Monday, June 28, 2004

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

USATODAY.com - Tuition burden falls by a third

What students pay on average for tuition at public universities has fallen by nearly one-third since 1998, thanks to new federal tax breaks and a massive increase in state and federal grants to most students and their families.


Allow me to translate this next part from newspeak into plain english:

Contrary to the widespread perception that tuition is soaring out of control,
Translate: The price of college tuition has gone up.
a USA TODAY analysis found that what students actually pay in tuition and fees — rather than the published tuition price — has declined for a vast majority of students attending four-year public universities.
Translate: Most students don't pay the full price of tuition.
In fact, today's students have enjoyed the greatest improvement in college affordability since the GI bill provided benefits for returning World War II veterans.
Translate: The government is doling out more money than ever for college tuition.

Conclusion: Because the "vast majority" of students now receive some financial aid to pay for college USA Today would have us believe that the cost of college tuition has actually gone down as indicated by the fact that most students are paying less than they would have in 1998. Of course they were careful to describe it as the "burden" of college tuition rather than the "cost." By doing so they can look at individual cases while ignoring the big picture.

So let's look at the big picture.

When I was at the University of Georgia the price of tuition went up every single year by anywhere from about 5 dollars to 20 dollars (annually) per credit hour. This was in-state tuition and I have heard that out-of-state, and international tuition went up even more. What was the reason for this? Was education becoming more expensive? Was the demand for an education at UGA going up? (Actually it was but they responded by raising their requirements for admission) None of these were the real culprit. The real issue was the HOPE scholarship. If you have not lived in Georgia you probably think I am talking about the federal plan of the same name that gives tax breaks to the parents of certain students. Previous to the federal HOPE scholarship there was Georgia's HOPE scholarship. It came out of the Governership of now senator Zell Miller, and is funded by the Georgia lottery which also came out of Zell's administration. Basically it promises any Georgia student who makes a B average in high school free tuition at any public university in the state and up to a 3000 dollar a year scholarship to any private in-state university.

As a result the "vast majority" of students in Georgia's public universities and colleges are either on HOPE or have been on HOPE. Consequently the "burden" of college tuition for the average individual college student in the state of Georgia is less than it was previous to the existence of the HOPE scholarship. What does this mean? It means that most of the in-state students at UGA do not care what the cost of tuition is as long as they have HOPE. They not only do not care if tuition goes up, they do not notice if it goes up. Paying tution means clicking the "pay tuition and fees" button on a computer screen when they are registering. They do not even have to look at the price. UGA needs more money in part because their conversion from a quarter system to a semester system was financially disastrous so they edge up tuition every year, make new requests each year to hike the tuition up even further, and they receive very few complaints. It's the out-of-state students, international students, and those who have lost or were never on HOPE who have a problem. Meanwhile UGA has a continued incentive to raise tuition every year. From their perspective all they are doing is milking the HOPE scholarship fund which is paid for through a voluntary state run lottery for a few hundred extra dollars per student per year.

I suspect all this other new government aid will have the same impact on universities nation wide. The government has demonstrated that when the price of tuition goes up the they will give out more money, and the average financial burden on individual students will go down. Why not take this to it's logical end. First we will have every student needing and/or using some financial aid to pay for college tuition. Next the average student will only pay for half of their college tuition. Soon after this will become the case for all students. Eventually the average student will pay nothing for college, and will rely entirely on financial aid, and finally this will expand to every student. A college education will be "free" to every student in America. Meanwhile the quality will not have increased a bit and the cost per student of college tuition will be many times what it is today.

By redistributing the cost onto those not attending they create the perception that the cost of tuition hasn't really changed at all. Consequently no one notices when we do not get an increase in quality in return for the rising expense of tuition. I can tell you one thing; if the quality of education in Georgia has gone up since the inception of the HOPE scholarship it is in spite of it, not because of it. HOPE has created a perverse incentive structure, where students are encouraged to take easier classes, and professors are encouraged to make their classes too difficult to pass (students drop the classes they have already paid for rather than risk lowering their grades and losing HOPE, then have to take another class instead).

So yes college tuition is "soaring out of control," but most students are being paid not to notice. Soon mediocrity will be free for everyone courtesy of Uncle Sam.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

Here are a few quotes to get a taste the man.

'Tis not in mortals to command success;
But we'll do more, Sempronius- we'll deserve it.


Better to die a thousand deaths than wound my honor.


A beautiful eye makes silence eloquent, a kind eye makes contradiction an assent, an enraged eye makes beauty deformed. This little member gives life to every part about us; and I believe the story of Argus implies no more, than the eye is in every part; that is to say, every other part would be mutilated, were not its force represented more by the eye than even by itself.


Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and dividing our grief.
Joseph Addison (1672-1719) - English essayist and poet


A statue lies hid in a block of marble; and the art of the statuary only clears away the superfluous matter, and removes the rubbish.

Good breeding shows itself most where, to an ordinary eye, it appears least.

He who would pass his declining years with honor and comfort, should, when young, consider that he may one day become old, and remember when he is old, that he has once been young.

Cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual serenity.
To be an athiest requires an infinitely greater measure of faith than to receive all the great truths which athiesm would deny.


Great souls by instinct to each other turn. Demand alliance, and in friendship burn.


A well regulated commerce is not, like law, physic, or divinity, to be overstocked with hands; but, on the contrary, flourishes by multitudes, and gives employment to all its professors.


The man who will live above his present circumstances is in great danger of living in a little time much beneath them.


Contentment produces in some measure, all those effects which the alchemist usually ascribes to what he calls the philosopher's stone; and if it does not bring riches, it does the same thing, by banishing the desire of them. If it cannot remove the disquietudes arising from a man's mind, body, or fortune, it makes him easy under them.


