So Let it be Written, So Let it be Done!

May 14, 2010

Michael Eric Dyson Kicks Ass Again

Filed under: kamakula,politics — kamakula @ 2:10 pm

Is there ever a time this guy is not prepared. He is a model for what people should do before going on TV – make sure you are prepared with your facts and concise smart responses. Check it out:


February 22, 2010

I am Tired

Filed under: blogging,grad school,kamakula,politics — kamakula @ 2:46 pm
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I am tired of a lot of things for a lot of reasons. I dislike the financial juggling act that has been my life since January 2006. I thought after working full-time for a year, I would finally be free of all that. However, that turns out not to be the case. I’d hopes that even first quarter 2010 may be the time I finally step out of the red so to speak, but that door seems to be fast closing in my face.

I’m tired of the state of our country. Our financial and health systems. The lip service we give to education. The idea that research and engineering and innovation can only be driven by the private sector. I ask you – who drove Boeing and Lockheed to come up with anything? If the US government was not engaged in wars, would they be the powerhouses they are now? Or rather, would the be the American powerhouses that they are now? So much of the technology and innovation we take for granted today has been driven by the federal government. Yes, ofttimes as a byproduct of defense and nation security ambitions but also through basic research.

Did the free market really need a space program capable of landing men on the moon? I think not.

I also want to address my previous post. In case I did not make it clear, I do not support the actions taken by Joseph Stack and in no way condone such violence as a means of expressing his frustration at the world. This tragedy serves as a prompt for discussion yes, but sadly because of the lives lost so horribly and not because violence was the only way to bring it to the forefront. I know I’ve not gone too much into political and related discussion here, but such topics are constantly flitting through my mind being worked for some semblance of rational solutions.

Returning to my main thesis, I am tired because in a couple hours, I need to have the barebones of a conference or journal paper written. The meat of the work has yet to really be done, but to be honest, I should have written 1/3 of the paper by now. I could have written that much. There isn’t much that would go in the abstract or introduction areas that I don’t already now. Certainly not much new will come up in the next couple weeks as a product of my work.

I’m tired because I’m splitting my time between research (which at the moment sits on the back burner), a robotics project, my relationship, and putting together the mess that is my finances. Supposedly starting at the end of this week, I will no longer be unpaid. However, I’ll also start a part time job where I’ll be working about 30 hours a week. The intersection of time between research, project, and work before the project ends will probably feel worse than this. Maybe. Perhaps once I have an income, I will be able to relax even in the midst of doing other things.

Who knows.

October 11, 2009

I hope Obama Fails

Filed under: kamakula,politics — kamakula @ 12:44 pm
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Even if you hate Obama or don’t approve, endorse, or agree with anything he stands for, you actually have to wish, hope, pray, that he is successful in some degree.

Let us posit that you want Obama to fail. What does that mean? It means that you want his policies and programs to be so badly planned, managed, operated, funded, that it damages the nation. You are in essence actively campaigning for further damage to your country.

Now, if you find yourself saying “wait a minute, I don’t want to country to get worse than it is, just for Obama to do badly so that nobody wants to elect him again”, you are really hoping that Obama is just ineffectual.

So, again, what does that mean? Well, there are two options. One is that Obama maintains the status quo. Things remain as bad as they are. We don’t get better, but relatively speaking, things don’t get worse. Here is the problem with that – if things are the same in 2012 as they were in 2008, the incoming president will have an even deeper hole to dig himself or herself out of. It is not as if we are currently riding a wave of success and prosperity. So, maintaining the current economic conditions is a very very bad idea.

Thus, the only way you can get your wish, that Obama be ineffectual to the point of having no chance at a second term, and yet not have this country worse off is to have Obama be successful. To have him make positive change.

So, seeing as even for those who hate Obama, but love America, you actually need Obama to have some modicum of success, why don’t you just temporarily join hands with us who support him and make that happen. Then in 2012, you can have a go at voting him out of office.

