition may be different.

12 March 2012

March Updates and a Diamondbacks Charity Event Invitation

Wow... it's been a very long time since I started making regular posts again. Now that baseball season's back in session, I'll have to get back on the ball! In the meantime, lots to talk about!

Spring Training is in full session here in Arizona, and it seems that plenty of fun abounds in the Valley of the Sun! Albert Pujols is now an Angel training in Tempe, the Cubs continue to use their stadium at Hohokam Park, but talks continue for Wrigleyville West which could be open in a couple years, and the Oakland Athletics would renovate and take over Hohokam in their wake. The Arizona Diamondbacks are back for their second year at the beautiful Salt River Fields, and many players are having standout springs, including pitching phenom Trevor Bauer, Daniel Hudson, and new Diamondbacks Trevor Cahill and Jason Kubel. I love it! The weather's been gorgeous for baseball!

In non-sports news, my library science degree is progressing. I just passed the halfway point of the program in January, and I'm taking a couple classes this semester - Equity of Access (which I am kind of strongly disliking) and Intro to Archives (in which I am having a good time). I'll be starting a 30-hour service learning project at a local public library very soon for the Access class; about 8 hours a week for four to five weeks.

I'm still looking for a job. I had a great interview at the tail end of December for a paid internship for 2012 with the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records' Library Development Division, but I was ultimately not selected. I've also been keeping an eye on jobs with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and of course the Internet job sites, but nothing new has really happened for me yet. I'm really hoping to find something by May so I can afford to remain in my apartment.

In fun news, I was selected to receive a galley (or advanced) copy of John Grisham's newest novel "Calico Joe" which hits bookstores in April so that I can read it and write up a review here on this blog, so look for that in the coming weeks. I should be receiving the book pretty soon in the mail. I love John Grisham's stuff... I have read and own all of his books, so this is kind of an exciting opportunity for me!

Last but not least, the guys at my local sports card shop, Hot Corner Sports Cards in Mesa, Arizona, are hosting five Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers (Brad Ziegler, Craig Breslow, Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Cahill, and Pat Corbin) for an autograph session on March 24th from 10am to noon or so. We're hoping to have lots and lots of support, because $20 gets you autographs from all five players, and 100% of the proceeds go to Brad Ziegler's personal charity, Pastime for Patriots. This charity provides free tickets to Arizona Diamondbacks games and educational scholarships to children of military parents, and is well-worth supporting! Check out the website for information: www.pastimeforpatriots.org and follow @bradziegler on Twitter for details and more opportunities to help.

I'm helping promote the charity event, so if you can make it out, we would LOVE to have lots of people showing their support! Hot Corner Sports Cards is located at 6750 E. Main St., Suite 112, Mesa, AZ 85205 (on the NW corner of Power Rd. and Main St. behind Arby's), and for details and information, you can call HCSC at 480-396-0442 or tweet to @HotCornerCards! Let your DBacks-loving friends know all about it!

07 March 2012

Welcome to Baseball: 2012 Style

Ladies and gentlemen, the most wonderful day of the year is here (no offense to Christmas, of course): the first day of Spring Training baseball games for the Arizona Diamondbacks! There were actually a pair of games for the team Saturday thanks to a schedule that started us out with a split squad game at the Giants and at the Rockies at Salt River Fields. Of course, I hate to miss an Opening Day, so I was there first in line at Salt River Fields that morning from 9:30am.

