Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Two Fundamental Questions the ROTC Debate Should Have Emphasized More

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

The discussion about ROTC’s discriminatory practices, as I have seen it, often got lost in details and positioning when I think it should have centered around two fundamental questions. One question is: what amount of “bad” should people put up with when supporting an institution? The other is: what tactics should be used to change the “bad”?*

One objection to allowing ROTC on campus was that it would mean Stanford supports an institution that does some things that we do not like. When ROTC was originally kicked off, it was because people strongly objected to what the US military was doing and did not want to support an institution that was part of the military. The present debate is about whether or not we should support LGBT discrimination in the military, be it written in law or conducted through policy or personal biases.

Except, “support” is complicated because institutions are complicated. ROTC does all sorts of things to train and teach. Are all of them bad? Of course not. By letting ROTC on campus, does that mean we support the bad parts? By keeping ROTC off campus, does that mean we are against the good parts?

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Why Condi on 30 Rock will be Amazing

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

For those of you who don’t follow the latest political/entertainment news, Stanford’s very own Dr. Condoleezza Rice will be making an appearance on the Emmy-winning NBC comedy tonight. And it will be awesome.

Why do I think that?

First of all, 30 Rock has already established Condi (the character, not the real person) as the former “neocon inamorata” of network executive Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin) in the season 1 episode “The Break-Up.” This version of Condi only made an appearance in news footage of her greeting Russia’s Vladimir Putin that was supplemented by additional “footage” of Putin grabbing her ass, leading Jack to suspect that she was cheating on him with the Chuck Norris of Russia. However, she was continuously referred to while Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) struggled with her own relationship problems, serving as a foil of sorts to Liz Lemon’s plotline. Eventually the story arc led to Jack jumping on a corporate jet to make a surprise visit to Kandahar to see her, which leads to their break-up because apparently, she was into roleplay of the Abu Ghraib variety, and he would have none of it. Which is kind of awkward, so I’m not sure if they’ll revisit that territory. But it’s a hysterically absurd version of Condi as the potentially crazy and politically influential ex-girlfriend (I repeat, this is an alternate version of Dr. Rice), and I’m sure she’ll be more than just a throwaway gag.

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Popping the Bubbles within the Bubble

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

As another year of ASSU elections came and went, again I saw people campaigning with promises to reduce discrimination, build more social understanding between people, and promote positive forms of diversity.

These campaign platforms exist because we have not yet found good ways to engage everyone on community problems. It’s easy for people to stay in their own busy worlds and avoid unfamiliar perspectives. Sometimes, the people who avoid other viewpoints are precisely the ones that need to encounter them the most.

“But,” you say, “it’s ridiculous to expect everyone to engage.” Nonsense. Let’s raise our expectations and create a new normal. We need to create a routine of using better methods of engagement that involve the whole community.
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Senator Palpatine and Write-in Campaigns

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Another ASSU election season has come and gone, and with it the usual suggestions about replacing the whole system with an algorithm that allocates funding based on some well-researched equation, friends spamming other friends to vote for special fees, and the now-annual write-in campaign for Senator Palpatine. The campaign debuted two years ago during the 2009 ASSU elections, and although Senator Palpatine always loses in a heartbreaking manner (this time he was only 314 votes away), he’s become somewhat of an event to look forward to during the busy month of April.

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TUSB’s 2011 Spring Course Guide

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Given the hectic nature of winter quarter, you might be so overwhelmed with this quarter’s classes that you haven’t had a chance to figure out classes for next quarter.  Have no fear, TUSB is here!

The following lists include courses for even the most insatiable appetite, whether you’re looking for enriching courses in the sciences, arts, or humanities.  Hoping to check off that GER or pick up that eleventh or twelfth unit?  We can help you out, too.

Here’s to making this spring quarter the most academically exciting one yet!

Exploring the arts:

Meme overload? Now you can study up on the replication fad in pop culture.

The Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts has produces some really cool Creativity Course Guides.  Check out the full selection here.  My personal favorites are below.

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We’re at War, Remember?

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried, discussed war and its ethics with fellow author and Vietnam veteran Tobias Wolff at Cubberley Auditorium on Monday night.

Obama’s State of the Union on Tuesday tried to address every major problem facing the U.S. in one hour. He arguably succeeded, despite getting interrupted by applause every couple of sentences. While most of what he discussed was to be expected–creating jobs, reforming education, celebrating his administration’s triumphs (or disasters, depending on your point of view)–at the end he touched on a topic one hardly hears discussed at Stanford or in the media: the nation’s two wars.

The United States is nearing its eighth year in Iraq and tenth year in Afghanistan. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Stanford community got a chilling reminder on Monday night about the realities of war from authors and Vietnam veterans Tim O’Brien and Tobias Wolff. O’Brien and Wolff, who teaches English at Stanford, discussed their memories of war, its conflicts with ethics, and the role of conscience in society before a packed audience in Cubberley Auditorium.

