Trouble Thinking

November 3, 2011

Occupy Oakland Stages General Strike, Seems Pretty Effective.

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 12:02 pm

It is my natural inclination to treat all protests as something that I’m far far too cool to bother with. Pish-tosh all these hippies pretending they’re changing the world. I’ll change the world right when I get around to it thank you very much.

But man, the Occupy protests have at the least changed the conversation, and sometimes they’re just straight-up impressive. Like when Oakland staged a General Strike yesterday and had a pretty impressive turnout.

Though the guy in the video, Cenk Uygur from the Young Turks, is occasionally silly. “We might see a Malcom X before a Martin Luther King”, as though Malcom X was fucking Magneto. I get his point about this being a protest that is fundamentally angry about the state of the world, but man do I hate that silly wink wink nod nod maybe we’re violent shit. The Tea Party did that almost to the exclusion of all other conversation, and it annoys me because it blocks out real discussion. “Oh we’re so angry we might… wellllll you know *wiiiiink*” followed by hurried denials that anyone meant anything by it because oh no no that would be uncouth and obviously we wouldn’t we just wanted to you know create the impression but it was a joke!

Just, if you’re going to light shit on fire say so and if you aren’t don’t use the hint that you may as a bargaining chip. It does nothing for you to play let’s pretend and it muddies the waters when you do want to calmly discuss policy changes.

But anyway that’s just this one talkative dude, the protest is pretty amazing to watch. I especially like the bit with the bank security guards cheering on the protesters.

August 3, 2011

Debt Ceiling Deal Eliminates Subsidized Graduate Loans

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 10:54 am

So, in case you missed it due to being a generally lazy uninterested person such as I imagine everyone who is not possessed of my singular qualities must be: The Debt Ceiling! Finally a reason to care about it directly.

I’m going into a PhD program. For those of you who weren’t aware, these programs pay about as well as babysitting your little brother. And now, good news: we’re going to solve all of America’s economic problems by making sure graduate programs are even more punishingly poverty-inducing.

So what the fuck happened?

Well, as reported by the great Minneapolis Daily:

But the federal Pell Grant program, which had expected deep cuts, was given $17 billion to maintain its level of support for college students until 2013. Pell Grants are awarded to undergraduate students from low-income families, and do not need to be repaid. At the University of Minnesota, 19 percent of the undergraduate student population received a Pell Grant in the 2009-10 academic year, according to a report released from the University’s Office of Institutional Research.

Oh man! That’s good, that would have sucked. I know a shitload of poor people who would basically be completely fucked seven ways to sunday if they didn’t get a decent loan rate from Pell Grants. Note: the Pell Grants were described as basically welfare by Republicans and Tea Partiers. Weirdly, they somehow got their facts wrong when it came to hating on people poorer than they are! Wooooah.

Rep Denny Rehberg (R Mont) said

“So you can go to college on Pell Grants — maybe I should not be telling anybody this because it’s turning out to be the welfare of the 21st century.”

Guess what a Pell Grant is! Go on. I know the word grant is confusing, it’s a name, and it also sounds like you mean free money. But no, a Pell Grant is actually a payment offsetting tuition for students who maintain a certain GPA and whose families make less than $35,000 a year. It can be, at maximum, $5,500 per year per student. It is in no way even remotely possible for a student to use this money. It’s just a way to make your desperate attempt to go to a non-Community College somewhat more likely. It’s almost as though people with absolutely no one in their lives who is in any way poor don’t even bother checking before they resent their lessers (via Slacktivist). In fact, it’s completely amazing how resentful the wealthy and powerful are of the destitute masses. I can only assume it’s a ploy to drum up votes from people who prefer to think of themselves as hard-working souls who would refuse all government aid if only they knew what it was.

But! Don’t worry. Pell Grants are safe, for now. All we had to do was give up graduate and professional grants! Yaaay. Again via Minneapolis Daily:

But the Pell Grant program’s reprieve came at the cost of government-subsidized loans for graduate and professional students across the nation, which will be eliminated in July 2012 to cover the cost. Those students will need to begin paying interest on their loan while still in school, or let it accumulate.

“Once again we’re seeing graduate and professional education school pitted against undergraduate education,” said Abou Amara, president of the University’s Graduate and Professional Student Assembly While Amara said that he supported the Pell Grant program, funding cuts to programs at the state and federal level and a sparse job market have created a “bleak future” for graduate students.