Game time was 1:10pm, and the gates opened at 11:00am. Last year, I had to settle for being number 2 in line behind a big Colorado Rockies fan (D, the Rockpile Ranter), and I'd gotten there earlier than 9:30am, so I was expecting a line when I showed up, but fortunately, there was none. I brought a book to read (Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura), and though I got through a couple chapters, some good friends showed up - Anya and April, two of the biggest Diamondbacks (and Rockies) fans I know. I also met Cindy, the Dbacks' self-proclaimed "flag lady" and a very nice woman who loves the team and the game. Anya gave me prints of some photos she'd taken of me and Ian Kennedy, Joe Saunders, and Daniel Hudson:

The group of us ended up chatting until the gates opened, then I parted ways and rushed around to the left-field berm to try to catch some baseballs. I was there no longer than a minute when I caught my first ball on the fly from an unknown Rockies player. Then, Michael Cuddyer hit a bomb which I grabbed on a bounce. Another Rockies guy smashed one right at the wall, and though I reached for it, I was in an awkward angle and booted it off the heel of my glove, and the ball dropped back onto the field. The very next time Cuddyer was up, he smashed another one at me, and I caught it uncontested on the fly. I had a chance at one more ball, but I backed off at the very last moment to let someone else catch it (if I hadn't I'd have surely smashed into him). There were no other homers hit near me after those initial 15-20 minutes, but I stayed out there until the end of BP anyway.

It was a sunny, cloudless day with a light blue sky, and I, of course, got sunburned while snagging balls and then in my seat, despite it only being about 64 degrees outside (with a high of 72). I grabbed a delicious Salt River Burger (with green chiles and Swiss cheese) and fries with a Pepsi to drink, and had lunch in the sun. However, while I set up my scorecard in my AWESOME seat 11 rows directly behind home plate, the shade slowly crept over me from the aptly-placed roof overhangs, and by the time of first pitch, I was cool and comfortable.

Trevor Bauer started the game by pitching a pair of perfect innings, with a pair of strikeouts to Dexter Fowler and Tyler Colvin. His slider/sinker was really on target during the 21-pitch outing, and he looked really comfortable on the mound. The Diamondbacks made a little noise in the first inning with a single by Aaron Hill and a Paul Goldschmidt walk, but a Geoff Blum groundout killed any rally.

In fact, neither team scored until the fourth, when Goldschmidt drew a second walk and advanced to third on Blum's double down the left-field line. Gerardo Parra grounded out, scoring Goldy, but a groundout by Matt Davidson and a Henry Blanco strikeout prevented any further scoring. Sadly, the Rockies answered right back, with a walk to Michael Cuddyer by reliever Patrick Corbin. A balk call moved Cuddy to second, but since Colvin drew a walk, it didn't matter. Corbin was then lifted for Chris Jakubauskas (you're impressed I spelled that right, I know) who promptly gave up a game-tying single.

For Diamondbacks pitchers, though, the combination of Jakubauskas, Bryan Shaw, Mike Zagurski, Jonathan Albaladejo, and Evan Marshall saw a nearly perfect 5th-9th innings with only one single in the ninth being erased by a caught stealing. It was STELLAR pitching, and hopefully a harbinger of many great things to come this season. Even in the 10th and final inning, Mike DeMark faced just four batters, a single to Wil Nieves being erased on a fielder's choice later.

Offensively, the Diamondbacks ended up with eight hits in the ball game, but could never seem to string them together to effect a rally. After the run scored in the 4th, singles by Jason Kubel and Parra were erased on caught stealings, a pair of walks to Matt Davidson and Chris Owings were stranded, and singles by David Winfree, Davidson, and Adam Eaton all failed to produce runs, two of them with runners on base. Thanks to their pitching, they were able to silence the Rockies, but they never roared the way they did down the September stretch and produced offensively.

The game ended a 1-1 tie in the tenth (spring training rules do not allow for additional innings). I could not have asked for a nicer start to the season - a gorgeous, 72-degree, sunny day with a light breeze from the south, the smell of freshly-cut green grass and oh-so-delicious-looking ballpark treats (I really will have to try the fry bread next time I go) linger yet in my nose. If that day had been the one for me to depart this world, I would have done so with a smile on my face.

Here's hoping for a great Diamondbacks season!

16 January 2012

Diamondbacks Twitter Feeds

I had someone ask me the other day for a list of the DBacks' Twitter feeds I follow, which is now quite longer than when I last posted a list back in February 2011 here.

