Google Evil, Stanford Less So

Stanford CardinalI was talking to Will earlier about the Stanford football team. Many people mistakenly refer to them as the “Cardinals” but they are actually the “Cardinal.” It seems weird to people, but it just means that Stanford is such a badass team that it only takes one of them to fuck you up. Or it could be that they are named after the color, which just so happens to be the school and team color.

First some background. Three of the Ivy League schools are named after colors: Cornell (Big Red), Dartmouth (Big Green), and, most notable, Harvard (Crimson). There is also Brown. Boy, do I crack myself up! I kid the Bears! Anyway, back to Stanford.

Throughout the 1960s, Stanford was the Indians. So in 1970, they decided that maybe it was insensitive for a bunch of rich white kids (plus the football and basketball teams) to have a stereotypical if not fully racist mascot.

What are a bunch of pretentious third basers to do? Being smart, they thought, “What are we?” Unfortunately “Entitled Rich White Kids” didn’t really work. Plus there was the eternal question, “Glasses or no glasses?” So they asked again, “What are we like?” The answer to this was obvious: other entitled rich white kids. And where are other entitled rich white kids? Why in the Ivy League, of course!

Clearly, Stanford wasn’t going to be the “Big” anything. I mean, let’s be real: Cornell? Dartmouth? Please! But Harvard: that had possibilities. But rather than go with a color that at least all girls know, Stanford went with one that was not only obscure, it was confusing!

So when you hear “Cardinal,” think “Clever but Entitled Rich White Kids.” (Not quite so white any more.) Gooo Cardinal!

I Almost Forgot

That wasn’t what I was writing you about. After doing a little research online to make sure what I remembered about Stanford was right (it was), I moved on to other things. So I opened a new webpage and there was a Google Ad staring at me regarding, wait for it… Stanford Continuing Education. The bastards!

But what did I do. I clicked! Because it is always right to click! Read my article: Ad Revenue. It’s important.

Chia Romney!

Chia RomneyWill was at K-Mart tonight and he sent me a couple of pictures of… Chia Obama and Chia Romney.

This is part of the Chia Freedom of Choice™ series. You aren’t limited to Obama and Romney. Oh no! There is a Chia Gingrich and a Chia Ron Paul too. Sadly, no Chia Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, or Rick Santorum. And shockingly, there is no Chia Herman Cain. I mean, honestly, if there was one nationally known politician who you’d like to grow plant hair on, wouldn’t it be Cain? Wouldn’t that just be perfect?!

All four candidates are all still available at the low low price of only $17.99 (or less for Obama). Collect them all!

I know if they cost less, Will would have bought me one.

Greed is a Religion

Romney - No We Can'tDigby speculates that for Mitt Romney, “Charitable giving to a church that primarily operates highly successful commercial businesses is just another tax dodge.” I think this is true. Romney doesn’t strike me as a particularly spiritual person. He seems incredibly materialistic, and I just don’t believe that one can accumulate great wealth if he is truly interested in the soul.

Mitt Romney does have a religion that he’s passionate about. He is also a Mormon. The religion of his passion is Greed.

I thought about this earlier while reading a new article by Robert Reich, What Mitt Romney Really Represents. He notes that we’ve had rich Presidents before, but that they were explicitly working against their own class interests. Romney’s only clear policy proposal is to lower taxes on himself and others like him. That makes him different from the Roosevelts and the Kennedys.

Evil doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Romney couldn’t have become the Republican presidential nominee in 1968, for example. Philosophical groundwork had to be laid, not just for the Republican base, but for Mitt Romney himself. And it has been a long time coming.

I always think this whole thing started with Gordon Gekko, but that’s not true. Oliver Stone and Stanley Weiser were just picking up on a trend that was already well underway. In fact, Ivan Boesky once gave a famous speech with the line, “Greed is right.” Although everyone remembers the line “Greed is good,” Gekko follows that immediately with “Greed is right”:

What I’ve always found fascinating about this scene and Wall Street generally, is how opinion on the film is bifurcated. Many people think that Gekko is a cool character. He has shaped a couple generations of young, mostly poor but aggressive, men. The men of Romney’s social class never needed Gekko because they that their Ivan Boeskys to look up to.