Now there are going to be no more subsidized loans for Graduate students after July 1st 2012. What this means is that instead of getting a 0% loan (one that, mind you, you still need to pay back), you get one that charges interest. This is a massive hit to one of the few things that made graduate studies something people could contemplate undertaking. Graduate school stipends are so low that loans are frequently necessary, and professional school tuition is so high that loans are frequently necessary. With subsidized loans, you could go a bit into debt in a calculated manner. Without subsidized loans, hello interest potentially fucking you over.  So, you know. Turns out, the solution to our economic woes has always been to make it harder for poor people to do anything of any possible benefit to society.

I mean for goodness sake. You know who came up with the idea of public education for the peasants? Napoleon. Now, I don’t know if you know Napoleon but he wasn’t known as a “nice dude”. He was the sort of guy who murdered as many people as it took for him to become Emperor of Everything. The sort of man who died when a brave hero hit his flashing weak points in the proper order. And let me tell you, he may have been Emperor of France, but he couldn’t stand the French. He was a Corsican, through and through. If he’d been able to rename the country “Haha bet you fuckers didn’t expect a Corsican to take over did you? BAM” he would have.

But because he came from humble beginnings, he understood that it was beneficial for the state to elevate the least citizen because who knows which will eventually show the same totally sweet merit he did? Education that is cheap and available to all isn’t somehow wussy. It’s a cold calculation made by a man who knew how to use the resources at hand to crush his enemies.

Giving up on education to lower the deficit is an insane method of trying to fix the country. Fewer professionals, weaker science education, more crushing debt for those few hopefuls still bothering: fast track to success for everyone! Can’t wait to see how much this screws me over.

June 22, 2011

Sarah Palin Quits Vacation Halfway Through

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 3:39 pm

That isn’t a joke, that’s a thing that actually happened. Former halfsies governor of Alaska Sarah Palin apparently cannot manage the stress of going on a paid vacation, so she cut it short.

She had a couple more stops planned, including one in New Hampshire where she was expected to maybe announce a run, but she did not. She quit, halfway through. I think she might actually be a sort of performance artist.

This is the most awesome thing.

Via TalkingPointsMemo

June 20, 2011

Bulgarian Superhero Graffiti is Awesome

Filed under: Comics, Interesting Things, News — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 2:10 pm

This is kind of excellent. Apparently popped up overnight recently in Bulgaria, done by a guy people are calling “The Bulgarian Banksy” because Banksy is the only graffiti artist any of us know.

I guess there’s a history of defacing this statue, because it’s of Red Army soldiers “liberating” Bulgaria. A bit of a chill in the relationship following the fall of the Soviet Union has made people less than respectful of the old monuments to the victorious.

Below the statue is written “Moving with the times”, presumably some sort of statement about communism and western imperialism and something or other but I ignored it because holy shit haha Wolverine, the Joker, Captain America and Santa oh man.

(Via the Daily Mail)

June 15, 2011

June 10, 2011

Commission a $20 Sketch to Help Girl Who Was Sexually Assaulted, Then Told To Cheer Attacker

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , , — Durandal @ 8:59 am

This is Via Comics Alliance. Apparently a 16 year-old cheerleader from Silsbee High in Texas claims she was raped by a football/basketball star in 2008.

From the linked article in Ms.:

This really isn’t a he said/she said story. Two students outside the pool room–Patrick Steed and Richard Garrett –heard Hillaire say “Stop!” Unable to open the locked door, they retrieved Jacob Riley from another room. Riley again heard Hillaire say “stop,” so they broke through the door, only to find that three of the four athletes had fled through the window, breaking it in the process. The one young man who stayed behind told police, “I know I did not do anything so I didn’t run.”

Derek, one of the football players who fled, confirmed Hillaire’s account of the incident. He said that his teammate Christian Rountree “was holding her and was trying to talk her into coming in [to the pool room], so when they went back in I just followed.” At one point, he says, Bolton told the others to leave the room for five minutes. “We act [sic] like we left but we just hid under the pool table.” Then “Rakheem layed [sic] her on the floor and started to have sex and she start [sic] saying ‘stop.’ So Rakheem stopped.”

When the rescuers burst in, they found Hillaire lying partially under the pool table, half-clothed and crying. Said Patrick Steed, “All she had on was her black bra. She rolled over and reached for her clothes that were under the pool table. She was crying and appeared upset.” Garrett added to police, “I believed Hillaire had been raped.”

