Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Rachel Maddow talks about Ethics, Stanford, and Her New Book

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Yesterday, Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” spoke to the Stanford community about her time as an undergraduate and about her new book “Drift.” Memorial Auditorium was packed, filled with students drawn by the chance to see one

Rob Reich and Rachel Maddow, answering questions during the Q&A.
Photo credit: Charles Russo

of Stanford’s most famous alumna.

You could almost miss the fact that the talked was sponsored in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Program in Ethics in Society. But Maddow and the people that introduced her, Professor Rob Reich and senior Jessica Asperger,  gave us reminders that the focus of the talk was about ethics, about how the choices we make have consequences.

Maddow first introduced us to this subject by talking about her time at Stanford. Although she didn’t have any prior plans to complete a Public Policy major or honors thesis, they became steps towards completing her personal goals. After coming out and deciding to become an active member of a gay community she believed was being terminated by AIDS, Maddow said,”At age 17, I came out and thought my role was to fight.” She didn’t know what exactly she was going to do or how she was going to accomplish it but the program was one of her first steps down the long road that has allowed her to become one of America’s most thoughtful political commentators. (more…)

Party With Fees: A Lighthearted Rant

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Would you like $250 $140? Right now? Free and clear? How about every quarter? Yeah, so would I. However, unlike most random hypothetical questions, I can actually deliver on this one. $250 $140 of your tuition per quarter automatically goes to special fees. However, saying as you don’t ever actively consent to this distribution of funds to various student groups, the ASSU would be in something of a legal snafu if they didn’t give you the option of taking the money back at some point. So they do. For the first two weeks of every quarter, you have the option of waiving the money you paid for special fees. It’s really that simple. You can get a refund for $250 $140 worth of special fees every quarter. The solitary attached string? The leadership of groups that get special fees are allowed to request a list of students who waived their fees and may bar those students from using their services. But that’s seriously it. Now some food for thought: what could I buy with the $750 $420 a year that I currently spend on special fees? Here’s my short list:

 - A boatload of Philz coffee

- Seven Four trips skydiving

- One of those giant stuffed trees from the bookstore

- A romantic weekend in Tahoe

- My weight in marshmallows

- *Part of* The mens water polo team

- Parking for my entire Stanford career ~two years

- A flight to somewhere very far away

- 30 17 cases of Two Buck Chuck

- Half an Ochem textbook

- An iPhone 17

- 3 2+ Dance Marathon pledges

- The worlds most hipster bike

- Someone to slap me when I procrastinate (could definitely use one of those right about now…)

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Your Vote Matters

Friday, October 19th, 2012

So make sure you’re registered! This is my quick and dirty (non-partisan) plea for you to participate in the upcoming election.

The 2008 election featured the energetic participation of youth voters. Four years later, voter apathy is on the rise amongst us millennials. I did a lot of voter registration over the summer and one of the most frustrating things to hear from potential first-time voters was, “I’m not voting.” These individuals didn’t have some strong moral conviction against voting– they just didn’t want to take two minutes of their day to fill out a form. I asked one young man on a skateboard if he was registered and he actually said, “Meh,” and rolled on by. Meh. Like I was offering him leftover potato salad or a club flyer.

With less than three weeks until the election, some voter registration deadlines have already passed and the rest are coming up quickly. California’s deadline is October 22ndand the last day to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot is October 30th. If you’re voting as a California resident, you can register online! Voters from all states can check their registration status here. Remember that the presidential election isn’t the only thing at stake . Read up on your local races and learn what all those propositions are referring to.

So please don’t be that skater kid and “meh” me on this one. Check your registration status and get ready to cast your ballot.

Look- celebrities want you to do this too! And I’m sure David Cross would just blue himself if he knew you weren’t registered to vote.

