HELLO

Whether you're a fan of my OSCARBLOGGER site, or if you're just casting your way 'round the web, I hope you enjoy my new blog: WHISPERING IN A WIND TUNNEL. Here I will discuss issues of politics, religion, race, gay rights, gender, you know, the big stuff.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

THE OUTLIERS



Recently, the absurdly premature and mostly dull 2016 presidential campaign (which may seriously result in a Bush versus a Clinton!) has become more entertaining by the emergence of two candidates from both parties who are pushing  buttons on both the left and the right: first, there's Senator Bernie Sanders.  Although technically an independent, Sanders has decided to run against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Presidential nomination.  The Vermont Senator is the only member of congress to proudly call himself a European style Socialist, and his populist message of dealing with the nation's great issue of economic inequality has caught on.  The number of people at his rallies has steadily increased, as has his ratings in the polls.  With his often unruly crest of white hair and frequently hectoring style of speech, Sanders often comes across as part Old Testament prophet and part crazy uncle (if your uncle were left wing), and at almost 74 years old he's probably too old to put in a serious run for the presidency.  Given all that, I'm still a big fan of the guy, especially when he honestly states that he thinks America can improve and learn from European Socialist ideas, and if he pushes Hillary Clinton into adopting more progressive views, all the better.  Clinton has, for the most part, mostly ignored Sanders, which makes sense: despite his surge in the polls, she still retains a healthy lead over him and all the other Democratic candidates.  Not to mention the fact that, sadly, the very thing I like about Sanders over Clinton is what will doom his quixotic campaign: he has turned down all Wall Street and corporate campaign donations, and, after the misguided Citizen's United Supreme Court ruling, raising hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy donors is the only way to the white house in our modern system.  And Clinton already has a huge money machine running that she could drown Sanders in if she needs too, and that should end things.
Or will it?  Being an independent, is it possible that Sanders will run as a third party candidate?  I certainly hope not.  I can still remember what happened in the crazy 2000 presidential election when Ralph Nader ran as a Green party candidate and succeeded to siphon enough votes away from Al Gore to give the white house to George W Bush.  I myself voted for Nader because after 8 years of Bill Clinton going along with the Republicans on one issue after another, I felt there wasn't enough of a difference between the parties.  I now see the error of my ways!  Bush was far more conservative than Clinton, and the damage his presidency did to both the country and the world are still being felt. So while I'm an admirer of Bernie Sanders, I sincerely hope that he doesn't push the election towards whatever Republican candidate is running.


Ah, and then there's Donald Trump, the loud mouthed, boastful man who has elbowed his way into the Republican candidate clown car through sheer force of will and ego.  Amazingly, this real estate and media mogul who has never held any political office ever is working his way to the top of the polls over the 15 other Republican candidates running.  His main claim to fame is that he is a rich, successful businessman, which of course has nothing to do with running a country and ignores the fact that he's declared bankruptcy more than once.
But that's not the worst of it.  The real horrible thing about him is why he's leading in the polls. During his campaign announcement speech Trump made this inflammatory, offensive and factually incorrect statement:

  "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best..they're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people(!), but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting."

Sadly, these statements, no matter how false, represent the racist and xenophobic attitudes of many people in the Republican party.  His current popularity shows that.  And that fact that most of the other Republican candidates have given only tepid criticism at best over these comments reveals that they all know it.  Which may spell doom for the future of the party.
It's hard to believe, but it wasn't always this way; after Barak Obama won reelection  in 2012, partly due to the fact that he got a whopping 77% of the Latino vote, there was a movement in the Republican party to compromise on the issue of immigration reform, simply out of self preservation.  Wise party members realized that alienating the fastest growing demographic members of the country amounted to political suicide.  But nothing happened, and three years later and here's Trump with a razor blade to the party's wrist.  And he's exactly what the Republicans deserve.  While Trump's candidacy may bring back memories of Ross Perot, the billionaire who ran for president back in 1992 with a similar platform of wealth = power, I also can't help but be reminded of David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan who was briefly popular in the in the 1990's in the Republican  party, much to it's chagrin.  (As Duke himself was proud to point out, when he ran for the office of Governor of Louisisana in 1991, he won a majority of the white vote). Although Trump's personal history isn't as loathsome as Duke's, like Duke, Trump isn't really saying anything that other Republicans aren't saying, he's just more blunt about it.  The fact of the matter is that, it is now as it was in the 90's, Republican presidential candidates can't win the party's nomination without playing up in some part to it's base of white Southern men who grew up at a time when segregation was the law of the land and who miss those good old days.  Look, I don't want to say that all older white Southern men in the Republican party are racists, but at the end of the day, the proof is in the poll numbers.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

3 SIMPLE IDEAS


Ok, let's take a break from politics for a moment and talk about common sense.  Here are three things that America could change about itself that would make the country better, and that, for some dumb reason, we can't seem to do.