August 14, 2009

On Death Panels, Health Care Reform, and all that Brouhaha

Filed under: kamakula,politics — kamakula @ 9:41 pm

Part of the reason the death panels and other nonsense around congressional legislation is able to flourish is because bills tend to be huge complicated documents written in legal terms that the average person has a hard time understanding from a casual read.

So, when someone else gives what sounds like an analysis after claiming THEY read the proposed legislation, it can be easy to believe. Especially when Republican elected officials who should know better do nothing to debunk any stupid myths floating out there.

Many are wondering why doesn’t Congress write these things quite simply (say, 10 pages or less) in easy to understand language. Well, they can’t. Though some of us think we know how the legislative process works, I don’t think most really know what legislation really needs to accomplish.

Some quick points. We cannot just pass a law that says everyone should have insurance. We have to detail who, when, where, and how. We need to explain who pays for it, who makes sure that everyone is ensured, how we actually educate people that they need to fill out forms to get insurance. We need to close loop holes that insurance companies use to deny coverage, write specific laws that protect teaching hospitals in NJ which can be quite different from legislation needed for teaching hospitals in WA.

Ensuring that everyone has affordable health insurance that is available WHEN they NEED it is not as simple as ensuring everyone has insurance. There are plenty of people who have insurance, pay premiums, then get diagnosed with cancer and discover their insurance doesn’t cover it.

Part of the issue is that our laws are interpreted by exactly what the writers intended, and not the spirit of the law. Even after abolition, blacks were still treated as second class citizens. Despite the fact that our founding documents recognize that all persons are created equally. And even if we allow that prior to the 13th amendment, US law did not recognize blacks as complete persons, from that point all, that technicality no longer existed. Yet, instead of obeying the spirit of the law (the constitution and bill of rights), it took (and is still taking) over 140 years of struggle for minorities to achieve some semblance of equality.

There are lots of other examples, did we really need a court case to establish miranda rights? Do we really need court cases to adapt copyright laws to the digital age? We shouldn’t unless we interpret laws strictly to apply in the manner that they were written, instead of recognizing they should adapt to our current times and reality.

The other thing is specificity. Our laws, as much as some would like to claim are based on the ten commandments. . . they are not the ten commandments. Thou shall not kill. Pretty simple right? No exclusions there. As far as I’m concerned, no matter how or why you kill someone, you are in violation of that commandment. Yet we have 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree murder. We have grand and petty larceny. I list those to illustrate that our laws are written to prohibit or enforce specific directives.

We don’t enforce a thou shall not kill or thou shall not steal directive. Arguably, we can’t. Certainly, we live in a world where these things are not simply black or white, there is a lot of gray involved. So we write laws. Laws that define what is black, and levels of punishment depending on gray level.

Similarly, like it or not, health care bills are written this way. We cannot really enforce a law that says, “you cannot cheat your customer”, one could always argue that is too vague or what you did isn’t really cheating? Remember the smart ass in school who would try and talk the teacher out of why what he did really wasn’t wrong but right? Our system works with laws that criminalize specific -very specific behavior. And as such, our congresspeople, in order to ensure that their goals are met, must write legislation that is complete and includes all of these minutia.

The final things is that crafting such legislation is akin to having to specify the complete design of a car. Not only the design and all supporting safety and other documentation, but you must also specify where the car will be built, where the parts come from, how it will be paid for, how it will be marketed.

You can imagine if we had public debate on design specifications, someone could cause trouble by claiming some subsection included a provision that allows honda to forcibly restrain your baby in the back seat of a car which could kill them if the car got too hot. Ridiculous statements that can be taken out of context or flat out lied about if the general public is unable to parse the language the specifications are written and thus must rely on someone else who they trust to explain it to them.

Let’s be careful.

July 16, 2009

What does it mean to be a “wise latina woman”?

