Author Archive - Josh

About Josh:

I'm Josh--I graduated in 2011 with a degree in Public Policy. I was in charge of the blog from 2009-2011. Thanks for reading!

Hennessy and Harvard President Call for Passage of DREAM Act

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Stanford president John Hennessy and Harvard president Drew Faust have penned an op-ed in Politico calling on Congress to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The law would allow undocumented students who meet certain requirements to be allowed to obtain temporary citizen status so they can get student visas, work in the US, or join the military. The Senate will likely vote on the DREAM Act today.

Hennessy and Faust write:

The DREAM Act would throw a lifeline to thousands of promising students, part of our communities, who, through no fault of their own, face uncertain futures due to their lack of immigration status.

Read the whole op-ed here.

No, Stanford Should Not Give Jim Harbaugh More Money

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Since Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh took the Cardinal from a lowly 1-11 to a bowl-bound, #4 ranked powerhouse, Stanford fans have been worried that he will take his coaching elsewhere. The NFL or other schools, such as his alma mater Michigan, are willing to pay him very large salaries to take the helm for another team. As such, supporters of Stanford football and pro-Harbaugh advocates have made clear the position that Stanford should do what it takes to keep Harbaugh as Stanford’s coach–or, in other words, give him more money with a big new contract.

This is the wrong thing to do. Harbaugh is an excellent football coach, but that does not mean Stanford should give him more money.

The most recent calls for paying Harbaugh more have come from Hoover Fellow Alvin Rabushka, as well as an online petition echoing similar claims. Rabushka claims:

Paying millions to a football coach, even one of the top three in the country, is not in keeping with Stanford’s educational values, even though Stanford football competes against top national programs. Don’t the players deserve the same first-rate instruction in football that students receive in the classroom?

While this argument certainly has merit, I believe it is founded on an assumption that is actually a misconception. Yes, Stanford tries to excel in everything it does. But giving a larger contract to Jim Harbaugh actually runs contrary to this aim.

If Stanford were to excel equally in all aspects, and adding more money to the football program–i.e. paying Harbaugh more than his current salary of $1.25 million per year, or nearly twice the salary of President Hennessy and 13 times as much as the average associate professor at Stanford–did not take away from any other piece of the University, then the argument rests on different grounds. But the university does not excel in all different aspects and there is already a huge disparity in the amount of attention, value, and funding given to some parts of the school over others. Giving more to Harbaugh would make the discrepancy even worse and reaffirm the idea that some students are more worthy than others.


How Social Media Has Revolutionized the Drunken Sports Victory Riot

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

There’s rioting in the streets of San Francisco. And no, it’s not excitement about election day.

You can see exactly where people are going nuts.

Earlier tonight, the San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers to win the World Series (that’s baseball, if you were confused). Afterwards, your typical intoxicated excited sports fans began celebrating in slightly socially unacceptable ways. Nothing too earth-shattering there, especially when you compare it to soccer hooligans.

The craziness in San Francisco, though, has a new social-media component that adds a completely different dimension to raucous behavior: instant self-journalism. You can see photos of what is happening around the city as it occurs, listen to police radio streams, and you can track wherever the crazed action is based on twitter reports. Even better, you can “check into” a riot on Foursquare, a social connections app.

Leave it to San Francisco to incorporate social media into literally everything in the world.

Non-Partisan Voter Information for California Elections

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Elections are only two days away, which means that campus is as apathetic as ever. Why should you vote? Well, there’s that whole civic duty thing. Then there’s the fact that these elections are important because they could affect the whole balance of national and state politics. Then there’s the fact that, somewhere in the United States, this crazy person, or this crazy person, or this crazy person, this crazy person, or even this crazy person could, or even very well might, be elected. And then there’s because P. Diddy tells you to.