He was allowed to play after being accused, and no disciplinary action was taken by the school in the immediate aftermath. The young woman then decided that she would, if he was going to be allowed back on the teams, not cheer specifically for him during a free throw. Not the team, she was okay with that, just not shouting “put it in” at the person she says raped her. A really way more than generous thing to do in this situation. So obviously, the school told her to stop making waves, stop going to the lunchroom and not attend homecoming. Also, they threw her off the cheerleading squad. When she went to court, they won. Now she’s been ordered to pay $45,000 in legal fees to the school. Oh, and the man accused of raping her was let off with a misdemeanor and a suspended sentence. Also known as “not actually suffering a single consequence”.

People in the town have decided that she was probably just being a slut and she should be ashamed for being such an awful person and going and getting herself raped. This is actually a quote:

She had no shame. … She never seemed upset. She acted like it was no big deal. … I wouldn’t have told people what happened. … I wouldn’t have openly said, ‘This is what happened, blah, blah, blah.’

Yeah! I would have been way more demure when discussing the man who forced me to have sex with him. I would have covered my face with a handkerchief or something at a minimum.

So, there’s an illustrator, Jason Ho, who decided that sounded cosmically terrible for a young person to go through, and has decided to try to help out with those fees. Because he’s an illustrator, he’s decided to do so by putting up $20 commissions and donating the money he makes to her family. So that’s a decent reason to grab some original art of whatever thing you’re into, I would think.

May 27, 2011

Saudi Woman Campaigns for Right To Drive

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , , — Durandal @ 10:07 am

This is a pretty interesting thing. Manal al Sharif, a Saudi Arabian woman,  is arranging a “mass drive” on the 17th of June and encouraging other women to learn how to drive as part of a protest movement she’s helped popularize that is looking to make it socially acceptable for women to drive in Saudi Arabi. Apparently, it’s not actually illegal to drive if you’re a woman in Saudi Arabia, it’s just that you’ll get arrested if you drive and you’re also a woman As the video below from Al Jazeera English explains, there’s nothing actually codified in the law of the land that says a female driver is committing a crime, it’s just that there’s a religious proscription against it and a general cultural agreement that they shouldn’t. Plus, separate religious police will arrest you I suppose. It seems like a terrifying system.

Women are also disallowed from public transit as they can’t come into close contact with men, which public transit requires. Manal al Sharif’s point is that due to the fact that women are so restricted in their movements, they and the people they take care of are inherently less safe. What if you husband gets a heart attack and you can’t take him to the hospital? What if your family needs food and you can’t afford a driver and have no nearby male relative?

Unfortunately it appears the KSAWomen2Drive channel isn’t on YouTube anymore, and I can’t find their Facebook page.

May 3, 2011

SOE Also Hacked, Lovely. Seriously Though, Cancel Those Cards.

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , , — Durandal @ 3:58 pm

Sony Online Entertainment, the division of Sony that’s in control of the Massively Multiplayer products, has also been hacked. So, now with this additional 25 million accounts hacked, we’re at 100 million people’s information stolen due to apparent neglect on the part of Sony.

Our ongoing investigation of illegal intrusions into Sony Online Entertainment systems has discovered that hackers may have obtained personal customer information from SOE systems.  We are today advising you that the personal information you provided us in connection with your SOE account may have been stolen in a cyber-attack.   Stolen information includes, to the extent you provided it to us, the following: name, address (city, state, zip, country), email address, gender, birthdate, phone number, login name and hashed password. (From their notice)

They’re also now confirming that at least hundreds of credit card numbers have been stolen.

And if you’re outside the US, good news!

Customers outside the United States should be advised that we further discovered evidence that information from an outdated database from 2007 containing approximately 12,700 non-US customer credit or debit card numbers and expiration dates (but not credit card security codes) and about 10,700 direct debit records listing bank account numbers of certain customers in Germany, Austria, Netherlands and Spain may have also been obtained. We will be notifying each of those customers promptly.

Cancel your credit card if you’ve ever used it to pay for PSN or SOE content, change any passwords you have if you’ve used PSN or SOE content. Better safe than sorry.
Sony isn’t going to live this one down for a long time.

