The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Importance of Being Earnest

The determination of racial profiling can be overblown, but this picture perhaps gives notice to the small semantical differences that we use toward various ethnic groups.

Perhaps I am being too skeptical as is whomever read this contradiction first. But it is an interesting thing to be skeptical about. How far have we come?

Fringe Benefits

A quick post on a big topic. We'll see how this works out.

Major arguments of national importance are being co-opted by extreme elements of our nation. I think we can say this much. And in it we have impugned our judgment by believing cohorts of uber-partisans at the expense of a true national and vibrant dialogue.

Many people have offered this elementary thesis to explain our countries current disarray and political bickering. People rage for the rise of some moderate-centrist, boring pragmatist that will deliver unto us some mediating power. Key word being boring. No one wants someone that everyone can agree with; good politics doesn't make good television. And so the politicos, the media and those that prop these functionaries up, have conceptually maintained an interesting spin on American culture: it looks at individuals and generalizes behavior; take a Cindy Sheehan and say all mothers are against the war, take another mother to say the contrary. I have seen about 20 veterans on tv proposing different viewpoints on the merits of the war. Is this story uninteresting? No, but passing opinion off as truth is quite the trick.

And the moral of the story: fringe groups offer the all too appealing soft news story because well they make people's blood boil or the reverse; the anecdotal tale of some mother in mourning has made her loved and hated. Profitable news is idealogical, it seems. Where's the hard news, America? Whatever happened to the no spin zone?

When politics trump human suffering

Don't get me wrong. I generally will side with environmentalists when they talk about global warming. But today, as New Orleans is evacuated and the Gulf Coast region devastated, seems to be a amazingly boneheaded time to print an opinion piece "reminding" everyone that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Republican, help derail Kyoto. Robert F. Kennedy Jr normally has a good head on his shoulders, but this time he's lost touch with reality in his fervor to protect the environment. For they that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind

In times of great crisis, any truly humane person would lay down the partisan squabbles while bodies continue to turn up on shores and communities are torn asunder. Yet, people on RFK Jr's post said things like, "Bravo to you for all your work. I admire all you do, and just bought your latest book. My biggest problem is that I feel like giving up and moving to...where? They want to ruin the whole damn world! And for what? These religious fanatics must realize they can't take it with them! Do you have any hope? Because mine is dwindling fast. Thank you for everything!"

In the heat of politics, we must never forget that politics exist to serve a democratic people; and when the people suffer, the politics must step forward to serve them in the here and now.

A letter to someone...

Hello Sir,

The real issue at hand, to cut to the chase, will never be abortion or moral issues; it shouldn't be war or peace or some woman in the street waving a sign. The reality check of the century should have been the headline in today's paper, until Katrina brought her whimsical heart straight into the path of dozens now dead. The headline should have read "Third World America" or something to that effect. It received good coverage on the New York Times, on the local news, but is good...enough?

With poverty increasing for a 5th consecutive year: it asks larger questions about American standard of living, America's so-called victory over the recession, and to what end will we allow this statistic to stain our consciences. Some look to lead anti-poverty measures abroad in the areas of the world with most need, and without question this is virtuous work, where money and (more importantly) time will change the lives of millions. But in this antifederalist world we live in: our nation remains sovereign, and our problems remain ours. To believe, for some good, that increasing poverty is a trade-off that we ought to take is preposterous, insulting, and a self-defeating concept for a nation built on opportunity for all. What will we do? Sit around and consider that the guy down the street is worth cutting in the name of some other country, in the name of a more globalized economy? And to be fair, globalized economy will improve greatly the lives of many, and it may increase the benefits of the poor. So whatever policy is raised must not be isolationist, but it must not either be corporatist and elitist. The new American spirit lies in globalized individuality. Raising the prospects of a good life for individual in the Sudan as much as the individual in Bed-Stuy. Because when we remove ourselves from statistics, numbers and identifiers: lie people. The basis of our society. Without question the duty of all societies (both in the political ans civil spheres) ought to be to attack any injury to one of its own as if it hurt the society itself. The stench of poverty wreaks in the land of America. Will anyone make it the top priority at the expense of being unpopular and liberally compassionate? Our individual rights matter not if the same opportunities we have been blessed with fall through the hands of people less fortunate.

[Of note: the solution lies in society and not in government; it will be the leaders of both worlds, and most prominantly government to persuade a transfer of resources, to command this necessary change].

Yours Truly,
Someone Else

Does eminent domain justify the eviction of the Indians from their lands?

Eminent domain is acceptable to remove people who refused to be moved in cases where the motivation for the move is to free up land for use that has a positive/greater benefit for society. This description is quite vague, as it has been proven to work for private business ventures as well if they can claim to create jobs and stimulate the economy. While pondering the recent NCAA rulings about the use of Indian names for sports team, the issue of eminent domain struck like lightning.

The Indians weren't really helping anyone through their use of their land; they didn't exploit it properly, they didn't mine the precious metals embedded deep beneath the surface; they didn't willingly share all their land with the United States government (a la: one nation of white people, under a vengeful god, suppressing people of color, for the good of us all. amen). Under eminent domain, we had a duty to move them, forcefully if necessary, because their decisions were not contributing to the public good as the American government saw it. Of course, there is the issue of how the US govt gained domain over the Indians in the first place, but that is a wholly separate issue.

Indian relocation + eminent domain = legal and just?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Evolution, NOT Darwinism

Brian Sorrell has a good post explaining how the media simplification of evolution as apes --> people and "Darwin's theory" misses much of reality. Pop over his way to read his explanation of how evolution has itself evolved since Darwin's time as we have begun to learn more about life at the micro-level.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Why don't we talk about the benefits of abortion?

A simple enough question. Why, in a society that values results, do we not discuss the benefits/costs of abortion? Abortion is a right or it is an abomination; is that all we have? What if I hate abortion, but recognize that it has helped society?

I'm referring of course to the theory of Steven Levitt, the author of Freakonomics and much-heralded young economist, who explained years ago that the disappearance of a million at-risk children who would have been born in the late 70s if not for abortion in fact was the largest reason for the significant drop in crime in the late 90s. President Clinton and the experts were talking crime epidemic, and then suddenly, piff. Crime plummeted and the problem disappeared. Why? Levitt argues abortion, and I think he may be right. But is that a kosher argument in the current political atmosphere?

Welcome to The Columbia Critic

In the near future, this site will be home to lively debate and discussion between some of the self-proclaimed smartest political and cultural junkies at Columbia University. Starting off this week with a bang are former Columbia College Republicans president Dennis Schmelzer and Brian Wagner, open-minded jack-of-all-liberal-trades.

Over time, this little experiment in wide-ranging discussion and argument will expand to include more writers. But for now, please read what we have to say, and give us your two cents.