This is a gratuitous picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

California elections are particularly interesting because of the propositions system, which allows for voters to pass laws with a simple majority. Just as in elections past, this upcoming ballot features a wide range of interesting propositions. In the spirit of making sure voters are informed, Stanford in Government (SIG) has published a non-partisan voter guide to help California voters navigate the murky and horribly-worded propositions when they prepare to vote. Here is the information on some of the most important propositions:

Proposition 19
Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010
Summary: Would allow people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Local governments would have authority to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older. Would prohibit people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, smoking it while minors are present, or providing it to anyone under 21 years old. Current prohibitions against driving while impaired would be maintained.

Pro: Supporters say that Proposition 19 will save the state money currently spent in enforcing the failed laws against marijuana growth and use. They say that Proposition 19 will effectively end the violent drug market created by marijuana prohibition. Proponents argue that marijuana arrests have cost the state millions of dollars in police, prosecution, and prison costs. They argue that taxing the sale of marijuana could bring in large sums to help the state during current budget deficits.
Con: Opponents say that Proposition 19 is a flawed measure that loosens penalties for driving or working under the influence of marijuana. They believe that legalized marijuana will have public costs larger than any amount of revenue brought in by the drug. Many opponents believe that marijuana is a “gateway” drug and will lead users to more dangerous drugs like heroin or cocaine.
Also see here for a debate on Prop. 19.

Proposition 20
Congressional district lines to be re-drawn by a committee

Three Quarters Moon on the Old Union…on a Monday

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Imagine this, but dark and with lots of people making out.

This year’s FMOTQ is neither a full moon nor really on the quad. The real full moon was on Saturday–which, by most people’s standards, would be the perfect day to have an event. But instead of holding it then, FMOTQ is instead on Monday (which also happens to be right in the middle of midterm week).

Additionally, instead of being on the Quad, most of the festivities are being held at Old Union. There is a concert until 11, after which people will amble on over to the quad. On the bright side, this means the amount of time spent awkwardly milling around before midnight is reduced to an hour or less.

Full Moon has certainly done its share of morphing over the years (see the Daily’s retrospective here). Far from its humble origins, the more recent university-sanctioned incarnation of the annual event is very different. But it’s still, well…something.

How Stanford Ensures Future Generations of Double-Legacies

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

I walked by. It was awkward.

Not pictured: the “tweetup,” which I still don’t understand. But we tweeted about it!

Oh, the joys of Reunion Homecoming weekend.

A (Stanford) Academic Debate on Prop. 19

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

This bear is so relaxed.

The midterm [no, not that type] elections are just a week and a half away, which means that judgment day for controversial proposition 19, medical marijuana legalization in the state, is approaching fast. A number of high-profile proponents have been speaking out on both sides, including your average dose of political crazy claims.

But there are also some very well-thought out ideas for both supporting and opposing the proposition. Hoover Fellow Joseph McNamara, who supports 19, and Medical School professor Keith Humphreys, debated the issue with STANFORD Magazine.

Definitely worth reading if you are a California voter. Some good quotes:

McNamara (for):

The enormous appeal in just one election of being able to reduce crime so significantly and violence by a yes vote for 19 is a golden opportunity.[… and] maybe the revenue won’t amount to all that much, but when you combine it with the fact that you’ve reduced the cost of the criminal justice system very significantly, that, plus any additional revenue, is something to take seriously.

Humphreys (against):

To say that a legal industry will make the product safer, then you have to say that the tobacco leaf is more dangerous than a Marlboro. It is the legal industry that makes that raw tobacco leaf into a deadly product.[… Plus,] the price of marijuana will fall dramatically and people will buy more of it, as they do with any commodity that drops in price.

Again, read the whole thing here.

Brief Thoughts on Career Fair from A Highly Unqualified Candidate

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Career Fair is my version of Christmas, or perhaps a second Bar Mitzvah: a large number of people you don’t know trying to give you free things you’ll never need. Every year, I’ve gone from software engineering table to management consulting booth acquiring pens, bottle openers, usb chargers, and even umbrellas branded with a smorgasbord of logos of companies I will never even consider working for. And then I stop by a few employers  for whom I actually might have some interest: writing jobs (I like to write), think tanks (I’m a public policy major), and environmentalist causes (I heart the Earth), very few of whom have schwag to dole out.