Talk not of comfort, 'tis for lighter ills; I will indulge my sorrows, and give way to all the pangs and fury of despair.


In my Lucia's absence
Life hangs upon me, and becomes a burden;
I am ten times undone, while hope, and fear,
And grief, and rage and love rise up at once,
And with variety of pain distract me.


There are many shining qualities in the mind of man, but there is none so useful as discretion; it is this, indeed, that gives a value to all the rest, which sets them to work in their proper times and places, and turns them to the advantage of the person who is possessed of them. Without it, learning is pedantry, and wit impertinence; virtue itself looks like weakness; the best parts only qualify a man to be more sprightly in errors, and active to his own principle.

Usurer: A money-lender. He serves you in the present tense; he tends you in the conditional mood; keeps you in the subjunctive; and ruins you in the future.

Check Out:

Joseph Addison - Wikiquote for more quotes this fellow

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Back in the day 4...

Today is the 4th month anniversary of Somewhere over the Rainbough and as is now tradition it is the day I put up my month in review post. That way all of you out there can see what BilLee and myself have been writing about for the past months without having to sift through the archives. If you want to check out what we have written in past months you can find out using the links on the left under "Back in the day..." Now onto this month. This month has been a little slower on the blog than previous months precisely because our lives have been much more hectic. Job hunting, a family crisis or two, vehicles going ka-put etc. Hopefully we'll be able to post more often in July (knock on wood).

I started off this month (on May 26th) with a post about the potential for libertarians to spoil a presidential election, next I talked about the fabulously wonderful best show on television American Idol and my elation that Fantasia won, and then BilLee talked about Gary Nolan's (one of the people formerly running for the LP's nomination for president) plan for getting America out of Iraq. He followed this with a discussion on college graduation ceremonies and why his was particularly boring.

I was then astonished once again when another (second to Fantasia winning American Idol) candidate I had been vying for won in a completely different kind of race -Michael Badnarik won the LP's presidential nomination.

Next I argued from personal experience that the real culprits behind Pizza Hut's controversial firing of an armed driver were insurance companies and why I thought a boycott would be ineffective. BilLee put us some Nietzche quotes and I talked about the great wonder that was watching Hugh Jackman host the Tony Awards. After that I contrasted the roles of the executive and legislative branch in carrying on a war and in setting the rules for prisoner treatment. A notable statement in this post was: "The executive branch may very well be holding the gun, but who keeps buying them more bullets?"

I followed this with two long, depressing, and probably far too detailed posts about the conflict I was having with my estranged and now disowned father. To lighten the mood I put up a few quotes by the famous British, conservative (also dead), and oft quoted columnist Gilbert Keith Chesterton. Feeling the need to un-conservate the "air" I put up a post about what bisexuality means to me. BilLee followed this with a post about why coming across intelligence in the blogosphere makes him optimistic, and finally I put up a now epic rant about the evils of class action lawsuits and why they make lawyers richer and wal-mart shoppers like myself poorer.

At Catallarchy I put up a post arguing that prisoner treatment was the responsibity of those that held the keys, I ranted about annoying utility bills and the absurdity of "order processing fees," put up a few comments regarding a column that implies that females can only be accurately represented by females in a democracy, talked about the future of private spaceflight and why the industry was afraid of being regulated out of existence, and finally I put up a small tribute post to Ray Charles who passed away a few weeks ago.

So it's been a weird month. President Reagan has passed away, the man who was president when I was born and certainly the best man to ever be in office while I have been alive, and the man who sang "Georgia on my mind" has also gone all in the same week -the same week that I cut ties with my dad. We had father's day this month, and we lost a lot of fathers, but things are getting better. We ended june with the first non-governmental spaceflight, an event that will hopefully mark the beginning of a true space age. An age where going into space won't mean we watch an elite group of 5 or 6 scientists who have trained for 20 years fly bulky and expensive equipment around the earth or to the moon and never go back, but instead where regular everyday individuals can begin to adventure beyond the confines of our planet. I think President Reagan would have appreciated the importance of the event if he had been alive to see it. Here's to America and the Earth's new dawn, the dawn of the space age.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Showcase

Showcase is a blog dedicated to showcasing new blogs. So all you new blogs out there, start submitting yourself to it for showcasing.

No Please, Let Me Pay For That.

USATODAY.com - Wal-Mart in record sex-bias lawsuit

I almost got a job at Wal-mart once when a new one opened up in Athens, GA. Now I am glad that I didn't, because if I had I would now be one of the 1.6 million women "current and former" employees being represented in the class that is suing Wal-Mart, whether I like it or not.

That means that the lawyers will make it appear to the jury that their are actually 1.6 million women who have been wronged, and 1.6 million women who need to be repaired for the damages. The jury if they decide in favor of the plaintiffs will then try to choose an amount to charge Wal-mart both for the actual damages caused (I use "actual very very loosely in this context) and for "punitive damages." Punitive means they are charging a little (or a lot) extra as punishment to make sure you have learned your lesson.

Imagine that these six women that are actually being represented in the case only represented isolated incidents, presuming that there were incidents at all. By suing on behalf of all the women who have ever or are currently working at Wal-mart they are effectively claiming that it is a problem for every one of those women. Imagine now that I am a woman happily working at Wal-Mart who has never been discriminated against, had done well, is happy with her job, and her relationship with her employer. These lawyers would be suing on my behalf as well, and if they won I might be able to get a few dollars worth of the final prize (and I mean literally a few dollars).

These kind of cases really piss me off. They get to count everyone as a plaintiff who is female and has or is working at Wal-Mart since 1998. Being female at Walmart at this moment makes you an instant liability because of a handful of lawyers who will ultimately get rich if they win and lose next to nothing if they lose.