Filed under: kamakula,politics — kamakula @ 6:26 pm
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These words have dogged Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor for a long time. Even in her testimony before congress, she still didn’t quite address this to her detractors satisfaction. Instead, they argue that she sidestepped the question. Part of the reason she has been unable to answer this properly and too her defenders, is that simply to her and her defenders, the charge of racism makes no sense. In fact, I think that most people are simply just deliberately misinterpreting her statement for political reasons.

For the few that are truely confuddled, here is what is going on. In conversation, we sometimes use terms that reinforce our identity. For example, someone might hear me say “I’m a strong black man”. Furthermore, I might make a statement (which you’ll see is quite similar to Sotomayor’s) such as “I would hope as a strong black man, I’d be fully capable of lifting that gigantic boulder”. Does that mean that I feel only black men could lift that boulder? No.

A literal reading of that statement would imply that not only would you have to be black, but also strong, and a man to lift the boulder. Clearly though, a boulder is an object that any person, regardless of race or gender, can lift, so long as they are strong. Yes weaklings, suck on it.

So, similarly, arriving at the correct judgement is something that anyone, regardless of race or gender, is capable of doing, so long as their life experiences have been such that they can be considered to be a wise person.

When Sotomayor says “wise latina woman”, she is emphasizing that her achievements are open to other latina women. That becoming a well known and respected jurist is something within reach of a latina women. Her purpose is so transparent (to other minorities at least) that none of us even have to think twice about what she means or why she chose the words she did.

That white males have a problem with this highlights a theme which is common in any of my politically driven posts, that there exists white (conservative – at least, they are the ones most vocal) men who either refuse to accept or deliberately ignore that minorities still struggle in this country. That young black, asian, latina men and women grossly lack solid role models. One man or woman is not enough. Even now, people attempt to marginalize the achievements of Obama at the same time that they cry that his presidency is proof that we are beyond race.

No. Not at all. A handful of minorities in positions of national power and influence is not enough. We must have minorities richly permeating all aspects of society. If we had a gathering of all living presidents and vice presidents of the united states, how much do you think Obama would stand out?

This sounds strange, but until we have a society where a minority president, senator, mayor, CEO does not stand out by simply entering a gathering of his or her peers, we are not “post-racial”. Furthermore, there is not reason that we should. Differing cultures bring different, sometimes unique perspectives on this exact same life. There is no reason we should be in a hurry to squash our diversity and hide it under a rug.

There are those who look at her nomination as just another case of affirmative action. Well, you are right. But I have a question, if you feel that “anyone” should be able to judge, that anyone, regardless of background has the capacity to become a capable jurist – why should it be a problem that we want a supreme court that better reflects the diversity of culture, gender, and background that is our country?

Furthermore, by a lot of objective standards, Sotomayor is the most qualified person to ever be nominated to the Supreme Court. Even if you disagreed with that, you nobody disputes that she is highly qualified. So, why is there a big issue that she was chosen, instead of a white male (given the dominance of said demographic of supreme court appointments).

Seriously, any arguments on the sake of qualifications presuppose that the nomination should go to the person most objectively qualified for the job. Here is the thing though. If we actually had an fully objective way to measure judicial quality, we wouldn’t need to nominate Supreme Court jurists. We would just pick whoever was the current top of the list. The fact that we nominate people to a position implies that the person doing the nomination has the leeway to consider issues beyond a purely objective “can he/she do this job”.

What world do these people live in?  Like it or not, if we want to be a post-racism society (not post-racial), then we must be prepared to have minorities experience what it means to be our presidents, our supreme court justices, our senators, and our CEOs. And guess what, attempting to justify NOT appointing Sotomayor on the basis of having the Supreme Court reflect the exact racial distribution of our country is not being post-racism. If you can only tolerate minority control and ownership up to the point that it matches their percentage of the population, we still have a problem.

Ponder this – why should it feel normal to see one or two black faces in a group of 30 other white ones, but not the reverse?