 

Breaking the Fall: 2012 Autumn Course Guide

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Ah, summer. One minute you’re shotgunning a beer celebrating with friends after your last final, the next, you’re waking up and rolling over to find that two months of beaching, traveling, summer-schooling, tanning, grilling, working, and/or your resume-building b****work meaningful internship experience have flown by and it’s already August. Which means it’s time to maybe, possibly, conceivably consider what you’ll be studying in the fall. Even at Stanford, summer doesn’t last forever, and eventually we’ve got to come to grips with  all of our first-world problems – namely, enrolling in classes at the happiest place university on earth. But, fear not – I have spent the last fortnight scouring every course in every department this school has to offer (upon reading this line, my proofreader claims that I “need to get laid a life”), with the hope of delivering the BEST list of classes to get you STOKED to come back to campus. It combines all the things I love most in life: cool classes that don’t physically drive me to tears (yes, I’m talking to YOU, “Inventing Classics“), excessive linkage, personality stereotypes, semi-snarky commentary, giant over-generalizations and massive assumptions, and most importantly: THE MUPPETS.  In any case, I hope the article piques your interest in something you might have otherwise overlooked, missed, or been to lazy to go look up.  And if not, all I can say is that I hope it makes you laugh (if only in pity). Other than that, here’s to the remaining MONTH of summer (suck it, Cal) and the boredom and restlessness that will inevitably accompany it. Cheers.

 

Autumn 2012 classes for…

the wise-guy

Old Guys Rule.

AMSTUD 140: Stand Up Comedy and the “Great American Joke” Since 1945

I took this class last fall. Actual (read: more or less deeply paraphrased) quote from the prof: “Hey, Hennessey – I’ve got an idea for a class. It will involve abundant sexism, racism, elitism, lewd and scatalogical references, innappropriate behvaior, excessive profanity, and – above all – some of the most brilliant and observative writers, performers, and anthropologists of our time.  What’s this class called, you ask? Well, it’s Stand Up Comedy and the Great American Joke”. Take this class. It’s awesome.

MUSIC 36N: Humor in Music

My visions of this class involve Steel Panther, Weird Al, and Parry Gripp.

Thank God I’m not teaching it.

 

the romantic

Living up to his name like an absolute champ

HISTORY 33A: Blood and Roses: The Age of the Tudors
Mystery, murder, sex, and scheming? And you thought your family was dramatic.

ATHLETIC 39: Fencing: Beginning
So you can do THIS.

ENGLISH 154: Mapping the Romantic Imagination
The map of MY romantic imagination involves horseback trips through the Florin countryside with Wesley, a sunset on the bow of the (intact) Titanic with Jack, the California coastline in Benjamin Bradford’s convertible, getting stuck on an island in the Caribbean with Cap’n Jack Sparrow, Patrick Verona’s paintball park, and wherever Ryan Gosling is currently located (though, preferably here). To my great disappointment, however, I believe this class refers a bit more to the English romantic poets and novelists and the sublime countrysides they envisioned. Then again, is anything quite as lovely and romanticized as curling up with a little Keats and Byron?

 

the hipster

This muppet is actually called Harry the Hipster. You've probably never heard of him.

ENGLISH 121A: Tattoos, Scars, Marks and American Cultures of Inscription

I feel bad for the poor sucker of a TA who has to read 60+ papers on “Why the dolphin/butterfly/Chinese symbol for “peace”/shooting star/infinity sign/angel wings/song lyrics/Bible verse on my ankle/lower back/shoulder blade/neck/wrist/sideboob/part of my hip that totally gets gets covered by a bikini is a unique artistic expression of my inner self”.

ARTSTUDI 131: Sound Art I 
Because taking just “music” was too mainstream.

FILMSTUD 301: Fundamentals of Cinematic Analysis 
Take this class so that the next time you’re giving your pretentious opinion about the latest film showing at INSERT NAME OF UNKNOWN THEATER HERE, you’ll be able to reference a little-known technique/genre/style/paradigm/buzzword that your professor mentioned once in class.

COMM 182: Virtual Communities and Social Media
This should prepare you well for your vague “job” in the vague cross section between “media” and “social networking” at that start-up no one has ever heard of.

 

the history buff

I want that blazer.

HISTORY 95C: Modern Japanese History: From Samurai to Pokemon
Samurai…. Pokemon. SAMURAI… POKEMON. I’m not quite  sure what’s between these two poles (the history of sushi?!?!) but it’s guaranteed to be awesome.