This is the current list of Diamondbacks players, staff, former players, and newsfeeds I like:

Current Players and Prospects
@CY24_7 - Chris Young, Dbacks center fielder
@JUS10UP10 - Justin Upton, DBacks right fielder
@seanpburroughs - Sean Burroughs, Dbacks AAA/MLB infielder
@RRoberts14 - Ryan Roberts, DBacks third baseman
@DHern_30 - David Hernandez, DBacks pitcher
@J_saundo - Joe Saunders, DBacks pitcher
@bradziegler - Brad Ziegler, DBacks pitcher
@blummer27 - Geoff Blum, DBacks infielder
@DHuddy41 - Daniel Hudson, DBacks pitcher
@zach_duke - Zach Duke, DBacks pitcher
@wademiley36 - Wade Miley, DBacks AAA/MLB pitcher
@BarryEnright54 - Barry Enright, DBacks pitcher
@JR_Brad - J.R. Bradley, Class-A South Bend pitcher
@KeithCantwell - Keith Cantwell, Class-A South Bend pitcher
@RobbyRow_12 - Robby Rowland, Rookie Missoula pitcher
@ArchieBradley7 - Archie Bradley, Rookie Missoula pitcher
@helmet2222 - Matt Helm, Class-A South Bend infielder
@BauerOutage - Trevor Bauer, Class-AA Mobile pitcher
@CharlesBrewerAZ - Charles Brewer, Class-AA Mobile pitcher
@TylerSkaggs23 - Tyler Skaggs, Class-AA Mobile pitcher
@cowings - Chris Owings, Class-A+ Visalia shortstop

Former Players
@JarrodBParker - Jarrod Parker, former DBacks prospect (traded to Athletics 2011)
@MicahOwings - Micah Owings, former DBacks pitcher (non-tendered 2011)
@stevefinley - Steve Finley, former DBacks outfielder (retired)
@orlandohudson - Orlando Hudson, former DBacks second baseman (San Diego Padres 2011)

@DbacksBaxter - D. Baxter, The most fan-friendly mascot in sports!

Front Office, News, and Other Misc. Accounts
@DHallDBacks - Derrick Hall, President and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks
@dbacks - Official Twitter account for the Arizona Diamondbacks
@dbacksbooth - Official Twitter account for the Diamondbacks broadcast booth (Mark Grace and Daron Sutton)
@DbacksInsider - Official Twitter account for the DBacks Insider Magazine (Director of Publications Josh Greene)
@DbacksProspects - Official Twitter Account for the DBacks Prospects' MLBlog
@jimyers2 - Jim Myers, Diamondbacks Communications Coordinator
@ShaunRachau - Shaun Rachau, DBacks Vice President of Communications
@jewisdbacks - Jason Lewis, Senior Producer for Fox Sports Arizona's DBacks coverage
@TaraTrzinski - Tara Trzinski, Manager of Community Programs for the Diamondbacks
@AZSnakepit - The AZ Snakepit fan site and news account
@JackMagruder - Jack Magruder, FoxSportsArizona.com DBacks beat writer
@nickpiecoro - Nick Piecoro, Arizona Republic DBacks beat writer
@tscore_dbacks - DBacks realtime game updates (not officially affiliated with the team)
@ScoutDbacks - DBacks minor league scouting information
@SteveGilbertMLB - MLB Dbacks writer

The list keeps growing every time I run across more DBacks players and staff that I can follow, and doesn't take into account the multitude of other fans I follow on Twitter! I encourage everyone using Twitter with an interest in the Diamondbacks to follow the above people!