Wal-mart is decentralized particularly when it comes to employee hiring, firing, and promotions. If something happened at an individual store that damaged an employee than that store is the one that should be sued. Suing a corporation with litterally thousands of stores for a small handful of accusations regarding incidents between specific individuals at specific stores is ludicrous.

Even presuming that these six women had a case, and even if there were hundreds or even thousands of women who made similar accusations it would still not justify representing 1.6 million people, a vast majority of which have never made such claims or accusations.

Suing over discrimination is nonsense in my opinion anyway. I have experienced discrimination in the work place before and yes it sucks but that's what boycotts are for. Being unfair, immoral, and even mean with your own money and your own property as long as it is not interfering with the rights of others should not be illegal. Who's right's are being infringed in this case. Do these women have a right to work for Wal-mart? a right to a promotion? a right to get paid the same amount as their male collegues? A right to have staff meetings in an environment that they are not uncomfortable with? A right to not be called "girl" by their collegues?

In spite of how these women should have been treated in the interest of fairness, decency, Wal-mart's best interests, and what these women do or do not "deserve," justice is not and should not be about morality. It is about rights. These women have a right to openly complain, a right to quit, a right to boycott, and a right to publicly protest Wal-mart if they feel they are being treated unfairly. They have no right to "fair" or even equal treatment in a non-governmental workplace. Yes equal treatment is absolutely desireable but it is an issue of morality and passing laws forcing equal treatment is effectively forcing the moral code of some people onto everyone.

No matter how this case turns out Wal-mart is going to lose. No one will reimburse them for the time and money spent defending themselves against what should have been ruled a meritless case, and laws that have nothing to do with justice. If Walmart loses the jury will have to decide how much money to take from Wal-mart to award to the 1.6 million plaintiffs, 1.59999 million of which never had a problem and will likely never receive a cent, regardless.

The question is: What will the jury award to 1.6 million in the event of a guilty verdict that they wouldn't have awarded to 6 women? It will mean billions instead of thousands, and the lawyers will get most of it. Meanwhile faithful walmart customers like myself will likely end up having to pay more for everything we buy to fund this massive miscarriage in justice. I suspect that given that outcome the lawyers in this case and feminists nationwide will be calling the case a major victory for women everywhere, and if I have to squeeze my belt a little tighter to make ends meet as a result I will rest assured that should I ever decide to work at Wal-Mart they will be legally forced to treat me "fairly." As for Sam Walton's years of meticulous effort to streamline his supply chains and distribution systems in order to save a few pennies per product, and pass that savings on to his customers, lets hope it's not all washed away in this glutonous battle for "fairness."

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

What God's Face should cost.

MSNBC - Private rocket ship breaks space barrier: "Rutan and other experts have suggested that such seats could go for $30,000 to $100,000 initially, and drop to the price of a sports utility vehicle as larger commercial space vehicles are built."

Yep, if I had the money, I would spend that much to "touch the face of God" in the pilot's apt description.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

I couldn't have said it better myself.

I got this little bit of shining wisdom from Dirty Greek : "We should be willing to spend money on our society willingly - we should not be forced to pay for whatever they think we should pay for. If we don't want to pay for certain things, then we don't deserve them. I often hear from people that 'if there were no taxes, we would have no roads, no public schools, etc.' But there's that animal again - it's not that we shouldn't pay for those things, it's that we should willingly pay for them rather than be forced.

Can you imagine walking into a carwash and telling the manager that you want a car wash, but you don't want to pay for it? Everyone else is getting their cars washed there, so why shouldn't you? You just don't want to pay. Well, obviously you have to pay to get your own car washed, but you certainly shouldn't be forced to pay for someone else to get his car washed, should you? Of course not.

You could do that out of the kindness of your heart, but imagine being imprisoned for refusing to pay for another man's car to be washed! That is, of course, insane. Well then, why should I be forced to pay for bombs and armies and a broken 'social security' system if I don't want to take part in it? The answer is simple - I shouldn't.
"

Sometimes you're surfing along the internet just reading people's thoughts in a relaxing manner. Then it hits you. In spite of whatever you might see in the daily news, maybe that bright future we've all been expecting really isn't as far away as we all thought.

Occasionally, we can say very intelligent things in the blogosphere. Each of us can lift ourselves up to see above the current political fray even if just for a moment. Done enough times from people from enough perspectives and the world just might get changed in some pleasantly surprising ways.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Being Bi

I was taking a survey a few months back that BilLee suggested I take. It was about relationships or something of that sort and started out with a question regarding sexual preference. It gave these options:

I am:

a. A heterosexual (attracted exclusively to the opposite sex as one's self)
b. A heterosexual with minimal homosexual tendencies (rarely atracted to the same sex)
c. A heterosexual with some homosexual tendencies (occasionally attracted to the same sex)
d. A heterosexual with strong homosexual tendencies (very often attracted to the same sex)
e. Equally homosexual and heterosexual (bisexual)
f. A homosexual with strong heterosexual tendencies (very often attracted to the opposite sex)
g. a homosexual with some heterosexual tendencies (occasionally attracted to opposite sex)
h. a homosexual with minimal heterosexual tendencies (rarely attracted to the opposite sex)
I. A homosexual (attracted exclusively to the same sex as one's self)


This isn't the exact wording of the question, it's just as close as I can come to it from my memory. Whomever had devised the test was clearly trying to be as open, and objective as possible, by allowing as much room for personal discretion in regards to sexual identity as they could. I however managed to have a problem with it and so chose not to continue with the survey. My problem is that I am neither homosexual nor heterosexual. I am bisexual. Some people, because they identify with the culture, might find it meaningful to call themselves both homosexual and bisexual, or both heterosexual and homosexual, but I do not.