June 5, 2009

The Armchair Genius

Filed under: drama,politics,rant — kamakula @ 8:59 am

That’s right people. I am an armchair genius. I sit in front of my tablet, read the news or watch it, read blogs or online magazines, and think about how much smarter, how much more self control, how much more morally consistent I am than everyone else. It is not hard to believe, after all, the world revolves around me. And as such, I’m glad you’ve humbled yourself today to catch even a small nugget of my intellect.

Yesterday I read about the Stanford Prison study. There have been other psychological experiments which yielded similar results but the conclusions drawn here were applied to an article discussing torture and Abu Grahib and the kind of situation that can make otherwise “good” people go “bad”. I will state now that in my infinite wisdom, I have already determined that “good” and “bad” are very subjective. That good and bad are not fundamental qualities of a person, but just a general consensus of how we (and they) view the results of their actions and motivations.

For example, the issue of torture. I’m sure there are many who believe what they were doing is right. That their methods were justified by their results, whatever that may actually have been. That by “keeping us safe”, they should have a get out of jail free card. But on my end, I just see torture. And as with anything that does not directly affect me, I feel that our laws should be immediately and impartially applied to them.

However, there are those that passionately feel the opposite. It is tempting to think they are idiots, immoral, unethical, lacking of humanity. But mayhaps they are not. I used to believe that ignorance played a major role in such things. It certainly can neatly explain why racism still exists and how many conservatives act like it doesnt. It neatly explains how they can earnestly decry any responsibility for what minorities have gone through and continue to experience in this country. It is how they can make statements like “What other country do you people have this level of rights and standard of living” without seeming to realize that until things are equal, truely equal, I would rather work to make America the place where minorities are treated and regarded as equals and not a place where it’s the best we can expect to have in the world. The best shithole amongst shitholes is still a shithole. Seems simple enough to me.

So, in my infinite wisdom, I thought, given that I have wisdom and knowledge and understand these things and they don’t, it is clearly an issue of ignorance. They just don’t know what I know. But perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe they do know what I know. Yet their life story has crafted such a widely divergent viewpoint, their current situation presents such a different outlook, I fear that no amount of knowledge can bridge the gap.

My thoughts turned to relationships. I was in a long term (3+ years) relationship a few years ago. One that my parents very much objected to when they found out about it. At the time, I wondered why they didn’t understand, why they didn’t support me, but now that it is over and time has passed, I’ve come to see some (but definitely not all) of their rationale (one does not become an armchair genius overnight you know). My being involved, no matter how pragmatic and impartial I think I can make my self, irrevocably changes they way I view things.

One conclusion of the study is that in situations like the prison experiment, our mind attempts to deal with two conflicting ideas and what wins out is that of conformity, the decision that is in line with those around us, those with whom we have a very close relationship, those with whom are in authority over us. I’m not saying that other people on the outside are always right, but providing a framework for this logical leap – which is that relationships can be the same way. We can at times deal with conflicting emotions, desires, and thoughts. But we stay because of inertia. Things have been moving in a certain direction, other people expect things of us, we have obligations, we want to do what seems “right”, so we suppress those contrary feelings and move on.

It can be easy for me to then say, the things that I allow myself to do should be those, for better or worse, that don’t generate internal conflict. My current academic/career choice and direction has been largely internal conflict free. My relationships, not so much. Buying my car, conflict free. Buying a ring, not so much. The problem is, I recognize that certain things in life, by their very nature, cannot be completely removed from conflict. Or perhaps, the reason is by my very nature, I cannot experience them without internal conflict.

My personal views about long term relationships have undergone a drastic shift in the past couple years. In 2007/2008, while I was single, all I wanted was an end to that status. To have a relationship with someone that I care about, respect, enjoy spending time with, and wanted to grow with and allow them to help me grow. In many ways, I’m a very private person. I dislike sharing information about myself and tend not to make what I feel are unneccesary conversations. So, when I am with someone who I can open up to, it means I’m in a very vulnerable state, and as such, that person must be special.