04 January 2012

Iowa 2012

Photo Finish in Iowa Caucuses - Just a Handful of Votes Separates Romney and Santorum for Victory in Iowa

Tonight, the first salvo in the war for the 2012 Republican Presidential Nomination was fired in the midwest state of Iowa between seven candidates who, by most accounts, are a very lackluster Republican field, and for whom the only thing they have going for them is that President Barack Obama is failing to shine worse than they are. As an interesting tidbit, the Iowa caucuses tonight came down to an historical photo finish between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. The 1936 South Dakota primary was previously the closest primary-season vote in United States history, but that was broken tonight as just a handful of votes separated first and second place tonight - just 8 votes, to be exact! No one in Iowa can claim that a single vote doesn't matter anymore! Let's meet the candidates, in the order that they finished in the Iowa caucuses (vote totals are the final numbers from CNN as of 12:40am on January 4th):

First place: Mitt Romney - 30,015 votes
The former governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney is also a former business leader and private sector guru and 2002 Winter Olympics organizer. Romney may well be considered the front-runner for the Republican nomination, Iowa's caucuses notwithstanding. However, he faces uphill battles as a Mormon (as it is uncertain how the Christian coalition would coalesce around him as a nominee) and has a reputation as a "flip-flopper." As Governor of a liberal state from 2003-2007, Romney passed a version of a single-payer healthcare system, then in 2011, began to criticize "ObamaCare," the very similar healthcare law passed by the Obama administration. Nonetheless, without a strong showing by Ron Paul in New Hampshire and South Carolina and the continuation of Santorum's current success, Romney is likely still the presumptive nominee for the GOP.

Second place: Rick Santorum - 30,007 votes
A former Senator from Pennsylvania who served two terms, he is well-known for hyper-Christian stances on social issues, from arguing for the teaching of intelligent design in public schools to extremely strict views on gay rights and marriage issues. Santorum was projected to do well in Iowa, where his Evangelical Christian viewpoints play well in the Bible Belt middle of the state. The question for him remains whether or not the rest of the country can get behind a candidate who projects no affability on economic issues or foreign policy issues. If this election cycle were about social issues, Santorum would be more noticeable a candidate, but in a race about the economy, I foresee Santorum being shifted to the side when the real primary races get going.

Third place: Ron Paul - 26,219 votes
Ron Paul is the representative for the 14th Congressional District of Texas in the US House of Representatives, and is known as a hyperconservative (to the point of being a Libertarian) candidate on pretty much every issue. Paul is a fan of diminishing the influence of the US government, getting rid of government agencies, returning to the gold standard for the economy, pulling US troops out of bases around the world, advocating a policy of US isolationism, and other things that might sound nice to Tea Party folks but which would never actually happen if he were to become president. Despite a healthy and well-oiled grassroots machine to help him, Paul is generally viewed as too extreme to actually win against Obama in a general election. It remains to be seen if his supporters (generally younger voters) would actually turn out to support him in the remaining primaries.

Fourth place: Newt Gingrich - 16,251 votes
Gingrich was the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives in the 1990s, and has worked closely with Congress as a consultant in the years since. Famed mostly for his "Contract with America" in 1994, Gingrich is a candidate who carries a lot of baggage. On social issues he has little solid ground to stand on, having been divorced three times and having had an affair with a House staffer as Speaker. On fiscal issues, Gingrich is extremely knowledgeable, but his brash personality and his routine tongue-lashings of the media and the other candidates makes him a toxic person to face off against Obama in a general election.

Fifth place: Rick Perry - 12,604 votes
The current Governor of the State of Texas, Perry is a George Bush-esque neoconservative who might have had a chance at putting up a fight against Mitt Romney in the primaries if not for a series of mistakes in debate performances, the most famous of which being the 53-second mangling of his attempt to remember the names of three government agencies culminating in the now-epic "Oops" moment that seems to have overrun his entire message. Tonight, instead of heading to South Carolina as planned after coming in 5th place in Iowa, Perry announced that he would be heading to Texas instead to "re-evaluate" his campaign. Generally, this has been taken by the reporters covering Iowa as the first step toward Perry's announcement that he will be withdrawing from the campaign trail.

Sixth place: Michelle Bachmann - 6,073 votes
Congresswoman Bachmann from the 6th District of Minnesota garnered only about 5% of the vote from Iowa, a surprisingly low vote total for her campaign. She is a staunch Tea Party member, having founded the Tea Party Coalition in the House of Representatives in 2010. She is viewed currently as extremely likely to be the next to drop out of the race after the poor showing tonight.