Logically something cannot be both hetero and homo at the same time. Think of heterogenous and homogenous mixtures. An example of a heterogenous mixture would be salad because the mix is different in different areas. It is not uniform. A homogenous mixture might be sugar dissolved in water or a glass of Pepsi. These are uniform throughout the mix (solution etc.). Thus for a mixture to be both heterogeneous and homogeneous it would have to be uniform and nonuniform at the same time.

Now back to sexuality. When it comes to sexuality obviously logic isn't of high priority. I wouldn't tell a guy that he was not homosexual because he was occasionally attracted to women. Calling one's self "homosexual" is in part about identity. If they identify with homosexuality then it doesn't really matter if they would be more accurately described as a bisexual. Ultimately how we identify ourselves is up to one's self.

The problem for one such as myself is that bisexuals define themselves not by the gender they are attracted to but by the number of genders they are attracted to. To us homosexuals and heterosexuals are effectively the same thing. They are both monosexual. They are both defined by their attraction to a single gender. Thus saying that one is both heterosexual and homosexual is saying not that one is bisexual but that one is two different varieties of monosexual at the same time.

It may seem like I am splitting hairs, after all, does it really matter what terms we use? I think that it does because there is this tendency amongst both sets of monosexual communities to cast bisexuals into certain sterotypes, and make certain assumptions about them because of how these communities view bisexuality. The homosexual communities for example see bisexuals as monosexuals who either cannot make up their mind regarding their sexual preference or who are afraid or unwilling to admit that they are infact homosexual. They think that bisexuals are only willing to come halfway out of the closet.

Another assumptions is that at any one time a bisexual is functioning as a monosexual. For example if a female bisexual were checking out some girls at a local bar the assumption would be that at the time the person is functioning as a lesbian, and thus looking for a lesbian relationship. If she were checking out the guys then she must be functioning as a heterosexual and looking for a heterosexual relationship. If she actually checks out both and expresses and interest in both then she is promiscuous, "bicurious," experimenting, can't make up her mind (bi now gay later), etc.

Then there is the whole relationship thing. Because the monosexuals view the world in terms of homosexual or heterosexual they define every relationship as either straight or gay. So they might be willing to admit that x female is in fact bisexual but since she is currently in a relationship with a woman it is a "gay relationship." If she were dating a man it would be a "straight relationship." Obviously these terms do convey a certain amount of information. If you knew that a girl was in a "gay relationship" you would know that she was seeing a woman. But I personally can do without these terms. I am bisexual and I am in a relationship with another bisexual. We have a bisexual relationship and if we want you to know our genders we can tell you ourselves.

So what's my ultimate problem with those who would describe bisexuality as both homosexual and heterosexual when it is in fact neither? My problem is that they are trying to define bisexuals out of existence. Many monosexuals truly do not understand that there are people (as is the case with many bisexuals) who do not define themselves based on who they are attracted to. So we get weird graphs and charts that say stuff like "you identify 40 percent homosexual and 60 percent heterosexual." That's either monosexuals trying to describe us in terms they can understand, or in some cases it is bisexuals trying to relate to the monosexual world.

I am attracted to people: male, female, or somewhere in between it doesn't really matter. So when someone asks me whether I am homosexual or heterosexual my response is "I don't discriminate based on gender." This response typically just confuses people, however it's not meant to be a "moral high ground" kind of statement. I actually came up with the phrase a few years back to mess with this lesbian at work who just assumed I wasn't attracted to females because my boyfriend was male. She was a democrat hence the whole "discrimination" bit.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Because it's time to lighten the mood, and because I am sick of ranting about my problems, (and I don't like doing it anyhow), here are some quotes from Gilbert Keith Chesterton




The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.





"The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. And one of the games to which it is most attached is called, ``Keep tomorrow dark,'' and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) ``Cheat the Prophet.'' The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. Then they go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun."





"I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean." - G. K. Chesterton





"The object of opening the mind as of opening the mouth is to close it again on something solid.





Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.





A good novel tells us the truth about it's hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.





Journalism largely consists of saying 'Lord Jones is Dead' to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive.





The Bible tells us to love our neighbors,

and also to love our enemies;

probably because they are generally the same people.




A great curse has fallen upon modern life with the discovery of the vastness of the word Education.




The sort of man who admires Italian art while despising Italian religion is a tourist and a cad.




I might inform those humanitarians who have a nightmare of new and needless babies (for some humanitarians have that sort of horror of humanity) that if the recent decline in the birth-rate were continued for a certain time, it might end in there being no babies at all; which would console them very much.




We lose our bearings entirely by speaking of the 'lower classes' when we mean humanity minus ourselves.




Moderns have not the moral courage, as a rule, to avow the sincere spiritual bias behind their fads; they become insincere even about their sincerity. Most modern liberality consists of finding irreligious excuses for religious bigotry. The earlier type of bigot pretended to be more religious than he really was. The later type pretends to be less religious than he really is. He does not wear a mask of piety, but rather a mask of impiety - or, at any rate, of indifference.




Liberty has produced scepticism, and scepticism has destroyed liberty. The lovers of liberty thought they were leaving it unlimited, when they were only leaving it undefined. They thought they were only leaving it undefined, when they were really leaving it undefended.




No sceptical philosopher can ask any questions that may not equally be asked by a tired child on a hot afternoon.




Pride consists in a man making his personality the only test, instead of making truth the test. The sceptic feels himself too large to measure life by the largest things; and ends by measuring it by the smallest thing of all.




Liberty is the very last idea that seems to occur to anybody, in considering any political or social proposal. It is only necessary for anybody for any reason to allege any evidence of any evil in any human practice, for people instantly to suggest that the practice should be suppressed by the police.