Now that I’m with such a person, my mind wanders at time. Damn the greener grass syndrome. I wonder if I just need time to get it out of my system. A friend of mine had his girlfriend recently leave him because she wanted to be single to discover who she really was. She’s been in one relationship after another almost continuously for the past 6+ years. Is this possible? Can one ever truely satisfy that kind of thirst? I don’t know. I’ve always said that commitment isn’t a feeling as much as it is a decision.

I hate second guessing my decisions. I fear that I can make wrong ones.

By the way, I actually am a good writer. However, my thoughts themselves (at least when not concerned with robotics) tend not to be organized. What allows me to pass english classes is an ability to turn jumbled messes into works of art. Unfortunately for those who came to see art, I feel no such compuction with this blog to clean it up beyond what flows from my mind (and any sanitization to protect my vanity).

April 5, 2008

Racism in our America

Filed under: blogging,kamakula,politics,rant — kamakula @ 12:43 pm
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So many people, specifically white Americans (yeah, I called you out) for various reasons believe that racism doesn’t exist. Or that it should no longer matter. That they are far removed from the actions of their ancestors. It is impressive how ignorant they profess to be on this matter. Yet it doesn’t take a degree in sociology, economics, or some other field to see that racism still exists and is still fundamentally affecting life in the USA today.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve taken great umbrage at some of the words of Pat Buchanan. Here is an excerpt from his blog – a response to Barak Obama’s speech on race:

What is wrong with Barack’s prognosis and Barack’s cure?

Only this. It is the same old con, the same old shakedown that black hustlers have been running since the Kerner Commission blamed the riots in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit and a hundred other cities on, as Nixon put it, “everybody but the rioters themselves.”

Was “white racism” really responsible for those black men looting auto dealerships and liquor stories, and burning down their own communities, as Otto Kerner said — that liberal icon until the feds put him away for bribery.

Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.

Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.

This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.

Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants.

Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.

We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?

Barack talks about new “ladders of opportunity” for blacks.

Let him go to Altoona and Johnstown, and ask the white kids in Catholic schools how many were visited lately by Ivy League recruiters handing out scholarships for “deserving” white kids.

Is white America really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of white America? Is it really white America’s fault that illegitimacy in the African-American community has hit 70 percent and the black dropout rate from high schools in some cities has reached 50 percent?

Is that the fault of white America or, first and foremost, a failure of the black community itself?

As for racism, its ugliest manifestation is in interracial crime, and especially interracial crimes of violence. Is Barack Obama aware that while white criminals choose black victims 3 percent of the time, black criminals choose white victims 45 percent of the time?

Is Barack aware that black-on-white rapes are 100 times more common than the reverse, that black-on-white robberies were 139 times as common in the first three years of this decade as the reverse?

We have all heard ad nauseam from the Rev. Al about Tawana Brawley, the Duke rape case and Jena. And all turned out to be hoaxes. But about the epidemic of black assaults on whites that are real, we hear nothing.

Sorry, Barack, some of us have heard it all before, about 40 years and 40 trillion tax dollars ago.

The biggest thing that gets me, despite the blatant ignorance that permeates the rest of his blog post and even just the amount I quoted is the following:

We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?

The gratitude? The WHAT? You are telling me that I should be grateful to whites for working to give me HUMAN RIGHTS. For working to give me EQUAL RIGHTS. For working to correct a country, a culture that systematically dehumanized, terrorized, and demoralized my people. I thought I was BORN with human rights? I thought that was a fundamental property of being human. There is NO REASON I should be thanking anyone for giving me those rights. Why in the world should I have to thank white people for treating me as an equal? Why in the world should I have to thank white people for treating me as a human being? Why in the world would you even THINK this?