Many pundits have bemoaned the fact that Romney hasn’t had an opportunity to talk about his Mormonism. I think this goes back to the Gore 2000 campaign where he also was considered stiff. Many people claimed this was because his handlers wouldn’t let him talk about his environmentalism. This may be true, although I think the whole observation is questionable because I didn’t find Gore stiff. The idea is that if Romney were allowed to talk about his Mormonism, he would show what a passionate man he is. What rubbish!

Romney has been allowed to talk about his passion excessively—the whole election cycle! He has only been constrained by the fact that most people find his one true religion—Greed—repugnant. And this, I think, is why he seems so much less “stiff” when talking in private to his donors.

Greed is great
Greed is good
Greed thinks poor
Do not need food.[1]

[1] Yes, I know that “good” does not rhyme with “food.” Tell that to the idiot who wrote “God is great”!

“Equality of Opportunity” is Killing Our Kids

scantronLast week on This American Life the episode was called Back to School. It was very good—as always. It discussed non-cognitive skills and how they are perhaps more important to how well a student does in life than cognitive skills. In fact, one expert noted that the modern testing fascination is geared not to what matters most, but to what is easiest to test. We test math because it is easy to test, even though impulse control (which is hard to test) is certainly as important. It is like the old joke of the guy looking under a street light for his lost keys, even though he dropped them half a block away. “The light’s better here.” Everyone sees the ridiculousness of the joke even while they continue to think that testing is a panacea.

Another point brought up is how students from low income families are harmed by the stress in their lives. And they are particularly harmed in terms of non-cognitive skills. It is hard to have good impulse control when you are stressed to the breaking point. A doctor who has studied this used a peculiar example. She mentioned seeing violence on the streets. I’m sure that’s an issue, but I don’t think it is the main one.

You may have read about the drop in life expectancies of the least educated whites over the last two decades. This is not a small drop; it is 4 years; that’s 5% of a life! It isn’t clear what the problem is, so we get a laundry list:

The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance.

Kathleen Geier has a different take on this. She notes that the Whitehall Studies of British civil servants found that those at lower pay grades had higher mortality rates than those at higher grades. She continues:

I believe that inequality-related stressors are likely to be the determining factors in declining American life expectancies, as well. I’m surprised, in fact, that the Times article did not specifically identify inequality as a causal factor, because the health risks associated with economic inequality are well-established in the scientific literature. For decades, the United States has been making a series of political choices that has distributed wealth and power upwards and left working Americans not only poorer and sicker, but also feeling far more burdened and distressed, and experiencing far less security and control over their lives.

The biggest problem that I see in the lives of poor people I know is economic uncertainty. There may be all kinds of stressors beyond it, but they are fleeting. Economic insecurity hangs over every minute of the day and blankets yours dreams at night. And this is not just true of adults; children feel it profoundly, even or perhaps especially because they don’t understand it.

There is a recent conservative meme to the effect of, “We believe in equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes.” It sounds great, right? But what it really means is, “We believe in inequality of opportunity, and inequality of outcomes.” The fact is that there cannot be equality of opportunity if the outcomes are too unequal.

Leave aside issues like local funding of school districts where rich kids have good public schools and poor kids have bad public schools.[1] If a child’s home life is bad, his success in school and life will be bad. If we really care about having some amount of equality of opportunity we must work to provide everyone with a living wage and some semblance of security.

[1] So many things go along with this. The Richmond Public Library, for example, is a terrible place. They have two ancient computers and a very old collection. By comparison, the Sonoma Country Library is the bright city on the hill. Of course, it is nothing like the libraries around my sister in Agoura Hills.