I would rather a boy learnt in the roughest school the courage to hit a politician, or gained in the hardest school the learning to refute him - rather than that he should gain in the most enlightened school the cunning to copy him.




There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one's grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past.




There are two ways of dealing with nonsense in this world. One way is to put nonsense in the right place; as when people put nonsense into nursery rhymes. The other is to put nonsense in the wrong place; as when they put it into educational addresses, psychological criticisms, and complaints against nursery rhymes.




There are two kinds of revolutionists, as of most things - a good kind and a bad. The bad revolutionists destroy conventions by appealing to fads - fashions that are newer than conventions. The good do it by appealing to facts that are older than conventions.




Atheism is indeed the most daring of all dogmas . . . for it is the assertion of a universal negative.




Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.




Let all the babies be born. Then let us drown those we do not like.




Though the academic authorities are actually proud of conducting everything by means of Examinations, they seldom indulge in what religious people used to descibe as Self-Examination. The consequence is that the modern State has educated its citizens in a series of ephemeral fads.




Want to read more? Check out the G.K. Chesterton Society's quotations page.

Monopolies are still good for something... (me and my dad part II)

So we finally figured out what happened to the rent check that should have gotten to Athens about 10 days ago, and was mailed two weeks ago. It arrived in our mail yesterday. The U.S. Postal service apparently think that me and my twin brother are the same person because they forwarded the check that I sent my brother back to me. Now I have a check for some 360 odd dollars sitting on my counter made out to my brother, our rent is nearly two weeks overdue, and I'm not speaking to my dad. You see this is why we shouldn't have government protected monopolies they destroy father-daughter relationships a week before father's day. Just kidding. ;) I guess they have ultimately done me of favor. If all it took to destroy the remnants of our relationship was a polite, professional message on my father's answering machine from my old landlord, and a handful of short emails exchanged between us over a few hours, then there couldn't have been much there to speak of.

Believe it or not, I really am getting over this. I was hardly depressed today at all, and that was nice. The ironic thing is that the exchange between my father and myself would have been far calmer, more diplomatic, and far less emotionally charged if we had talked over the phone instead of via email. Why? Because we are both introverts. I am not comfortable being very confrontational when verbally communicating with someone, and I try to be more diplomatic since more social mores come into play. My father is certainly less inclined to say things that are mean, and sarcastic over the phone or in person. He certainly couldn't have interpretted my words as "venomous" and "smug" if he had heard them in person. (How exactly does "smugness" translate in email?!!) While I was certainly offended by his original email I certainly would not have characterized my response as "venomous" and "smug." I was crying when I wrote it I was so upset. Hurt, disappointed, and maybe a little bitter but certainly not "smug."

For the record I only requested that my father not email me anymore. I never said he couldn't call me. Maybe I should email him my number. ;)
I don't think I want someone like that in my life anymore. Even if he is my biological father. Someone who feels so threatened by me that he would actively try to rip my self esteem to shreds is not welcome in my life.

He got into a fight once with my brother when I was in high school. During that fight he lost his temper and began chasing my brother around with a shoe in his hand raving like a madman. It disturbed me so much that I decided to write him a letter. I was genuinely trying to reach out to him the only way that I knew how: in writing. I was one of those people that the words never came out right unless I wrote them down. So I sat down on my computer and I wrote exactly how I felt, and I tried to explain to him clearly and precisely where I was coming from, how I felt, and why I felt the way I did. I have that letter somewhere. It's stored on an old computer and in print in a box of papers somewhere. Well he responded in print. I gave him the letter on diskette because I didn't have a printer, and he replied with a printout of my letter with his responses interspersed in between my paragraphs. I don't remember what all was in it, but I know that I have never been more sad and disappointed in my life than I was the day I read that. (Though last thursday night was right up there).

All I remember from that letter is one phrase "infestations in my castle." That was how he described me and my siblings whom he had chosen to take into his home after the 13 year break he got to have from parenting. Being a 15 year old who had just gotten out of an abusive home (yup that was the grandparents) this was not something I needed to hear.

Every time I have ever reached out to him I have been smacked down. I used to think that there was something wrong with me, and there was: I cared what he thought. Now I know better.

So thanks to a little mishap brought on by the U.S. Postal service I know something I didn't know before. I don't have a father. I guess I should have noticed that a long time ago.

Friday, June 11, 2004

And my brain comes to a halt

I really want to put up something witty and fascinating on the blog today. I have all these ideas and essays in the works. Lots of stuff just floating around my head waiting to spill out into the blogosphere. Instead I am thinking of one, and only one thing. My biological father. I cut ties with him last night. I had actually been in the process of doing so for the past year and a half, but last night it all got finished in a flurry of email. I guess if I tried to write about something else it might help to get my mind off of that event but that seems to only work for a very short while. So for those of you not interested in reading a personal story consider this fair warning. Stop now if you don't want to know. Of course I'm not going to go into much detail. I just wanted to write something, and this is what's on my brain today.