COMM 125: Perspectives on American Journalism
I don’t know enough about journalism or, frankly, television to confidently explain why “The Newsroom” sucks and “The Wire” is the bestest thing ever since Ike’s Menais a Trois. Admittedly, I should probably take this class and many others on this list. In any case, if you believe the slow death of the newspaper is a genuine travesty or that Cronkite and Murrow could give Colbert and Stewart a run for their money, then this might be the class for you.

HISTORY 103F: Introduction to Military History
It’s like the Military Channel… sans couch.

HISTORY 243G: Tobacco and Health in World History
Not to get all Nick Naylor on you guys, but I’m genuinely curious how one-sided this class is.

HISTORY 59S: The Digital Historian’s Toolkit: Studying the West in an Age of Big Data
From my quick read of the course-description,  it seems like this class involves old documents, scanners, and many a rubber glove. That said, if you like seeing history immortalized and like to wonder “what did they think back then?” and “how did that really happen?” then this is the class for you.

EDUC 116N: Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History’ and the Quest for Historical Truth
If you’re reading this section, theres a decent chance that you identify yourself as a history buff. Howard Zinn was the guru/godfather/mack-daddy of all American history buffs. Student, meet the ultimate teacher.

HISTORY 308D: Pre-Modern Warfare
I’m not exactly sure at what point/what contraptions fall under the heading of “Modern Warfare”, but if you’re telling me that I get to take a class on how to use the history of ninja stars, crossbows, catapults, and broadswords, then SIGN. ME. UP.

CLASSGEN 103: The Greek Invention of Mathematics
My sole incentive for taking this class would be figuring out exactly which Greek mathematician to fantasize about brutally torturing  whilst in the middle of my Math 52 midterm.

 

the patriot

Coming Soon: Muppets take 'Merica.

CSRE 51K: Election 2012

I should really, REALLY take this class. Seriously, because – besides Obama – I’m not really sure who’s actually still in the race.

COMM 162: Campaigns, Voting, Media, and Elections 
See above comment.

COMM 164: The Psychology of Communication About Politics in America 
I’d like to think that, to the individuals who plan to lead my country and allegedly have my best interest at heart, I am more than just a number and that my opinions and behaviors are more than just statistics.

ECON 18: The Washington Debate About American Competitiveness
If I take this class, will I get a job?

PUBLPOL 170: Political Corruption
It’s not cheating if you don’t get caught.

PUBLPOL 154: Politics and Policy in California
Let’s hope that by the time this class is over, Michael Tubbs will have a place in its curriculum.

ECON 25N: Public Policy and Personal Finance
Something about tax-brackets… maybe. I expect to see a lot of pitchforks and raised fists.

HUMBIO 120: Health Care in America: An Introduction to U.S. Health Policy
Obamacare. And other stuff. Probably.

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Rove at MemAud: Obama’s done “Boo-do-diddley-squat!”

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Robert Gibbs- Photo credit to Chris Seewald

Last Tuesday Karl Rove and Robert Gibbs duked it out in Memorial Auditorium. The debate, moderated by Stanford Professor Rob Reich, was actually pretty interesting. Reich started the debate by asking both Rove and Gibbs to “role play” and switch sides, each arguing for their opponent’s case. Predictably, Gibbs started off by declaring how Romney has no special insight into how to manage the American economy, especially given his record in Massachusetts. Rove then retaliated by bringing up Obama’s largely unfulfilled promises from his first election campaign, claiming that new “unifying” leadership is needed. Reich pushed each debater to better answer the prompt,

Karl Rove-Photo credit to Chris Seewald

which neither initially addressed, and joked about the difficulties both contestants had with not pivoting, much to the amusement of the audience.

While both candidates dodged and skirted their fair share of inquiries, Rove took the prize for eluding questions. When pushed on several occasions as to establish whether or not he supported transparency in SuperPac donations, for example, Rove deliberately brushed the question aside, stating simply, “If that’s the lay of the land, then that’s the lay of the land.” Reich eventually gave up and moved on. Surprisingly, Rove was very clear with his opinion of the DREAM Act, declaring that it should be done by states and not on the national level. This is a significant departure from the majority of Rove’s Republican compatriots.

