Snarky Behavior

Entries tagged as ‘obama’

I voted!

November 4, 2008 · 1 Comment

…and it felt so good!

I have a lot to say about how convoluted the procedure was but suffice it to say that there are efficiencies to be had in the process.  I also didn’t get an “I voted” sticker and I’m pretty heated about that.

Categories: Neato
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Self-Reflexivity

October 15, 2008 · 4 Comments

Without getting too specific here, since God knows who reads this:

As a teaching assistant for my stats class, I have been responsible for administering a weekly computer lab.  The professor for the class gives me the assignment, tells me what his expectations are, and sets me free to drop knowledge to a room full of about 25 students.

Again, without getting too specific, I have faced considerable challenges in how to best utilize these two hours.  There are constraints in terms of instructions, objective, pacing, differentiation, skill-level, attention, patience, technology… you name it, I face it.

AGAIN, without getting too specific, I have done my best to organize those two hours in a way that best serves the needs of ALL of the students.  I don’t want anyone leaving lab without having done the exercise, so that’s priority #1.  People work at their own paces based on their tech-level, so I’ve strategized to create step-by-step power-points on how to use the data-analysis program, and helped people on an individual level as they encountered problems.

Some students are very frustrated with a “learning-by-doing” approach because they’re not entirely sure whether their outcomes are correct or not, since I haven’t provided an examplar or group hand-holding session.  Today I listened to them explain their frustrations with my approach, and I could certainly understand their perspective.  I tried to be diplomatic without over-sharing the considerable constraints I felt I faced, just as I’m trying to be diplomatic now as I write this.

Some students were more… constructive… in their feedback than were others.  Other students seemed to complain out of a sense of entitlement; that whatever approach I was using didn’t meet their expectations for learning objectives.  And they weren’t interested in my theory that data analysis programs are hard, and part of the learning of the program is the struggling with it.  “We pay a lot of money to learn, not to struggle,” was the quote I believe.

Obviously I felt some of the criticism was…unjustified… given my constraints, objectives and perspective.  But it made me very self-reflexive.  The students who were particularly harsh demonstrated no empathy for my perspective.  They were critical for the sake of being critical.  I feel as if there were no circumstances under which they would not find something to complain about.

And I’m like this a lot of the time.  A lot of people are like this a lot of the time.

It’s really easy to complain about what’s wrong.  It’s harder to understand why things might be wrong.  It’s hardest to figure out how you can change things.  And it’s damn near impossible to apply this kind of systematic, analytical reasoning in a relatively reasonable time frame.

Step 1 (Anger):  Things are Bad –> Step 2 (Empathy and Understanding):  Why are they Bad?  –> Step 3 (Analysis):  How can I change the things that make things Bad?

Most people are perpetually stuck on Step 1.

Only managers understand Step 2.

I’m voting for Barack Obama because he gets step 3, and he can do this kind of thinking on the spot, all the time.

Categories: Opinion
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“Not I,” said the leadership

September 30, 2008 · 2 Comments

There are two basic children’s stories of ideological propaganda that defined the Cold War:

The first is the Communist tale of “The Ant and the Grasshopper.” While perhaps not a great fit with Communist values, the moral of the story is “it is best to prepare for times of necessity,” and the preparations are made by a colony doing equal work to ensure equal provisions.

The second is the Capitalist tale of “The Little Red Hen.” This story highlights the behaviorial economics of the free-rider problem; that is, nobody is willing to exert personal effort that exceeds their derived benefit from that effort, even if collectively, everybody is better off.

Well, right now we have a crisis that requires collective effort to address.  The market fell off 700 points yesterday, and that’s not even a sound indicator of how bad things are due to the SEC ban on short-selling.  The lending markets are absolutely frozen, because we have ZERO political leadership willing to do what’s necessary.

Who will lead this bail-out?

–”Not I,” said the President, who refused to use the bully-pulpit to twist the arms of the House Republicans.  “I’m already unpopular as it is.  I don’t want to do any more damage to the party.”

–”Not I,” said John McCain, who refused to rally his party around a bipartisan effort.  “I don’t really understand the issue, and I’ve staked too much politically on being perceived as decisivie on the politically popular side of this issue, whatever it may end up being.”