BilLee and myself had two months left on the lease of our apartment back in Athens. Because we couldn't find anyone to sublease we asked the managment if they could try and find someone to lease the place earlier. As early as june 1st, so that we wouldn't have to be paying rent on a place we weren't living in. Of course we knew that if they were not able to find anybody we would have to pay rent the last two months. Well we sent our rent check to athens for june about a week and a half ago. Figuring it might get there a day or two late we included the late fee in the check. Unfortunately it seems that the check still hasn't arrived (thank you U.S.P.S.), also our other roommate who happens to be my twin brother went ahead and paid his part of the rent on time. We actually left him in charge of taking care of the final apartment stuff. Check out, cleaning, getting the rent to the office etc. He's doing fine with that BTW the problem was that we hadn't realized that the management did not have a way of getting in contact with him since he had changed jobs. That's right we forgot to leave them with a current number. We even talked to them the day we moved so that they would know exactly what was going on, and that the only thing that would be left in the apartment was Alliene's stuff. But we forgot to give them a current phone number (BilLee and myself didn't have one yet). So when our apartment managers succeeded in finding someone to pre-lease the apartment early, and also had not received all of our rent for June they called the person listed as one of our emergency contacts and left a message on his answering machine. My father. I certainly didn't put him on the emergency contact list, but apparently he was there because they did call him. All they wanted was to get in contact with us, they weren't asking for money from my father, they weren't asking him to take care of it. They just wanted a way to talk to us and find out when the rest of the stuff could be moved out of the apartment and the rest of the rent would be paid. This is actually good news. It means we won't have to fork out an extra 500 dollars in July for an apartment we are not living in.

So here is what my dad sent me in response to the message on his answering machine:

Sounds like you have moved. Sounds like you did not exactly follow procedures with your apartment manager when you moved.

I got a call today from Trivoli apartments saying that they have pre-leased your apartment and the new renters want to know when they can move in. They want you to do something about the stuff you left behind. They also would probably like to have some rent money, but I suppose that is why you left the way you did.


So I was a little offended, okay very offended that my father's automatic assumption is that we consciously and intentionally skipped town and left our obligations just floating out there. So I wrote him an email back explaining the situation and adding that "he may have been the kind of person that skipped out on leases when he was our age but that we were not." Since I was fully aware that he had done as much when he was our age, the statement was probably in poor taste. I was just really really upset that he couldn't even give his own offspring the benefit of the doubt. He immediately sent back a really really nasty email to me most of which doesn't bear repeating. Basically he attempted to offend me and hurt my feelings in every way he could think of. Including a little diatribe about how the only time he had ever "skipped out" on rent was when he was caught between the antics of my crazy mother (no he wasn't even that diplomatic with his phrasing) and her crazy parents who were demanding money for "your support." Of course by "your" he meant the 4 kids he had given to the crazy in-laws. He followed this by saying that once he was free of "that insanity" he built up a good credit rating and bought a house. I'm glad he was able to build up a good credit rating while someone else was paying for and raising his kids. Thanks dad for reinventing the term "dead beat."

That was one of the "nicer" parts of the email. The rest was carefully personalized insults crafted for my benefit, and him justifying not giving a damn about my life by the fact that I only contacted him over the past year when I needed something. Other than the reply he sent me when I requested he mail me my birth certificate he didn't contact me at all. I responded to his email with only this: "please don't email me anymore. Rainbough"

Have you ever heard one of those testimonials by a crack addict or a heroine addict where they say that they are "clean" but that they will still want heroine everyday for the rest of their lives. And they know they can't have it. That's how I feel about my dad. I feel like I am going to want a real relationship with him for the rest of my life, and I know I can't have it. If I could not care, I wouldn't. I don't want to care. I've long past stopped caring what my grandparents think of me (the ones that raised me)(that's a long story that I am not going to share).

Somehow I do care though. For some reason I can still be hurt and offended by someone who I have long known was pitiable at best. Someone who didn't raise me, doesn't know me in spite of the 4 years I lived with him, and who has never in my opinion warranted the title of "parent." I really want to not care anymore.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The lines further blurred

FT.com Home US | US lawyers said interrogators could violate torture laws abroad

American interrogators can legally violate a US ban on the use of torture abroad as part of President George W. Bush's fight against terrorism, US government lawyers have said.


The lawyers concluded in a draft report drawn up last year at the request of senior military commanders overseeing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay that legal statutes against torture could not override Mr Bush's inherent powers.


Legally the president and by extension the executive branch and the military can ignore the law?

The material obtained by the CCR does not discuss techniques. Instead, it provides a legal justification for torture. It says, for instance, that neither the Geneva conventions, nor a 1992 US law prohibiting torture, apply at Guantanamo Bay, which is considered legally part of the US.

The 1992 law does prohibit torture by US personnel "outside the United States", which would include Iraq. But the draft report says that the law is overridden by the president's "authority over the conduct of war".

"In order to respect the President's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign, [the prohibition against torture] must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority."


Are we legally, i.e. constitutionally at war? We have had no declaration of war. I have argued before that while it is perfectly reasonable to have a check on the president's powers by requiring a declaration of war by congress before he can send troops or execute any military campaign, the constitution does not actually include such a prohibition. It is ambiguous on that subject and as a result the issue of presidential war powers has been unsettled since the founding of this country. The U.S. has actually been sending troops out to function in a military capacity without a declaration of war since the constitution was ratified in 1789. Since then it has also been a contentious, and controversial issue in American politics. It has been debated since the founding of our country and never truly resolved.

That being said if the legality of the use of torture abroad by the american military comes from the president's constitutional "authority over the conduct of war" should not there be a war declared first? If we are not by the words of our own constitution legally in a state of war how can the president be considered to be exercising his authority over the conduct of war?

Now perhaps they simply meant military campaigns. If it is constitutionally legal (and as I said before this is considered legal but ambiguous in the constitution itself) for the president to send troops anywhere abroad, and have them attack anyone he so chooses without even a declaration of war, then it follows that he may also legally order soldiers to torture prisoners of war provided that that power is not explicitly delegated to another branch. I mean he's allowed to kill them on a battlefield, why not torture them in an interrogation room? If this is true that the president does in fact constitutionally have that power then any laws passed barring the practice could not legally apply to the president's war powers unless the constitution itself were amended.

This is not necessarily an oversight by the writers of the document. There are actually other checks on the president's war powers that are not and will not be exercised in this case. In fact that before mentioned issue of prisoners of war is mentioned in the constition, and it has clearly been delegated to congress to decide how prisoners of war are treated.