#1. STOP JUMPING BACK AND FORTH WITH DAYLIGHT SAVINGS.

Daylight savings first began around a hundred years ago as a move to preserve daylight and save fuel.  It began in Germany and is now used in 70 countries around the world, including, of course, the US.  While it may have saved some fuel a long time ago, we live in a much different world now (for example, an extra hour of sunlight in many places means an extra hour of using air conditioning).  Even worse, that lost hour of sleep makes a difference: every year the number of car and work related accidents go up the week after the "spring forward", and worker productivity goes down.  Although the percentage of change on these things is small, so what?  Isn't avoiding any increase of potentially dangerous accidents a good thing? So why go back and forth?  Why not pick one time setting and stick with it?  This seems to be one of those things that has been going on for so long that most people just accept it and don't much think about it.  But it's just plain silly.  One argument I've heard against keeping daylight savings year round is that kids will eventually have to go to school in the morning in the dark, which leads to my next point...

#2. QUIT SENDING KIDS TO SCHOOL ON FARMER'S HOURS

Making schooling mandatory began as far back as 1852 in the US.  To accommodate the fact that many students lived on farms and needed to get home early to help out, schools began and ended at early hours.  To this day, most schools follow the schedule of starting between 8-8:30 AM and ending between 3-3:30 PM.  But most children today don't work on farms, and this set in stone schedule is hurting our educational system overall.  Although the effort of getting up early is not such a burden on younger children, it's very difficult for teenagers.  Multiple studies have shown that teens need more sleep than adults, and that they are essentially programmed to stay up late and sleep in.  Over the years, when attempts have been made to push back school schedules for teens to deal with this, the results have been positive: according to the Center for Public Education's website, pushing back the school day results in higher attendance, less sleeping in class, and even less student depression.  Not to mention the fact that teens tend to get in the most trouble in that time period after school before their parents get home, when there's no real adult supervision of them. Pushing back school hours would for less unstructured time for teens and less general chances for mischief.  Now making this change would require teachers, school administrators and custodians to alter their own work schedules, but since happier students would make their jobs easier, I don't see why they should object to it so much.  So, once again, why not do something that would clearly have a positive benefit? 

#3. SWITCH TO THE METRIC SYSTEM ALREADY

Recently. long shot Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee mentioned something in his campaign launch speech that was a bit surprising: "Here’s a bold embrace of internationalism: let’s join the rest of the world and go metric".... "Only Myanmar, Liberia and the United States aren’t metric and it will help our economy!"  He was inevitably mocked for bringing up an issue few Americans feel strongly about.  And yet he had a point.  The metric system is an easier and more logical system than our current one(often called the British Imperial system), yet we cling to it except for a few things here and there(like in the pharmaceutical industry).  Part of our rejection of the metric system comes from the fact that it was developed by the French in late 1700's at a time when French-American relations were not good.  Centuries later, in the 1970's, there was a definite attempt to convert America to metrics (I can remember TV commercials promoting it from my childhood).  Laws were passed, but because they were voluntary, little changed.  Part of the problem is that there would be some expense involved in altering maps and such, but the main reason seems to be what some people call "American exceptional-ism". That is, the strong, often stubborn feeling Americans have that we have to be different.  Just as Americans shrug their shoulders at thousands of hand gun deaths annually as "the price of freedom", so do they defiantly resist a system of weights and measure used by other countries.  But the metric system is better, and our continued usage of our outdated system often puts the country at odds with others.  In an amazing example, back in 1999 NASA lost a 125 million dollar Mars orbiter because Lockheed Martin, the company that created it, used the American system while NASA used the metric system, causing confusion.  Can't a waste of over a hundred million tax dollars because of flummoxed rocket scientists be seen as some kind of clarion call for the country?  Apparently not since it happened over fifteen years ago.....grrrr!
A recent study from Northwestern University builds on this research, finding that high school students performed better later in the day than early in the morning, and most high school schedules contribute to sleep deprivation among students (Tonn, 2006). - See more at: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Organizing-a-school/Copy-of-Making-time-At-a-glance/Making-time-What-research-says-about-re-organizing-school-schedules.html#sthash.ObShZR0n.dpuf
A recent study from Northwestern University builds on this research, finding that high school students performed better later in the day than early in the morning, and most high school schedules contribute to sleep deprivation among students (Tonn, 2006). - See more at: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Organizing-a-school/Copy-of-Making-time-At-a-glance/Making-time-What-research-says-about-re-organizing-school-schedules.html#sthash.ObShZR0n.dpuf
A recent study from Northwestern University builds on this research, finding that high school students performed better later in the day than early in the morning, and most high school schedules contribute to sleep deprivation among students (Tonn, 2006). - See more at: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Organizing-a-school/Copy-of-Making-time-At-a-glance/Making-time-What-research-says-about-re-organizing-school-schedules.html#sthash.ObShZR0n.dpuf