The novelty of what these authors shared reinforced how distant we have become from our country’s present conflicts. “All I recalled was generalized chaos,” said O’Brien. “War erases memory. Chronologies get scrambled…. I wrote about the aftermath, what I carried with me for the rest of my life.” O’Brien went on to write novels that would make him one of the most famous voices of the Vietnam generation, including the fittingly-titled The Things They Carried. Yet as O’Brien pointed out, he had to press his content beyond “the killing and dying.” His anger–at the chicken-hawk politicians who had drafted him and sent him into the conflict without putting their own bodies where their thoughts were, at the supposed heroism of his task in the wake of My Lai, at the way war sought to “divorce him from life”–pushed him to expose the “petty horrors of war” that had evaded the rest of his countrymen. Ultimately, O’Brien’s work sought to answer the following question: what is the role of conscience in society?

We talk about conscience like an existential notion that we achieve when we know ourselves. Yet how can we know ourselves when we don’t even think about the men and women getting shot and blown up overseas supposedly defending our way of life? Wolff admitted at one point that he left for war seeking a taste of adventure, a desire that deserted him as soon as he arrived. His misconception is mild compared to the ambivalent way we view the volunteers who serve us today, if we even think about them at all. (more…)

Roe v. Wade in White Plaza

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Every year, pro-life students gather on the anniversary of the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade and plant “memorial” flowers in White Plaza as an anti-abortion demonstration. Today, the pro-choice students took to the plaza as well, vocalizing their (opposing) position a friendly ten feet away. Just like the crazy bible guy who shouts in White Plaza sometimes, the flowers in White Plaza have become a staple of free speech at Stanford–and an annual reminder that social conservatives still exist on campus and are really into planting things.

And while it’s good to see free speech alive and well, Stanford still has free speech issues: namely, that White Plaza is a “free speech zone” and the rest of the University isn’t.

I'm not very good at math, which I why I try to avoid it at all costs.

Pro-choice churned out t-shirts on which you could choose what you wanted to write.

A Final Plea for Sudan

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Tensions run high in the southern regions of Sudan

Sudan is less than 48 hours from a historic precipice.  Depending on whether the Southern Sudan referendum passes on January 9th, Sudan will either descend into renewed anarchy or emerge triumphant with the hope and promise of a more peaceful future.

As you may remember from my earlier article when George Clooney and John Prendergast visited Stanford, the current referendum in Sudan proposes the splitting of Sudan with the hopes of preventing future religiously and economically motivated violence.  With very high stakes in the form of oil-rich regions, this option is one of the few viable solutions for finally obtaining peace in the tumultuous Darfur region.  In a frantic, last-minute push, Prendergast and Clooney have returned to Sudan to implore the Sudanese government to seriously consider the referendum and begin taking the necessary steps to protect all Sudanese people.

Supporters of secession

If you’re writing the Sudan issue off as another distant tremor in war-torn Africa, please think again.  Consider for a moment the movie Hotel Rwanda.  Just a decade ago, during our lifetimes, genocide in Rwanda led to the death of 800,000 citizens.  Not combatants.  Not soldiers.  Men, women, and children who were raped, shot, and slaughtered by machete.  In Sudan, we have a new Hotel Rwanda waiting to happen.  The very thought that something like that could happen under our watch is truly bone-chilling.

Our generation can do better.  Our generation can stop genocide before it begins.

The clock is ticking, but the battle’s not over yet.  If you care about the people of Sudan, if you empathize with the thousands of displaced refugees and heartbroken widows this conflict has produced, please consider doing the following to make your voice heard:

  • Sign a petition at sudanactionnow.org:  ask Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough (Obama’s point person inside the White House on Sudan) to “make sure Sudan’s leaders fully comply with the benchmarks for progress in both Darfur and South Sudan before any incentives are granted by the U.S. Government.”
  • Write a personal letter to Obama himself:  ask him to remember the January deadline.
  • Join STAND, Amnesty International, or any of Stanford’s other anti-genocide groups on campus.

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.

A Government We Deserve? The Meaning of Tuesday’s Elections

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Tuesday's elections are widely seen as a referendum on President Obama and his policies.

Repudiation. Denial. Shellacking. These words have resounded throughout the media echo chamber following Tuesday’s elections, which have dramatically altered the American political landscape.

Now that most of the results are in, and most of the celebrations and lamentations are on the wane, two key questions have emerged: 1) Who were the big winners and losers? 2) How will the results shape our country’s future?