All in all, the debate lived up to its promise of entertainment; both men stuck close to party lines and agreed that, to get anything done, compromise and cooperation are imperative. Rove however, won without a doubt, showcasing impressive skill in debate. Granted, Rob Gibbs is much closer to the upcoming presidential race than Karl Rove and has a lot more at stake with what he says, but Rove’s witty comebacks and no-holds-barred language (declaring one of his dissenters a “no-good lying sonofabitch”) enhanced his case. Furthermore, Rove spoke more extensively on major points than Gibbs and often interjected during Gibbs’ responses with the Republican counter-argument, citing a laundry list of facts and previous legislation.

Video of the debate after the break…

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Memes and Extremes: ASSU Judgement Day

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

This article is a response to Kristi.

Everyone has their quirks, especially here at Stanford, where high achievement is often the result of hyperorganization and highly developed time management and planning skills. Where Stewart MacGregor-Dennis differs from most students is that he posts his thinking online for all of Stanford to see. This can make him a target, but it also means that you know the candidate you are voting for. Spending his personal money on maintaining his social media (if you look through his ODesk account, he has only spent about $50 services related to his campaign) doesn’t seem to be an issue pertinent to his ability to be President.  And in the end, it’s all transparent: everyone can see his likes, twitter followers, and ODesk account. Why is the most controversial issue in this campaign the idea that a candidate might actually try to maximize his social media footprint? Some tactics may have been misguided, but to claim Stewart is unethical or that he was trying to dupe the student body is laughable. We all know how the internet works: things that get liked or followed get more likes or followers. But everyone can still see who is liking and following what.

Stewart MacGregor Dennis and Druthi Ghanta

The current attacks on Stewart aren’t focused on his experience, or his platform. They don’t critique the things he has done working for the ASSU, and they don’t question his plans for the coming year.  Instead, they focus primarily on his personal life. This isn’t problematic in and of itself—politicians open themselves up to scrutiny by the public. Stewart, perhaps more than any other student at Stanford, lives his life with transparency.

Much has been made of the infamous 40 page life plan, his propensity for mind mapping, and his active tweeting. These are all ways in which Stewart has combined the private and public spheres of his life. This is quirky, and it’s easy to look at a 40 page life plan and crack jokes (you have, after all, forty pages of material to work with). However, the things that look eccentric in Stewart’s personal life are the things that make his successful in Stanford student government. Life plans, mind maps—all of these are indicative of a strong vision and a passion for organization.

The ASSU needs a President that can keep track of it’s  its over 650 student groups, the over 40 university committees with student representation, and branches of government like the SSE, SSD, Undergraduate Senate, and Graduate Student Council. And if it takes a thousand mind maps to make it happen, then that’s what it takes. Next year, I want Axess to be improved and upgraded further (a la SimpleEnroll), co-hosting small grants for students groups, and affordable summer storage for students and student groups. These things affect Stanford far more than a few unwanted emails or the number likes on a Facebook status ever will.

Vote for the candidates whose platform you support on April 12 at ballot.stanford.edu.  

Update: This is Rachel Rose. This article was posted to my personal Facebook, but thanks Adam for the reminder to be clear for those not on Facebook.

Be Thoughtful About KONY 2012

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Joseph Kony, an African warlord leading the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), has become an international sensation thanks to Invisible Children, a group of human rights activists. They been able to successfully wield social media to make people care about their cause. Kony is now famous because the world wants his arrest and prosecution for his “crimes against humanity.”

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube DirektKony 2012

I watched the KONY 2012 video. I clapped at moments of triumph for people in Uganda and didn’t allow myself to hide my eyes at the images of mutilation or abduction. Even though I’m the last person to follow major trends, considering the gravity of the idea and the sheer number of people attempting to share it through Twitter and Facebook, I understood  that it is something that I shouldn’t ignore.

