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Journal Journal: "Can America Survive?" by Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth

I just finished reading "Can America Survive" by Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth. Basically, the book is meant to be a criticism of the extreme hatred that some on the left have for Republicans. The focus is only on the extremists, rather than the moderates, which is important because many liberals would be horribly offended by this book if taken in the Coulter-O'Reilly-Limbaugh "all liberals" view. Personally, I classify myself as a fiscal conservative with a liberal lean on social issues, so YMMV.

The book starts out strong with economic and environmentalist principles and how people abuse these metrics to push an agenda. The book also contains a really harsh look at what Marxism and communism did in the last century (~100M dead and the trashing of several countries' economies, educational systems, and civil liberties) that fires a shot across the bow of anyone who suggests that communists "meant well."

The middle of the book is filled with conjectures surrounding the psychological state of the hateful left. I'm aware that Phil DeMuth has a degree in psychology, but this seemed like a bunch of name calling, despite the fact that the research they criticize (with funding from the National Science Foundation, no less) is far worse. It makes me question how categorizing conservatism as a mental illness passed the peer review process of scientific journal publication.

In short, the authors suggest that throughout United States history, we have generally progressed towards the right thing. We have done stupid and immoral things along the way, but we are slowly progressing towards racial and gender equality and mutual prosperity. Given the global alternatives, the United States is a great place to live. For example, people should realize that if we're arguing over whether or not DVDs can be legally played under Linux in our country, then we have obviously solved the issues about feeding our people (a majority of Americans are obese), protecting them from external enemies (9/11 notwithstanding), providing gainful employment and universal education, and other fundamental needs that billions of the human race will never enjoy. We may not agree with our politicians' views and are encouraged to actively oppose their policies, but we should never deny the legitimacy of our country and how great a place the United States has become.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Impatience leads to disappointment

I've been reading "Can America Survive?" by Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth. It's interesting because, unlike many of the people on both sides of the argument, these authors provide lots of current and historical data to support their claims. Furthermore, Ben Stein is an economist, so he actually knows what he's talking about when he talks money. The book takes a few cheap shots at liberals, but the book is full enough of statistics that it maintains a slightly-right point of view instead of the full-on O'Reilly brainwashing. (Man, I hate that guy.)

The basic idea that I get from reading this book is that Americans are just too impatient. We want the world to be exactly like we want right now and forget the fact that some things take a really, really long time to fix. Case in point, it took the USA 80 years to end slavery, 140 years to grant womens suffrage, and 180 to pass civil rights legislation, but we want Iraq to do it tomorrow. Maybe it's a little heartless, but this whole situation sounds a little hypocritical to me.

Disclaimer: What do Michael Moore and Pat Robertson have in common? They both pander to mindless sheep. Believe it or not, many Americans lie between these two extremes and make up their own damn minds.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Friends and Foes

Been marked a friend? Thanks for being a voice of intellect in the cesspool of retarded comments. I just want to give bonuses in my preferences to people who make sense.

Been marked as a foe? It was probably something you said. :)

United States

Journal Journal: The USA and International Visas

I'll admit it. I have a slightly different way of looking at things. I lived at Camp Zama, Japan (Tokyo area) for three years and the southern USA for another twenty. I've seen wildly different cultures and feel that I can take pretty much whatever gets thrown at me.

Then, I talk to my office-mate at school and hear about how he can't go home. Apparently, Chinese students who return to China sometimes cannot get return visas even to complete their degree. He looked for a way around that by trying to get visitation visas for his parents, who are well-educated and reasonably successful, to visit Indiana. Their visas were denied.

He asked me why that happened. I tried to explain some of the reasons why the USA does some of the things that it does, but it just sounds stupid when I say them -- increased security due to terrorist threat (his parents are in their 60s), drag on the economy (they're successful), looking for immigration (have no interest in leaving their hometown), etc. While I understand why the US government does these things, I still can't see why he is trapped here, alone, for what is going on four years.

We also talked about Chinese and American relations. It was interesting to see what he thought about the whole thing. Sure, it's difficult when one side is communist and the other side is democratic (okay, republic... but not many people know the difference, anyway). He just hopes that the communists might yield a little freedom for the average Chinese people to gain American favor. It really gives you a perspective on what we do have here, as much as the Slashdot crowd complains about it. We can't mod our X-Boxes, but the Chinese can't complain about their government.


Journal Journal: Starship Troopers

Okay, I'll admit it. More often than not, I would rather watch a movie than take a long time reading a book because time is not something that I have in abundance. I own the movie Starship Troopers and think it is one of the better guy movies out there: guns, hot chicks, and really goofy propaganda videos.

That said, I went out to my local bookstore and picked up Robert Heinlein's book of the same title, just because. I have to say, it is one of the best books I've ever read. I think it's amusing the way Heinlein pokes holes in democracy and communism alike in ways that weren't an issue when he wrote the book in 1959. It also has some really good lines:

(On the practice of incarcerating juvenile delinquents and later punishing them as adults, rather than adminstrative punishment in the first place) "Suppose you merely scolded your puppy, never punished him, let him go on making messes in the house... and occasionally locked him up in an outbuilding but soon let him back into the house with a warning not to do it again. Then, one day you notice that he is now a grown dog and still not housebroken -- whereupon you whip out a gun and shoot him dead." -- J. V. Dubois

"'Peace' is a condition in which no civilian pays any attention to military casualties which do not achieve page-one, lead-story promenience -- unless that civilian is a close relative of one of the casualties. But, if there ever was a time in history when 'peace' meant that there was no fighting going on, I have been unable to find out about it." -- Johnnie

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ginger and Dan's joke

I heard a funny joke today.

A teacher asks her elementary students a math question, "Two birds are sitting on a fence. A man shoots one of the birds. How many are left on the fence?"

A boy raises his hand and replies, "None. One fell to the ground, and the other flew away at the noise."

The teacher responds, "Actually, the answer I was looking for is 'one,' but I like the way you think."

The next day, the boy comes to class and asks the teacher a question: "Two women are sitting in an ice cream parlor eating ice cream cones. One woman is licking her cone. The other woman is sucking on the top of her cone. Which woman is married?"

Being in such an awkward position, the teacher takes a guess. "The one who is sucking," she replies.

The student laughs. "Actually, it's the woman wearing the wedding band... but I like the way you think."

User Journal

Journal Journal: Teaching goals

When asked in my teaching methods class for my opinion about my personal teaching philosophy, I responded with:

To crush one's students, to see their grades driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their parents.

No one got it. Just goes to show you that some people (read my Ph.D. classmates) are just too smart for their own good. :) Everyone should watch Conan the Barbarian at least once!

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