Seventh place: Jon Huntsman - 745 votes
Huntsman, the former Ambassador to China, did not campaign in Iowa at all in favor of heading straight to New Hampshire to prepare there. He garnered under 800 votes tonight, and while he is perhaps the most levelheaded conservative candidate, he is not viewed as a real contender. He would need a heck of a strong showing in New Hampshire to have any hope of keeping his campaign alive.

15 November 2011

Occupy Wall Street EVICTED

This morning at 1am New York time, the protesters in Zuccotti Park at the Occupy Wall Street movement were evicted in a surprise police raid. Approximately 200 were arrested, and the park is being cleared of all their trash, tents, generators, and other assorted stuff - much of it will be stored at a sanitation department garage in the city and will be able to be picked up by protesters later.

But that's not the most interesting part (though I am happy to hear that police finally got their act together and started enforcing the law). The most interesting part is that at about 6:30am EST, Judge Lucy Billings issued a temporary restraining order AGAINST New York's position that when the park reopens after cleaning, protesters will be allowed back into the park, but without camping equipment (sleeping bags, generators, tents). There is a hearing taking place right now (11:30am EST) to determine if the injunction will be upheld, but in the meantime, police have barricaded the park and are not allowing anyone inside.

The reason behind the raid is a string of "Lord of the Flies"-esque behaviors that have been popping up in the tent city (and other similar tent city protests across the country) in which people are getting sick (tuberculosis at Occupy Atlanta), getting hurt (an EMS worker in New York), being put in dangerous situations (rape and sexual assaults in numerous protest camps) and getting killed (suicide in Occupy Oakland). These makeshift cities are becoming slums and ghettos and are dangerous not only to the health and safety of the protesters, but restrict the free use of the parks by non-Occupy citizens and endanger the safety and health of people in the area. Last month, Occupy protesters shut down the Brooklyn Bridge, preventing the flow of traffic for a short time.

This morning at some point, Trinity Church offered some of its land up for protesters to use while the Zuccotti Park legal issue is under way. Despite the court order to allow protesters to re-occupy the park, police still are barricading the area and not allowing protesters to return. This may be because the judge who issued the order, Lucy Billings, has been forced to recuse herself from hearing arguments on the TRO. It's a very interesting situation. I'm watching the live streams from the protesters right now online, and will keep updating this blog with major new developments.

Apparently Occupy Wall Street is not the only Occupy protest group being affected today by raids. Multiple sources report that San Diego, Portland, Berkeley, and now the Occupy Phoenix group are currently being raided by police as well. Arrests are being made in all locations, and camping gear is being tossed out. Just goes to show that squatting in public parks isn't okay for the homeless, and it isn't okay for protesters. Apparently Canadian Occupy protesters are also being evicted, but since it's Canada, no one cares. (Just kidding Canada... you're like a little cousin. We care on Christmas and birthdays.)

UPDATE 10:32am EST 11/16/2011
My final update on this post. At approximately 5pm New York time, the new judge assigned to hear and rule on the Occupy Wall Street protester's demand to be allowed to camp in Zuccotti Park ruled against OWS. He said in his decision that the OWS protesters did not show sufficient cause to prevent him from keeping park rules enforced. Protesters were allowed to return to the park beginning around 7pm EST, but were not allowed to bring in tents, sleeping bags, or large bags or backpacks. People who were lying down and trying to sleep in the park were woken up and removed. Interestingly, all of the live streaming video which has been active for two months now has been shut down for OWS on both LiveStream and UStream, and the Occupy channels are now replaying video of the eviction in lieu of live broadcasting. I believe this may be because there are now so few protesters actually back in the park that the OWS leadership no longer wishes to show the broken protest right now. In other areas, Occupy Berkeley protesters retook their squatting area with more sleeping bags and tents (to the delight of corporate tent- and sleeping bag-makers), vowing to remain steadfast. Occupy Phoenix raids turned out to be no more than catch-and-release efforts for people who were sleeping in the park, and a few tents and things got removed as "abandoned" property. Other cities also got crackdowns, but as of this morning, there was no major news that I found about any of them. Oh, and Canada: evictions, crackdown, something, something. (We love you, Canada! Really!)