After finally seeing the video for myself I learned a few things:

  1. Everything about the video was created to appeal to the youth of developed nations. There were cute kids, horror, and a mission deeply seated in social media and activism. Anyone watching that video can help by sharing it.
  2. This is a 9 year old problem, with circumstances that may or may have changed since the video was produced.
  3. There was both the Mumford & Sons and dubstep in the same video. And it worked. Both reflect the way the filmmaker appealed to the culture Gen Y knows and loves. It made it seem like the video wasn’t coming from a major stuffy organization, or a ragtag group of freedom fighters – it came from one of us. Or, at least, it was meant to feel that way. (more…)

Before Traveling, Check for Manifestação

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

This quarter, I am studying abroad in Madrid.  We only have class Mon-Thurs, so the majority of us use our time over the weekends to travel, myself included.  This past weekend, I decided to travel to Lisbon with some friends.  It is a beautiful city with great food (I highly recommend it), and its friendly people and low prices, at least in comparison to Madrid, quickly won our group over.  We had a jam-packed schedule, as we were only in Lisbon from Thursday afternoon to Saturday afternoon.  As Saturday winded to a close and we were walking to our hostel to get our bags and head to the airport, our group gave ourselves a solid pat on the back.  In a mere 3 days, we had seen all that we set out to see, ate some fantastic food, and met some incredible people.  We had planned so well…. or so we thought.

As we were walking to our hostel, we noticed a fair amount of people in the streets, a pleasant contrast to the relative emptiness of Madrid’s streets on the weekend, and in particular, a small group of protesters in Terreiro do Paço square.  We figured this was normal, especially since the Portuguese economy is not doing any better than the Spanish economy (to learn about that, go read some of George’s old posts).  In fact, Lisbon’s walls and streets are filled with graffiti and posters, proclaiming things like, “Money is taken from the poor and given to the bankers.  More hours.  Less pay.  Less life!”

As we exited the hostel and got ready to head to Terreiro do Paço square, a hub for buses and the nearest bus stop for the bus to the airport, we realized that there were an increasing number of people in the street…and an increased police presence.  In fact, Terreiro do Paço square had been blocked off by the police and streets were being closed for the incoming masses of protesters.

What we expected to see (image from Wikipedia)

What we actually saw (image from Reuters)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were in the middle of a manifestação, or protest. Not prepared for the chaos about to ensue, we figured we would head to the closest square, where we hopefully could catch a bus or take the train or metro to the airport.

Image from the International Business Times

Rolling suitcases in hand, we ran through the crowded streets in the opposite direction of the march of protesters that was headed from the outskirts to Terreiro do Paço square.  All ages of people were in the streets, shouting, holding signs.  Some wore masks, impersonating Guy Fawkes, who has become a symbol of anti-greed.

The manifestação had been called by the CGPT, or Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses, to protest the austerity measures that had been taken on by the Portuguese government last May in exchange for a 78 billion dollar loan from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.  These austerity measures included an increase in sales taxes and increase in public transportation fares, and salary reductions.  More controversially, the government has lengthened workday hours without additional compensation, cut holidays,  and reduced compensations for fired workers.  Since these measures, the economy has only worsened, with employment hitting around 13%.  (more…)

Fire and Brimstone Descend Upon White Plaza

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Stanford's latest expert in binary decision-making.

While White Plaza has a knack for attracting some colorful characters, a recent invasion by Bible-touting fanatics has now turned the space into an ideological battleground. With contradictory slogans like “You’re all going to Hell!” and “Jesus loves you!”, these fervent proselytizers have lately become a fixture amongst the 12 noon lunch crowd.

When I asked one of the demonstrators why he was presenting his particular message–”STUDY AND OBEY THE BIBLE JUDGMENT IS COMING”–he responded, “I want people to look at the words on this sign. Can you see this sign? It might not be big enough.” Aside from the missing periods, the letters did not appear to exhibit any size issues, at least to my untrained eye.

The demonstrators are by no means a uniform group, but they appear to be mainly white males in their late twenties and thirties. They are often quite muscular, and though they have not threatened any students, they have often shaken their fists at passing bikers in the midst of a jeremiad on the secular state of modern society. For instance, as I approached one of them, he bellowed, “You only die once. You don’t die twice. What does that mean?? You have little things in your ears…can you even hear me?!?”

A real American patriot.