–”Not I,” said Barack Obama, who was gaining popularity as the economy tanked.  “I don’t want to introduce presidential politics into delicate negotiations.  This needs to be bi-partisan so we share the political fall-out.  Otherwise I’m staying arms-length away.”

–”Not I,” said the House Republicans, who were getting angry calls about bailing out Wall Street.  “My constituents vote on emotion — we’ve cultivated them that way.  And right now, they’re angry.  I’m not sticking my neck out any further with this administration… I don’t care what the long-term consequences may be.  Let’s wait until after the election.”

–”Not I,” said Nancy Peloisi.  “The Republicans double-crossed us.  After all the concessions we made on a bill we didn’t want, they promised the votes, and didn’t deliver.  I’m not letting our party take ownership on this… it’s way too unpopular.”

So who’s going to be the Little Red Hen here?  Who’s going to say, “Then I’ll do it”?

Isn’t that what leadership is supposed to be?  Or is our politically system that handicapped?

Categories: Opinion
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Pioneers

September 18, 2008 · Leave a Comment

The other day, a friend of mine sent a mass e-mail to a group of guys from college with the subject MY. LIFE. IS. OVER.  He had gone in for an annual check-up with his physician, and had been prescribed Propecia, to preemptively combat male-pattern baldness.

We were all surpisingly sympathetic/supportive (surpisingly so because just a few years ago, we would have collective laughed hysterically.  Funny what three years removed from college will do to you.  This is why driver’s insurance premiums for young men drop precipitously at age 25).

What was more interesting is that we had a few responses (including the one in my mind) that said:  “Wow, you can do that?  Maybe I should schedule an appointment…”

My point here is that my post a few days ago highlighting the importance of Virginia as an electoral battleground, urging my friends there to volunteer a weekend or two to canvass, inspired me to sign up and canvass in my own neighboring state of Pennsylvania (the weekend of October 11th, if anyone would like to join me/carpool).

I know I have friends who read this blog in California.  Go sign up to volunteer in Nevada! Are you in law school at Michigan?  Get your whole class to volunteer! And of course, if you’re in DC, you’ve got to get down to Virginia at least once.

Other people are doing it, and you should too!  I know you are busy, but so are the people who are signing up.  Think about it this way:  if one or two days of your work could make the difference between 4 years of Obama as president and McCain as president, wouldn’t you do that in a heartbeat?

Categories: Neato
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IMPORTANT

September 16, 2008 · 1 Comment

The importance of VA

The importance of VA

PLEASE forward this post to anyone you know who lives in the DC/VA area.

People get caught up in the horse-race of a campaign, but we tend to forget (until the last few weeks and days) that it is the so-called “swing states” that determine political outcomes.  Our electoral system is arranged as such that Barack Obama could possibly receive the post popular votes in the history of our country, and LOSE the election because of the composition of electoral votes.

If you go to RealClearPolitics, you can see for yourself:  John McCain has a clear lead in electoral votes for states that are considered “out of play.”  Barring some campaign catastrophe, those states and their votes are done and counted for, leaving only the following “toss-up” states up for grabs:

Obama 207, McCain 227, Toss Ups 104  |  No Toss Ups: Obama 273, McCain 265
Solid Obama     Leaning Obama     Solid McCain     Leaning McCain     Toss Up
State Obama (D) McCain (R) RCP Average RCP Status 2004 2000
Colorado (9) 47.3 46.7 Obama +0.6 Toss Up Bush +4.7 Bush +8.4
Ohio (20) 45.1 47.3 McCain +2.2 Toss Up Bush +2.1 Bush +3.5
Michigan (17) 47.2 45.2 Obama +2.0 Toss Up Kerry +3.4 Gore +5.2
Pennsylvania (21) 47.3 45.7 Obama +1.6 Toss Up Kerry +2.5 Gore +4.2
Virginia (13) 48.0 48.0 Tie Toss Up Bush +8.2 Bush +8.1
Nevada (5) 44.6 45.6 McCain +1.0 Toss Up Bush +2.6 Bush +3.5
New Mexico (5) 47.0 44.7 Obama +2.3 Toss Up Bush +0.7 Gore +0.1
New Hampshire (4) 48.0 44.7 Obama +3.3 Toss Up Kerry +1.3 Bush +1.3
Minnesota (10) 49.0 44.3 Obama +4.7 Toss Up Kerry +3.5 Gore +2.4

Now, if you distribute the votes based on the current margins (which is unwise… that’s why they’re “toss-ups,” after all), you get the map above:  Obama -259, McCain -266… and 13 votes remaining.