April 29, 2011

The Politics of Resentment: Michigan State Sen. Proposes Foster Children Be Given Only Second-Hand Clothes

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 12:58 pm

So there’s not a ton more to say about this. A State Senator in Michigan, is feeling a bit rankled that some children who are already generally shit on in every way possible get to have anything new. So he wants to make it law that they be restricted to second-hand clothing.

Note that his “it’ll save money” comes long after his insistence that he had it much harder than these greedy orphans. It’s not about what is practically useful, it’s about pretending to be tougher in order to feel better. He’s not harming these kids, see. He’s just forcing them to go through the same character-building process he did because they’re whining about life being hard but they don’t even know.

Everyone feels hard done by sometimes. There’s a significant point in your interactions with other people where you decide whether to do what you think is best or to be resentful. Ignoring the fact that it’s much easier to remember disappointments than it is to chart the good in your life (I imagine Senator Casswell didn’t simply get handed second-hand clothes, then become a Senator through force of will), why should people suffer as you suffered? If your parents were beaten, but became good people, does that mean they should beat you? Using the shitty parts of your life to assert how much more you deserve and how much tougher you are is a bad idea, but doing it in contrast to fucking foster kids is just plain fucking evil.

I don’t care if this saves money or not, you know why? No one would check, because no one cares. This, and any support for this, doesn’t come from a place of wanting to be fiscally responsible. It comes from the same place that ridiculous sibling rivalry bullshit comes from. Resentment, ignorance, and entitlement.

There’s an old Slacktivist post that goes into more depth with more grace than I can manage:

This is why whenever I hear someone say, “We’ve got to make the tough, painful choices to balance the budget” I know that I needn’t waste any more time listening to that person. He’s not really interested in balancing the budget, he’s interested in imagining himself as someone who is “tough.” And he’s so preoccupied with this need to feel “tough” that he is unwilling to do the arithmetic and see that the most urgent need when it comes to balancing the budget is not a “painful choice” but the choice to ease pain. Putting people back to work is not a painful choice. It’s what those people want — what they long for, hope for and pray for. It makes people happy and actually solves the problem. And for both of those reasons, the “tough” so-called “deficit hawks” don’t like the idea.

April 15, 2011

Donald Trump Pulls Ahead In Polls, Seriously.

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 3:33 pm

So according to a recent report by Public Policy Polling (available here in PDF form) Donald Trump is the current front runner for the Republican primary.

Donald Trump. A man who lost money on a casino. A man more famous for shitty hairpieces than intellect, integrity, or even a bare minimum of business acumen.

The most interesting aspect of that poll is probably the response to the question “Would you be willing or unwilling to support a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination who firmly stated they believed Barack Obama was born in the United States?”

23% of Republican primary voters percent said no.

Only 38% said yes.

Now, it’s not that these people who said no actually believe that our president wasn’t born in the US. No, they just want to make it clear that stating anything nice about our president, regardless of whether it is factual, is not allowed. “Would you vote for a person who said President Obama was definitely not a Skrull?” would have the same layout of responses.

I just… I know that we like to hate on people, obviously. I had great fun hating on President Bush back in the day. Hating our president is one of the pleasures of being a US citizen. People in other countries routinely forget they even have heads of government because they’re boring.  But at a certain point it’s just a different, less useful conversation. You’re not saying “I hate the president because he does/does not/will/will not do this” so much as you’re saying “I hate the president, and to indicate how much I hate him I’ll say he does this”. You may as well just take a picture of yourself scowling and attach it to the poll.

I hate when people refer to these polls and act like they represent actual opinions. “In other news, 45% of children will literally die if you try to give them any more vegetables. That’s a shocking figure, Tom.”

This is an indicator that Trump’s success will be short lived, though. This pre-pre-pre-polling is an opportunity for people who are extremely supportive the Republican party to express how sincere they are in their belief that the current administration is bad, rather than offer any sort of actual opinions. Trump gets to ride this wave because he’s not actually playing to win. Can a person claiming the sitting president is a secret Kenyan and suggesting we make our foreign policy consist of saying “hey, how about we maybe break your legs” to our allies win the general? Obviously not. We’re a weird country, not a completely insane one. But in the pre-election fervor, it’s a ticket to stardom. Because pre-election isn’t about what we want, it’s about how sincere we are. And in general, we prize loyalty and sincerity over you know, saying true things.

I can’t wait until things calm down and everyone just says that the President “comes from a different upbringing”.

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