From the U.S. Constitution Article I, section 8:

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;


To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;


To provide and maintain a navy;


To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;


To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;


To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;


To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;--And



Congress effectively has to "make the military." They collect the taxes that fund it. They choose how much to fund it and whether to fund it. Congress makes the rules that govern the military from training personnel to the appointment of officers. As you may have also noticed there is also a prohibition against funding a standing army for more than two years. They get around this by renewing the funding for the army every year. Effectively this means that if the congress does not agree with what the president is doing it can stop funding the campaign.

More specifically if congress has a problem with what is happening in Guantanamo Bay then it can stop funding the base. It could shut down the base, and it has every right under the constitution to do so. The executive branch may very well be holding the gun, but who keeps buying them more bullets?

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Fun with Tony

Okay I have to admit, I don't follow broadway. And I have no real interest in who wins what Tony award for what reason. I haven't heard of most of the plays that will be mentioned, most of the actors, nor any of the directors. So why would I sit through a couple hours of the Tony Awards when I won't even subject myself to the oscars of which I have heard of most of the people and am genuinely curious who wins. There's two reasons really.

Number 1: I love musical numbers, and the Tony's promises lots and lots of random singing and dancing from lots of different shows.

Number 2: Watching Hugh Jackman sing, dance, and do just about anything is my idea of a good time.

If only I had my tivo set up, we could fast forward through all the pesky award presenting to get to the good parts.

::Big Grin::

Thus far I've seen Hugh Jackman dancing with the radio city rockettes, kicking his legs up and everything. ::sighs:: Yup it's worth the boring stuff for that, it's definitely worth the boring stuff.

UPDATE: Hugh Jackman singing and dancing on top of a piano in gold hotpants is the greatest thing I have ever seen!!!

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Here are a few quotes to attempt to get a sense of the man, but I still do not think that I captured his essence. I may have to put up a post about him in the future.


"Plato was a bore."


Not infrequently, one encounters copies of important people; and, as with paintings, most people prefer the copy to the orginal. (Human-all-too-Human, 294).


The educational system in large states will always be mediocre at best, for the same reason that the cooking in large kitchens is at best mediocre. (Human-all-too-Human, 467).


Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. (Human-all-too-Human, 483).


Under peaceful conditions a warlike man sets upon himself. (Beyond Good and Evil, 76).


There are no moral phenomena at all, but only moral interpretation of phenomena --(Beyond Good and Evil, 108).


Madness is rare in individuals--but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule (Beyond Good and Evil,156).


From the Military School of Life. What does not kill me makes me stronger. (Twilight of the Idols, "Maxims and Arrows" 8).


After Buddha was dead, his shadow was still shown for centuries in a cave--a tremendous, gruesome shadow. God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.--And we--we still have to vanquish his shadow, too. (The Gay Science, 108)


I still live, I still think: I still have to live, for I still have to think. Sum, ergo cogito: cogito, ergo sum. Today everybody permits himself the expression of his wish and his dearest thought; hence I , too, shall say what it is that I wish from myself today, and what was the first thought to run across my heart this year--what thought shall be for me the reason, warranty, and sweetness of my life henceforth. I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor Fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer. (The Gay Science, 276).


I know my fate. One day my name will be associated with the memory of something tremendous--a crisis without equal on earth, the most profound collision of conscience, a decision that was conjured up against everything that had been believed, demanded, hallowed so far. I am no man, I am dynamite. --(Ecce Homo, "Why I am a Destiny", 1).


"Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him."
- The G. Science, The Madman, para. 2


"Behold the superflous. They are always sick. They vomit their gall and call it a newspaper." - Twilight of the Idols


"Verily, I have often laughed at the weaklings who thought themselves good because they had no claws." - Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Part II, On Those Who Are Sublime


"I mistruct all systemizers and I avoid them. The will to a system is a lack of integrity." - Twilight of the Idols, Maxims and Arrows, part 26


"...they make men small, cowardly and hedonistic--every time it is the herd animal that triumphs with them. Liberalism: In other words, herd-animalization." - Twilight of the Idols, chap 38, para. 1


"Christianity is a rebellion of everything that crawls on the ground against that which has height: the evangel of the 'lowly' makes low." - The Antichrist, part 43, para. 5


For what purpose humanity is there should not even concern us: why you are there, that you should ask yourself: and if you have no ready answer, then set for yourself goals, high and noble goals, and perish in pursuit of them! I know of no better life purpose than to perish in attempting the great and the impossible...
Nietzsche, unpublished note from the 1873


God is dead; but considering the state the species Man is in, there will perhaps be caves, for ages yet, in which his shadow will be shown.
Die Frohliche Wissenschaft, III, 108


Believe me! The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously!
IV, 283


He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
Jenseits von Gut und Bose, IV, 146


The thought of suicide is a great source of comfort: with it a calm passageis to be made across many a night.
157


Wit is the epitaph of an emotion.
Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, II.i, 202


Talking much about oneself can also be a means to conceal oneself.


"Without music, life would be a mistake"


Morality is the best of all devices for leading mankind by the nose.
Friedrich Nietzsche: The Antichrist.


We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.


"Battle not with monsters lest you become one."


A good aphorism is too hard for the tooth of time, and is not worn away by all the centuries, although it serves as food for every epoch.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)
_Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions_ (1879) no. 168


I distrust all systematisers, and avoid them. The will to a system shows a lack of honesty.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)
_G\"otzen-D\"ammerung[The Twilight of the Idols]_ (1888)
``Maxims and Missiles'' no. 26


"To do great things is difficult, but to command great things is more difficult."


"Joyous distrust is a sign of health. Everything absolute belongs to pathology."