OWS has vowed to try to reimagine their protest strategy. I read one article talking about how protesters were getting so much more concerned with maintaining their camp that their political agenda was falling by the wayside and their message was being lost. Perhaps this will, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg put it, force protesters to "occupy [Zuccotti Park] with the power of their ideas" as opposed to their tents. We shall see.

31 October 2011

Happy Halloween 2011!

I didn't get a chance to do all the fun Halloween stuff I wanted thanks to being sick for the past few weeks (yes, weeks.... it sucks). But I wanted to wish everyone out there who reads this a very happy Halloween! I hope you all have fun tonight and stay extra safe!

18 October 2011

Why I'm NOT Part of the 99%

You've all heard it, you've all seen it. For the past month at the time of this post, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been staged in New York, and it has spread not only to cities around the United States, but also to cities around the world. I've been reading up a lot on the protests lately to find out where I stand on not only the issues, but in relation to the political philosophy which binds these people together.

To put it bluntly, I'm frustrated and I'm angry with politics and with politicians, but not in the same way as the Occupy protesters. They call themselves a part of the "99%" - that caste of people who don't make millions of dollars a year, who don't own stock options, who don't get big bonuses, who don't have titles like "CEO" and "President" and "Chairman." They feel like all their grievances are the fault of corporations and big businesses, that the government is letting them down by not redistributing wealth to give the poor an equal share of this country's money. They're named after the statistic which says that the top 1% of wage-earners gets all the breaks in this life, while the rest of the population gets stuck in the mud.

I know how they feel, and it's part of why I'm torn. I have essentially been unemployed for the past three-plus years. I have had jobs during that time, but they're nothing to hang my hat on and call a career: summer jobs, part-time minimum wage employment, seasonal stuff, and two-and-a-half years substitute teaching. I was part of the group of people who had reached a threshold where they stopped looking for work because the economy prevented it; where businesses turned their noses up at our resumes because they screamed "unemployed;" and where I barely had enough money to do anything, let alone pay back my student loans from my college degree or pay my fair share of rent at my parents' house.

On the one hand, I should be just as fed up and frustrated with the lack of the government to fix the economy. I should feel like risky investment with my (albeit few) tax dollars is an improper use of funds, and I should be extremely mad about government spending money it doesn't have on grandiose projects like universal healthcare when people like me can't afford basic necessities without putting ourselves in extreme debt. I get that, I really do. But I'm not part of the 99%; nor am I a one-percenter. To call myself a part of their group would be to admit that what they're doing is right. That the Occupy [Name of City] protests actually are akin to the sit-ins of the 1960s and the American Revolutionary War and the desire to get America out of Vietnam. It's not.

I went to these protests, like I blogged about a few days ago. I saw who these protesters are and watched them mill around with their signs, chant about how the economy sucks, and try to get petitions signed for this agenda or that. These protesters are the same stereotype that people always associate with a liberal agenda: people flashing peace signs, wearing tie-dye, waving rainbow flags, displaying Che Guevara and pot leaves on their t-shirts, studded with piercings and inked with tattoos. They are the old hippies from the 60s and 70s, living out the reincarnation of the Vietnam-era protests, the middle-aged who remember how cool it was when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, and the young, who believe that emulating the stereotype from years gone by will somehow give their grievances meaning.

The Occupy group is disparate and they are hateful. The amount of vitriol spewed even at the "peaceful" Phoenix protest against the government, the president (and former President Bush), conservatives, liberals, police, militia, banks, the Fed, Jan Brewer, Congress, Sen. Pearce, etc. is just wrong for getting a message across. They seem to think that they operate in a vacuum - that by shouting at the moon, they'll affect changes in policy. It's not true. The Occupy group, if you ask them, will tell you that they are the epitome of "democracy in action." Democracy is more than just being the loudest in the room. It's a complex system with laws, rules, judges, elections, political parties, and lots and lots of boring activities which test the foundations of the patience and civility required by those processes.