For the moment, it appears that these screaming saviors have no intention of leaving. The administration has not made any moves to restrict their freedom of speech. Although they do bring back unflattering comparisons to the Westboro Baptist Church nutcases who visited campus two years ago, they at least have not succeeded in seriously offending anyone. However, for all of the non-believers, homosexuals, minorities, and supporters of tolerance who pass through White Plaza at mid-day, I would advise that you not only turn up the volume on your headphones, but also hold your nose. Some of these holy rollers could really use a shower.

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Meanwhile, at Stanford...

Anyone know the scoop on Mr. Fire and Brimstone here? Freedom of speech debate aside, you have to give him credit for the sign…

Why Campaign Rules Turn Politicians and Voters into Bad People

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

When presidential campaign season gets fully into gear, I seem to always arrive at the conclusion that the best form of government would be rule by the elite: it just seems like there’s too much ignorance (driven by our personal biases and media coverage) to make the votes of most people at all valuable in deciding who should have power in the United States. I’ve been thinking about it a little more, though, and I’m beginning to think that the problem is worse than that. There are a lot of smart people around, including in the government, and at the moment, it doesn’t seem like they’re making things better. I think the system is working against us, and I’ve a story for why that is. Here’s a rough outline of my argument:

  • Our government isn’t doing very much right now
  • In a 2-party system, it’s better for politicians not to compromise
  • As voters, it makes sense to pick extremely polarizing candidates
  • 2 parties is the natural product of a capitalistic society
  • Public campaign finance will moderate the effects of this process

For full disclosure, I have never studied either economics or political science and thus have a naive understanding of the system. I’m very liberal, get most of my news from The New York Times and reddit, and worse, I’m Canadian. Despite all of that working against me, I hope you take the time to read my argument seriously and at least explain to me why I’m wrong. I like to think I’m at least open-minded enough for that.

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When Europe Hits a Windmill: The Euro Crisis from Spain (Part II)

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

The victory rally of Spain's opposition party, Partido Popular (PP), on November 20 in Madrid. Spaniards gave the PP an absolute parliamentary majority in a referendum on the dire state of the country's economy. (Photo credit: Jonathan York.)

“Es la crisis.”

Amongst young Spaniards, these three words have become a refrain almost as common as “¿Qué tal estás?”. They often use them jokingly, such as an excuse not to do a homework assignment or complete a household chore. However, when deciding not to shop, go out to a restaurant or club, or travel, the phrase comes up again, and the reason is darker: they simply do not have the money.

As these young people graduate, almost half of them have no way to earn that money, thanks to the lack of jobs available. If they are particularly smart and/or well-connected, they often leave and work in other countries, participating in the largest emigration wave to hit Spain since the 1960s. The others have little choice but to scrape together what they can, live with their parents, and wait for the economy to improve. They will need to wait a while. Spain’s rigid, service-based economy cannot shift to a new growth model overnight, or even in a few years.

It is one thing to examine a financial crisis as troubling as Europe’s using the news, the pundits, the data, and the precedents. It is another to be in Spain and observe its consequences. Although Spain remains an enchanting place in which to study and travel, the past two years have profoundly shaken the country’s psyche and identity. The new Spain that has emerged is the one that I will attempt to convey in this post.

What does a country with a 22.6% unemployment rate look like?

Spain hardly looks like a country experiencing hard times. Parts of it are run-down, to be sure, but Spanish cities are generally well kept and full of green spaces. The main thoroughfares of Madrid are even cleaned off with hoses every night; I found out about this when I nearly got sprayed by one walking home from the bars. Madrid’s metro and bus system are easy to use and efficient, with none of the filth and rudeness you might encounter on the NYC subway. (more…)

When Europe Hits a Windmill: The Euro Crisis from Spain (Part I)

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Spain's flag together with the flags of Andalucía and the European Union. The family of European nations is facing the biggest challenge to its existence since World War II.

Recently I went to get some churros con chocolate with a friend studying at Universidad Complutense. He is an educated guy, very sharp, a real “pícaro” who does not hesitate to poke fun at something he finds ridiculous. We began to talk politics, specifically Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, and at one point I noted with amazement and some sympathy that the Germans would be inevitably responsible for bailing out the rest of Europe. My friend looked at me squarely in the eye and said, “They tried to conquer Europe twice in less than a century, without mercy, and left us with Franco. Que se jodan.