"Only sick music makes money today." -- Nietzsche (1844-1900) in 1888


"It is hard enough to remember my opinions, without also remembering my reasons for them!"


"At times one remains faithful to a cause only because its opponents do not cease to be insipid."


Experience, as a desire for experience, does not come off. We must not study ourselves while having an experience.


How people keep correcting us when we are young! There is always some bad habit or other they tell us we ought to get over. Yet most bad habits are tools to help us through life.


"Every man has his price." This is not true. But for every man there exists a bait which he cannot resist swallowing. To win over certain people to something, it is only necessary to give it a gloss of love of humanity, nobility, gentleness, self-sacrifice - and there is nothing you cannot get them to swallow. To their souls, these are the icing, the tidbit; other kinds of souls have others."


Undeserved praise causes more pangs of conscience later than undeserved blame, but probably only for this reason, that our power of judgment are more completely exposed by being over praised than by being unjustly underestimated.


To forget one's purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.


He who despises himself nevertheless esteems himself as a self-despiser.


When one has much to put into them, a day has a hundred pockets.


The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception.


"Faith: not wanting to know what is true."


"The criterion of truth resides in the enhancement of the feeling of power"
Will to Power (as Knowledge)
p290 1968 Vintage Books NY, Kaufmann (trans, ed etc.)


"There are many kinds of eyes. Even the sphinx has eyes - and consequently there are many kinds of 'truths' and consequently there is no truth"
ibid:291


"All good things were at one time bad things; every original sin has developed into an original virtue."


We have art in order not to die of the truth.



Check Out:

Friedrich Nietzche - Wikiquote for a few more quotes from Nietzsche.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Pizza Delivery Mayhem

Amidst the cries of foul and calls for boycott arising from Pizza Hut's recent treatment of an employee, a very crucial point is being missed. As most of you are likely familiar, Pizza Hut recently fired an employee who fended off a robbery by shooting the would-be robber with his own hand gun that he was legally carrying. This was a big enough story to make national news and put the blogosphere, at least the conservative and libertarian parts of it in a flurry.

When I had initially come across the story I decided not to blog on it, precisely because it was not news to me, but after leaving a long comment on the matter over at Improved Clinch I changed my mind. It seems I have a perspective on the matter that isn't being addressed, not as far as I can tell anyway.

Here's the story: The same exact thing happened in Athens about 3 years ago. A pizza delivery driver working for Pizza Hut was fired after the driver foiled a robbery attempt. He did so by pulling out a handgun that he had concealed in his car. He did not point it at the attackers, they were actually just a bunch of teenagers with knives. All he did was hold it up and they ran off. When he got back to the store he decided to report the incident, as he as supposed to do, to his employer. He was fired. A similar incident happened at a Papa Johns. I happen to know because I worked there, and the store that it happened at was owned by the same person who owned the store I worked at.

I unfortunately do not remember the details of the Papa Johns incident. I remember only that there was an attempted robbery, and I believe the driver was later fired when it was discovered that he had mace in his car, but honestly I do not remember whether or not he foiled the robbery, and whether or not he was later fired for it. I just remember that we talked about the two events in conjunction with each other because they were similar. Neither of course made any news local or otherwise because they were not particularly interesting stories and police reports do not include whether or not the drivers involved were later fired.

In any case it was a hot topic for a while amongst pizza-delivery-employees, and I actually ended up in several discussions with my managers on the subject. What I discovered was that all of the major pizza delivery chains have similar policies in regards to weapons. Dominoes, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, and probably many or most others prohibit the carrying of weapons of any kind by their employees while they are on the clock. At Papa John's this included mace and pepper spray, and I did hear of a few people who were fired for having mace in their car while on deliveries.

That was the policy of the store and the company. If any employee had a weapon on them at any time when they were on the clock, whether on a delivery, or on the premises of the store they were supposed to be immediately fired. According to my manager at the time this was for insurance reasons. I was skeptical of this point at first because the drivers had to pay for their own car insurance. Apparently though the stores are insured against damages caused by robberies (whether attempted or successful), and by extension so are the drivers. This is actually not a gun issue at all. It's about the moral hazards that come along with insurance policies.

It is cheaper for the insurance company to replace the stolen goods than for them to have to pay medical bills, or funerary bills. As a result the insurance companies want the employees of restaurants like Pizza Hut to cooperate with the robbers. At Papa John's for example you could actually be fired if you attempted to thwart a robbery rather than cooperating regardless of whether you used a weapon in the process. The drivers were supposed to do exactly as the attacker told them to do without provoking them, and saying as little as possible beyond what was demanded of them, then return immediately to the store report the incident to the manager who would then lock the doors (effectively shutting down the store for at least a few hours) and call the police. Any other actions such as trying to run from an attacker, fighting or threatening the attacker, hitting the attacker with your car etc. were seen as reckless and dangerous and would have resulted in the employee being fired.

Let me stress the fact that most restaurants have these policies especially those that include delivery services. I worked at Mcdonald's and they were exactly the same way, and I have no doubt that Burger King and Wendy's are as well. It's standard industry practice. So boycott Pizza Hut all you want while you are eating at Dominoes, Papa Johns, Mcdonald's and dozens of other restaurants that end up firing employees every year for carrying weapons to defend themselves. In the end you are not going to change the practice because it's not about consumer demand, it's about insurance. And you'll have to impact the businesses of a hell of a lot of restaurants before you will succeed in putting any real pressure on their insurance providers.

Sure it's unfair but the drivers know what they are getting into. Many of the drivers at Papa Johns carried weapons knowing that if those weapons were discovered, or if they ever had to use them they would likely get fired. They did it anyway because they figured their life was more important than their job. Ultimately that choice is theirs to make.