The first is largely straightforward, with a few caveats. The Republicans gained 60 seats in the House, as expected, and the Democrats managed to hang on to the Senate with a 53-47 majority. Although some governor races remain too close to call, including that of my native CT, the GOP has clearly made huge gains on the state level, picking up at least nine executive seats. Some other major developments:

  • Wealthy, self-financed candidates lost in spectacular fashion. Standout examples include Meg Whitman, who spent $142 million in her bid to become California’s next governor, and Linda McMahon in Connecticut, who paid about $103 per vote for a total of over $50 million during her failed senatorial campaign. Republican Rick Scott was the most prominent exception; he spent $73 million of his own money to win Florida’s gubernatorial race.
  • Harry Reid (D-NV) clung to his Senate seat despite a nasty race against Sharon Angle, whom he trailed in the polls for most of the fall. He will remain Senate Majority Leader.
  • Tea Party-backed candidates had mixed results. On the one hand, they enjoyed some serious victories, such as toppling liberal icon Russ Feingold in Wisconsin and electing Marco Rubio in Florida. However, their successes seemed to stop at the borders of densely populated areas, including New York and California. Other high-profile candidates like Christine O’Donnell, who once claimed to have dabbled in witchcraft, endured a drubbing at the voting booths.
  • Democrats were destroyed in many regions they carried in 2008, especially in the Midwest. They lost ten house seats between Pennsylvania and Ohio alone, and they lost governorships and control of both state legislative houses in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
  • Crucial California ballot measures…. Prop 19, which would have legalized and taxed marijuana, lost by about an 8% margin. Voters also rejected Prop 23, which would have repealed many of California’s environmental laws. Other measures include Prop 20, which tasks a non-partisan commission with re-drawing congressional district lines, and Prop 25, which requires only a simple majority to pass a state budget. For more information on propositions, click here.

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Stanford goes to Court….

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Future site of the IP smackdown

…and not just any court.  The Supreme Court.

Just this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review an intellectual property case between Stanford University and Roche, a company that focuses on diagnostics and drugs for infectious diseases.

The case, entitled “Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University v. Roche Molecular Systems, Inc.,” will profoundly influence the way America assesses patent rights with regard to university and government funding.

Holodniy's work on PCR for HIV testing are the root of the controversy

The controversy stems from developments in HIV testing using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology conducted by Stanford fellow Mark Holodniy in the late 1980s.  Holodniy’s team relied substantially upon generous research grants provided by Stanford University and the National Institutes of Health, a federal agency.  When Holodniy joined Stanford as a Research Fellow in the Department of Infectious Disease in 1988, he signed a “Copyright and Patent Agreement” (“CPA”) that obligated him to assign his inventions to the university.  The next year, Holodniy began collaborations with local biotech company Cetus Corp.

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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
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Stanford… where opportunity knocks (you out)

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

When I work my tour guide shift at the top of Hoover Tower, I’m often reminded of the scene in The Lion King where Mufasa shows Simba the view from Pride Rock.

“Everything the light touches is our kingdom.”

The Lion King - clearly the best Disney movie of our generation

From my wind-chilled vantage point atop Stanford’s most prominent landmark, this is practically the case.  When I gaze from the faint tree line of SLAC to Campus Loop and back around to the Dish, I’m constantly reminded of how lucky we are to be here.  As Stanford students, we are blessed with the world’s third-largest contiguous university campus.  With 8180 acres (96 times the size of Disneyland Park!) to explore, we enjoy an almost overwhelming abundance of physical resources.

I’m writing this blog to encourage YOU, Stanford students, to take advantage.

We’ve got just four years on this slice of paradise, and to prevent you from suffering an acute case of FOMO (in addition to mono from FMOTQ, God forbid), I’m beginning a blog series on some of the most incredible resources at Stanford that you’re probably not taking advantage of.  Read up, choose your favorites, and bask in the benefits of a Stanford-enriched existence.  I promise you will not be disappointed.

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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.

Crash Course: the Dalai Lama

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

So we all know that the Dalai Lama is a really big deal.  But do most of us know exactly why?  Probably not.  Have no fear; here’s a primer on everything you need to know tomorrow to understand and appreciate the importance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

What’s in a name?

The literal derivation of the phrase “Dalai Lama” comes from a combination of the Mongolian word Далай “Dalai” meaning “ocean” and the Tibetan word བླ་མ “Blama” (the b is silent) meaning “chief” or “high priest.”

The meaning behind the name is more complex.  The Dalai Lama is the head Buddhist leader of the religious officials of the “Yellow Hat” branch of Tibetan Buddhism.  He is believed to be the rebirth of a long line of tulkus – high-ranking lamas, or spiritual teachers on Dharma (duty) – descending from Avalokitesvara, “the Lord who looks down” and the embodiment of the compassion of all of the Buddhas.

Becoming the highest lama:

The current Dalai Lama was born Lhamo Thondup on July 5, 1935 to a poor farming family in Tibet.   He was barely three years old when a search party sent out by the Tibetan government to find the new incarnation of the Dalai Lama arrived and swept the young boy off to Kumbum monastery where his training would begin.  He began his monastic education at the age of six, when he began studies in logic, Tibetan art and culture, Sanskrit, medicine, Buddhist philosophy, poetry, music and drama, astrology, motre and phrasing, and synonyms.

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