If you’re bad at math, I’ll save you the suspense… they’d put Obama over the top.  Without them, he loses.

And where do those 13 votes come from?  Well, from the state of lovers, of course!  Virginia!

Currently Virginia is a dead-heat.  That means EVERY SINGLE VOTE IS IN PLAY.

IF YOU CARE ABOUT THE NEXT FOUR YEARS, IT IS YOUR CIVIC DUTY TO GET OUT THE VOTE.  You may have never canvassed before, but now is a great time to start.  It’s much less painless, and far more rewarding, than you might assume.  And research shows that door-to-door canvassing is by far the gold standard in Get Out the Vote efforts.

There are 50 days left in this election.  PLEASE make time in the next few weekends to go door to door in Virginia.  Sign-up to canvass here.

Categories: Opinion
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The Bias of the AP

September 12, 2008 · 2 Comments

So the event I attended last night basically got zero media attention, first because it was on MTV, but second because apparently Sarah Palin was busy flubbing about what the Bush Doctrine means.

But of the media coverage… on an event that was split 50/50 in terms of time allotted to the candiate, THIS is the official story from the Associated Press.

A brief content analysis shows that McCain’s name is mentioned 9 times, and he gets the photo, the lead, the close, and shares the headline.

Obama’s name is mentioned 4 times, and his views at the event are not discussed until the final two paragraphs (and McCain still gets the close on them!)

Now, it may seem most newsworthy that McCain, also a Republican, would be critical of Bush for not asking his country to serve.  But goddamnit, Obama holds the same criticism of Bush!

It’s just one article, but it’s the Associated Press, and it’s by-lined by two reporters.  Presumably they watched the first hour when McCain spoke, then went and caught drinks.  Because this is not objective or balanced reporting.

Categories: Opinion
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Seven Years Later, a Service Mandate

September 12, 2008 · Leave a Comment

A long day… my article is up at the Huffington Post though, so check it out if you get a chance.

Categories: Opinion
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A Plug

September 12, 2008 · Leave a Comment

In exchange for the free lunch:

ServiceNation

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Almost Famous

September 11, 2008 · Leave a Comment

I’m in the media holding room at the ServiceNation Summit, where Obama and McCain will speak tonight.  I got a press pass through the Huffington Post, and two people have approached me with “you look familiar… should I recognize you?” 

It’s soul-crushing to say no, but I think the beard and glasses make me look like a real serious internet star.

Categories: graduate school
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I’m curious…

September 7, 2008 · 1 Comment

What was Barack and Michelle Obama’s total student debt load when they graduated from Columbia/Princeton and Harvard Law School?  I haven’t been able to find anything credible on this via google search.

I ask because Obama’s stump speech often plays on the “I had massive student loans, and the opportunity to work on Wall Street, but I went to the South Side of Chicago instead.”  I would like to know more specifics about his financial situation to be able to relate to just what kind of sacrifice/opportunity cost that career decision amounted to. 

Michelle has said that the family didn’t pay off their student loans until Barack wrote his two books.  Since they graduated from HLS in 1988 year over year tuition inflation has averaged 5.94% (nearly twice CPI inflation at 2.99%).

UPDATE

Ok I little more google research and I found it (Big Ups to Lynn Sweet of the Sun Times for actually doing investigative journalism on this):

The Obamas complain about their college debt, but they did attend expensive schools. Obama took out $42,753 in loans to pay for Harvard tuition. Michelle signed notes for $40,762 in loans for her Harvard years.

Obama had a full scholarship for his freshman year at Occidental, taking out loans — the best I could get was “tens of thousands” to pay for the rest of his undergraduate school, with some help from his grandparents. At Princeton, as mentioned, Michelle had the work-study grant, got some help from her folks and took out “tens of thousands” of loans to pay tuition.

It sounds like Barack’s total debt load was around $75,000 and Michelle’s was probably a little less.  As a point of comparison, I’ll graduate with a two-year masters with a total of about $120,000 borrowed…a 1989 value of $66,441, assuming a 3% inflation rate.

There is no way in hell I could justify going to work as a “community organizer” come next year.  That’s a huge testament to Obama’s character, in my book.

Categories: graduate school
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