Wow! Thumbs Up! and AOL still exists? were three of the thoughts I had after career fair.

This year, though, was a little different–now, I’m a senior, and I’m supposed to actually be looking for jobs. Instead of: Hi, are you a graduating senior? No, but can I have a free pen?, my conversations went more along the lines of: Hi, are you a graduating senior? Yes! Are you interested in any of the following things [insert CS/EE/SymSys, etc here]? No, but can I have a free pen?

A few thoughts from wandering around the fair:

–Being dressed in a t-shirt and shorts made it much easier to tell what kind of companies I had no interest in from a much further distance, even without my glasses.

–There was a pasta company at the fair. I tried to be their spokesperson, but they did not have any openings in that position.

–Some companies give out really interesting stuff:

Interview with Chris Rurik, Student Author and Creator of All of 100

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Chris Rurik, contributor and friend of TUSB and current Stanford senior, has been working for nearly two years on a daily blog called All of 100 along with friends Wyatt Roy ’11 and Lara Ortiz-Luis ’11. All of 100 has only one rule: you post exactly 100 words each day. Any format, any style, and any subject are fair game. Recently, they compiled their favorite posts and self-published a book, also called All of 100; the three will be hosting a release party for the book today (Monday 10/4) at French House at 8pm.

I sat down with Chris to talk about writing, the blog, and how the book came to be.

TUSB: What inspired you to make the book?
CR: The book came later; originally, one day I realized wanted to consider myself a writer yet I never really did anything about it. If I wanted to be a great basketball player, I’d shoot free throws everyday to become a good free throw shooter. So I decided I’d make an arbitrary rule to get myself writing every day and not worry about it too much. Something simple that wouldn’t be great literature. So I said, “Ok—100 words every day.” And I told [co-authors Wyatt Roy and Lara Ortiz-Luis], “Can I email what I write to you every day?” And they said, “Yeah sure…Wait, actually this is a cool idea—can we join?”

We created the blog so we could share with each other what we were writing each day. And then really interesting things started happening: since the only restriction is exactly 100 words it’s open to so much interpretation, and because you’re doing it every day you can try a new approach every day . So eventually we realized, “Wow–some of these are really awesome, we’d like to polish them and collect them.” And that’s where the idea for the book came. That started about last September; it’s been about a yearlong process getting it together.

TUSB: Have you edited the pieces at all?
CR: For all of the pieces in the book, we took what we originally wrote and edited them several times, both each other’s and our own.

The Most Brilliant Song of All Time

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

That’s right, I said it. I’m talking about a song unlike any other, with a brilliance that emanates through the inanity, drudgery, and corporate values of everyday life. A group whose lyricism is only overshadowed by the thought-provoking confusion of the musical interactions behind the lyrics. A beat that makes even Elaine Benes stanky leg with the best of them.

What piece of musical genius could be worthy of this high praise? That’s right–I’m talking about The Combination.

Why, you ask, do I bring this up? Das Racist, the creative genius behind the song*, is coming to EBF Happy Hour (or should I say the combination EBF and Happy Hour?) tonight. I may never be this close to pure genius ever again.

The combination cigarette and nasal blockage.

I can only hope that they are here to lecture about the meaning of life.

Details: EBF; 11:15pm; SUID mandatory; 21+ to combine concert with alcohol.

*The song, written by Das Racist (the second-worst band name of all time), became popular when remixed by Wallpaper (the worst band name of all time). Does the group have any other songs? I honestly have no idea. I want them to just play Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell over and over again.

TUSB in the Unofficial Guide

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

I stayed up really late one night writing a bunch of bad jokes.