I am not part of the so-called 99% because I believe that to effect changes - real, meaningful changes - in the way our system works, you have to work within the system. It takes dedication, principles and morals, an ability to see beyond the black-and-white of decision-making, and patience. A whole metric ton of patience. Change doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen because a few aimless people decide to yell at the world for their problems in life down the barrel of a loudspeaker. This era requires, even demands, that discourse to get anything done be civil and that it be crafted carefully. Citizens need to stand up, not to scream and shout and bash whatever they disagree with, but to play a real part in the process of democracy. To bring new ideas to the table, not chant away that we want to banish the old ones. Only then will this democracy upheld in word but not in spirit that the Occupy protesters hold so dear be truly fulfilled.

16 October 2011

2011 MLB Playoff Updates 3

Congratulations to the 2011 National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals!

Instead of making one hyper-long post about the ALCS and the NLCS, my Update #2 post was exclusively about the ALCS and this one is about the NLCS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers. Much like the Texas-Detroit series, which the Texas Rangers won on Saturday night, this series was also an epic battle between two very evenly-matched teams.

Game one in Milwaukee's Miller Park was a back-and-forth affair until the Brew Crew put things away with a six-run fifth inning thanks to a two-run double from Ryan Braun, who also homered in the game, and homers from Prince Fielder and Yuniesky Betancourt. Jamie Garcia went just four innings for the Cardinals, giving up six of their nine runs, as the Brewers won the game 9-6.

In game two, the Cardinals got mad, then solved the mysteries of Miller Park. Albert Pujols led the team with three doubles and a line-drive home run to left, and the 6-7-8 hitters in the lineup went 6-for-14 with three runs scored and five RBI. Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder homered in all of the Brewers three runs, but the 12-3 victory by the Cardinals could not be overcome.

Taking the series to St. Louis and the beautiful Busch Stadium, where game three saw the Redbirds put up four runs in the first inning thanks to a trifecta of doubles by Jon Jay, Albert Pujols, and David Freese. An RBI single in the second by Yuniesky Betancourt followed by a sac fly to right by Yovani Gallardo, and then a Mark Kotsay homer in the third put three runs on the board for Milwaukee, but both bullpens performed spotless work in the 6th through 9th innings. The Cardinals held on to beat the Brewers 4-3. 

Five doubles by the Brewers in the middle innings of game four gave them a four-to-two advantage as Randy Wolf went seven innings and struck out six, giving up two runs. Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford closed out the game as the Cardinals were limited to eight hits. David Freese picked up another two hits for the Cards, but it wasn't enough as they lost 4-2.

With the Series tied, the ALCS became just a best-of-three situation, and the Cardinals made the most of it in game five. Taking advantage of the worst defensive play in at least a decade (errors by Jerry Hairston, Rickie Weeks, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Johnny Estrada) including Weeks' third error this series, the Cardinals picked up five runs - just two earned - off of Brewers started Zack Greinke in 5 2/3 innings. Pitching for the second time in the championship series, Jaime Garcia went into the fifth inning and gave up just a single run. The Cardinals bullpen held the lead, giving up only two hits and one walk over the final 4 1/3 innings of the game as the Cardinals took the hammer in the 7-1 victory.

Game six was a must-win situation for the Brewers, but they failed to capitalize. The Cardinals were off to a rocket-fast start in inning number one as David Freese hit a three-run home run to put them up 4-0. A Rafael Furcal solo homer in the second, an Albert Pujols homer in the third, and a two-run single by Allen Craig gave the Cardinals added insurance. Another error by Jerry Hairston didn't help matters, and the Cardinals won the game - and the National League Championship - by a final score of 12-6.