Now, one conclusion is that Pat Buchanan thinks that white people somehow OWN equality and civil rights and have been doling them out to blacks. No Pat. No. That kind of thinking is racist. Yeah people, racism is not just about calling black people “nigger” or talking casually about lynching Tiger Woods, or designating drinking fountains specifically for blacks. It’s also about thinking that whites have a monopoly on the things that the founders of this country supposedly believed belonged to everyone. That they codified, among many different words, as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When you start thinking that I should be grateful to you for giving me these things, then it suggests you think you’re somehow better than me. That something about yourself gives you a greater claim to ownership of these properties, so much so that you had to break off a little piece for poor old me.

In talking with other people about this, I’ve started to think that the face of racism is changing in this country. White people of my generation think that because they don’t use the word “nigger” or that it has become prevalent in usage in parts of our society, because they don’t dislike someone soley because of the color of their skin, because they went to school with me, they think racism doesn’t exist or is no longer a factor. They think they are removed from the affects of slavery, jim crow laws, the state of our union up to and past the passage of the civil rights act barely half a century ago. Just addressing all of these things can take forever. . . luckily, other people have started on this.

So, here is a link to bitchphd’s post on this topic:

This post will also serve as a point for me to refer people whenever I hear things like this coming from them. I know that my people (Americans) perish for a lack of knowledge. As bitchphd points out, you can be well-meaning in your actions and it still be racist. I understand that many people say and think the way they do because that’s how they grew up. Without exposure to any other view points, without any real discussion of history and how that can affect things, without them having to raise children of their own and think about providing for those kids futures, and establishing a legacy for their families, they have no idea how all of this can contribute to still stifling a segment of society.

Now, I’m not saying this should be an excuse. I’m a firm believer in challenging the status quo and fighting for your dreams and ambitions, regardless of the odds stacked against you. However, perhaps I’m among a unique set of individuals, or perhaps it was the combination of that, my parent’s expectations of me, my churches expectations of me, the model I was expected to set from an early age for not only my siblings, but also all the younger children in my church and community, my love of reading that exposed me to a wide world of ideas and stories where young children always fought against the odds to become great detectives, or take care of their siblings, or become mystical heros, that it NEVER occurred to me there was any option other than success. However, I know, because I went to school and church with many people in different situations, that not every child had the opportunities that I had, that even as a CHILD, already saw the lack of progress in their families, their communities, and had already “figured out” that it was going nowhere for them. I think this is the thing that most white people (at least those that I’ve had any discussions on race – which likely greatly skews the sample population) don’t get. For them, their childhood was much like that of mine. Their parent’s insulated them from potential failure and instilled in them the notion that they were unique, special, smart, and destined to do great things.

Anyway, read bitchphd’s post . . . I’m probably going to buy this book sometime soon: I don’t usually buy books – I’m a borrower, but sometimes you need to own one, either to support the work someone has done (like me buying Jon Stewart’s – America, A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction) or in this case, a book that I can read and loan (mostly loan) to other people.

Ooh. . I cannot help myself Pat. How can crime be a failure of any one community? Crime is not committed in a vacuum. As you yourself points out, there is black on black, white on black, and black on white crime (there is also white on white too). The black community yes, needs to step up to work at keeping blacks out of jails. . . but so does the rest of the country. There is a concept that you politicians bandy about when its convenient but clearly don’t understand. The adage “it takes a village to raise a child” does not mean it takes a black village to raise a black child. This entire country must be focused on the kind of work that uplifts everyone. As Obama said, and as some clearly realized when they put the pen to affirmative action programs, our country is strongest when everyone is at their best. At this point, blacks and other minorities are still struggling, achieving and working at lower levels compared to their white counterparts. If you like to pretend that it’s because of some defect in the black, latino, or some other community, and has nothing to do with the current and past policies of the country at large, you’re just burying your head in the sand!

I need to stop this and get to work. . . oh and listen to Eminem’s White America.

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