Although we are not related to our unofficial friends over at the Unofficial Guide (unofficial just means that we are not run by the University), we teamed up with them to help provide content in this year’s installment of the book, “Chalk About Stanford.” George, Ryan, Camira, Kevin, and I wrote content for the Cardinal Culture (campus life and lore), Breaking the Bubble (off-campus), and My Community (clubs and activities) sections.

Besides random bad jokes of mine scattered throughout, make sure to read:

Ryan‘s guide to the best Bay Area music venues (pp. 95-99)

George‘s guide to the wide range of museums in the area (pp. 99-102)

The updated and much more comprehensive overview of student groups (pp. 106-120)

Enjoy, and let us know what you think!

TUSB’s 2010 Fall Course Guide: Serenity Now!

Monday, August 30th, 2010

School is nigh, which means that indecision about classes is also nigh. We at The Unofficial Stanford Blog, however, want to help you out: we’ve selected some of the most highly recommended and some of the most-ludicrous sounding classes for our quarterly course guide. Add anything to the comments that we missed–your feedback is greatly appreciated. [Also check out past installments of our Course Guides here.] Without further ado:

What's with the quarter system? There's only three of them!

Listen up, MoPhos!
Music 220A: Fundamentals of Computer-Generated Sound
MoPho, by the way, is Stanford’s mobile phone orchestra, in which everyone’s instrument is their iPhone.

Nostalgia for Anyone Who Lives Outside of California
CEE 63: Weather and Storms
Our resident meteorology geek gave this class a review of “awesome.”

Wherein People Do Not Frown Upon Drinking in Class
FRENLANG 60D: French Viticulture (Also known as: Wine Tasting)
You probably didn’t get into this class this quarter. Try next quarter.

If You Want to Actually Think About Deep Moral Questions and How They Relate To Our Lives (not that Wine Tasting isn’t, though)
SURG 150: Principles and Practice of International Medical Humanitarianism in Surgery
The course description states, “Summer internship opportunities for international health service with subsidized travel for top students.” Also, it sounds really interesting.

ETHICSOC 177M: Human Rights & Moral Questions

ETHICSOC 10: Ethics in Theory and Practice (also known as Ethics@Noon)
A 1-unit weekly ethics speaker series.

Meg Whitman Loves the Environment?

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

To California liberals, conservative Republican candidate for governor Meg Whitman, whose political travails I chronicled here, here, and here, might not actually be as frightening as she first appeared. Despite swinging extraordinarily far to the right to defeat Republican primary opponent Steve Poizner (including outspoken anti-environmental rhetoric), a quick look at Whitman’s charitable contributions reveals a very different attitude.

Meg Whitman might be nicer to this horse and his environment than anyone previously thought.

In its first year (2007), Whitman’s personal charitable foundation, the Griffith R. Harsh IV and Margaret C. Whitman Charitable Foundation, donated $100,000 to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). That was 80% of the foundation’s total donations. In 2008, Whitman did even more: the foundation doubled its contributions to the EDF and donated an additional 1.15 million dollars to Valley Floor Preservation Partners, an environmental protection organization in Telluride, CO.

All of this information is available on the nonprofit database Guidestar and comes directly from the organization’s 990 disclosure form.

Will these donations be a harbinger of things to come for Whitman’s environmental stance? Whitman seems to already be moving strongly toward the center on the environment, as the San Francisco Chronicle notes:

Whitman assailed AB32 as a job-killer during the Republican primary campaign. Asked at a debate May 2 whether humans cause climate change, she said, “I don’t know. I’m not a scientist.”

She has toned down her criticism of the law since winning the primary. Campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said last week that Whitman, during her one-year moratorium, would “bring accountability and strong leadership to the AB32 process so the regulations effectively reduce our emissions while strengthening our economy.”

On top of this, there is no mention of AB32 anywhere on Whitman’s own web page about the environment, only fairly vague, centrist policies.