You do not have to agree with my friend to see his point. Europe is in serious trouble, and though the Spaniards continue to party until the sun rises, they are increasingly angry and disillusioned. After having experienced one of the great economic miracles of the twentieth century, Spain’s future looks decidedly grim. The Spanish youth will likely suffer a lower quality of life than that of their parents, and so far there appears to be little they can do about it.

In this post, I will attempt to explain Europe’s economic situation, tying in Spain where relevant. A follow-up post will elaborate on Spain’s current circumstances, focusing on what I have been able to observe in person.

The Debt Contagion – Too Little, Too Late

Why is Europe’s economic crisis so scary? The European Union (EU) is the world’s largest economy, with approximately 308 million people. If it goes bust and the 17-nation euro zone dissolves, an economic tsunami would hit the U.S. and the rest of the world. Stocks markets would tank, people’s savings would disappear, banks would stop lending and likely suffer a run on their accounts, and political chaos would follow.

This sounds like a drastic, impossible scenario, until you look at the numbers. Europe’s biggest debtors are facing unprecedented yields on their sovereign debt, with both Italy and Spain above 6% on ten-year bonds. Such levels necessitated European-sponsored bailouts in Ireland and Portugal over the past year. But Italy is the world’s eighth largest economy and third largest bond market. It is too big to be “bailed out.” Without investors buying its bonds, Italy’s government will simply run out of money and default on its debts. The EU’s situation is so tenuous that any number of events, from the failure of a big bank (read: France, whose banks are heavily exposed to Greek debt) to the collapse of a government to more unsuccessful bond auctions could cause its demise. Then there are the political pressures, which are already reaching a boiling point. Both Greece’s and Italy’s governments succumbed to the crisis this fall, and Spanish voters just gave Spain’s conservative opposition party, Partido Popular, an enormous victory on November 20. (more…)

Occupy: People Power is Back

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Occupy protesters shut down the Port of Oakland, November 2nd

For years I had wondered why my generation was so politically passive, silently observing as war after war was started in our name, as our “democracy” was purchased wholesale, as our planet was trashed and polluted, and then as the latest president we elected to change these things proceeded to make it worse. I sat around, wondering why everyone else was just sitting around.

Then the Occupy movement took root. People started showing their outrage in public spaces. People took that step before me and made it easier for me to get involved. A few weeks ago I made a sign and joined a protest for the first time in my life. (My sign said, “One planet shared by 100%”)

I’m a 26 year old grad student who has been pretty well-informed for a long time, but my experience protesting in the last few weeks has changed my world view more than any class or book ever could. This is especially true of when I went with a group of students to join Occupy Oakland’s march on the Port of Oakland on November 2nd.

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Why Should We Occupy Stanford?

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Protesters are not only Occupying Wall Street, they’re occupying Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, Boston, and more college campuses than I can even list.  Citizens of the United States have finally reached a breaking point and are finally pouring out their frustrations with our financial industry on a steadily growing national stage. I think this is a brilliant moment for the 99%.

But I think it’s a hypocritical one for Stanford. Our students are currently in the works of creating Stanford’s own Occupy demonstration.

I think Teryn Norris and Eli Pollack stated the student body’s best way to support the movement when they said “Stop the Wall Street Recruitment.” If we are truly angry with our financial institutions, then we need to boycott their recruitment. We need to show that they are uninvited on our campus. But we’re smart people – we know that dismissing the financial sector entirely would be ridiculous. A good way to make change in these corporations is internally. Waving around signs isn’t going to do much unless we use leverage the ideals Stanford imbued in us to make a change in the way that these corporations are run.

Besides, I do think it’s a bit contrived to jump on a national bandwagon. If job security and the wealth disparitywere a large concern here, I think our outspoken students would have spoken up already. Why Occupy Stanford when we can bolster the more sustained protests happening right next door in Palo Alto? Why should we Occupy Stanford itself? I know that this is in support of of the other movements but we need to acknowledge basic facts about ourselves before we form a picket line.

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