It looks like environmentalists may be able to breathe a little easier as Whitman’s campaign picks up steam (and burns through money): even if Whitman does defeat Democrat Jerry Brown, her charitable contributions might speak much more to her real positions regarding the environment than any charged rhetoric can.

Great Foreign Film Series on Campus This Summer

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

If you’re around and into good movies, the Division of International Comparative and Area Studies (ICA; yeah, I haven’t heard of it before either) is putting on a film series featuring a slate of well-renowned recent foreign films. The film series, “Global Intimacies: Six Films Portraying How Global Changes Transform Kinship, Passion, and Friendship” will run every Wednesday starting tomorrow (July 7).

Departures showcases some pretty stellar cello-based filmmaking.

It also includes two films I highly recommend: The Lives of Others and Departures, and it gives me an excuse to promote these movies to you:

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen, Germany, 2006; showing July 7) won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. This is not normally the most astounding accomplishment, but it beat out another great movie, Pan’s Labyrinth. Written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (who is lucky to not be an athlete, because that name is not fitting on the back of any jersey), it is an enthralling account of a writer’s life in East Germany.

Departures (Okuribito, Japan, 2008; showing August 18) won the 2009 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. The acting in Departures is pretty bad (the lead role is played by a former boy band star), but the clever storyline and cello pieces make the movie thoroughly enjoyable.

The series also includes Sin Nombre (Rotten Tomatoes score 88%) and Tulpan (RT 97%). If that’s not recommendation enough, my mother saw Tulpan and thought it was good.

The details of the series:


And if you haven’t seen Toy Story 3 yet, you should probably do that first.

Is it Okay to Want North Korea to Lose at Soccer?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

This puppet commits severe human rights violations when he's not coaching his national soccer team via invisible earpiece.

North Korea is a terrible place for human rights, and there’s a macabre irony to their inclusion in the “Group of Death.” At the same time, however, they are the underdogs of the tournament: today they held steady against Brazil, the best soccer-playing country of all time, before falling 2-1. It’s really hard to root for a team representing a country that epitomizes much of what is wrong with the world, but it’s also hard not to root for a gritty team of soccer unknowns facing huge odds. What’s a political idealist/sports fan to do?

North Korea’s soccer team, like the country, is shrouded in secrecy. The team is ranked 105th in the world by FIFA, a mere ten spots higher in the rankings than Cape Verde, an archipelago country off the coast of Africa with 500,000 people and whose Wikipedia section on soccer lists all of the great players who did not play for the country and decided to play for European countries instead.

One of the reasons North Korea is ranked so low is that nobody knows anything about their team due to the complete isolation of the country. And despite the accomplishment of the team making it to the Cup for the first time since 1966, the people in North Korea will not see, hear, or know anything about what happens:

Unfortunately, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il has banned coverage of the World Cup in North Korea unless their team wins the tournament, meaning that even if they perform well against Brazil, the citizens of North Korea will likely never hear of their side’s performance.

But what about those North Korean fans at the stadium dressed identically and cheering loudly for the team? Those, it turns out, are actors from China. North Korea gave them tickets to pretend to be fans of North Korea.

The North Korean fans in South Africa are paid actors.

At the World Cup, the North Korean soccer team mostly reminds you of North Korea itself. They have essentially no contact with any other team. The team tried to add an extra striker by listing him as a goalkeeper; then, when FIFA pointed out the rule that players listed as goalkeepers can only play that position, the team claimed that the player wanted to play goalkeeper and the team was doing him a favor. And the coach’s answers to press conference questions included angrily rebuking a reporter who did not call the country “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” and answering a question about the team’s prospects against Brazil by saying:

This will bring a lot of joy to the Great Leader, it will show that North Koreans have great mental strength.

What’s more, six players play their club soccer for a team called FC April 25, the official team of the North Korean army and named after the day the North Koreans started a war against Japan.

The North Korean-ness of the North Korean team makes it fairly easy for me to root against the team. But despite all of these aspects of the team and the country, the players seem surprisingly non-North Korean and, dare I say it, likable.