Two Left Feet

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Tuesday, November 26, 2002


In honor of a namesake...

Washington, D.C.- The war on terrorism took a new turn yesterday when the Allies revealed plans to airdrop a platoon of crack French intellectuals into the Middle East. Their mission is to destroy the morale of Islamic terrorists by proving the nonexistence of God. Elements from the feared Jean-Paul Sartre Brigade, or Black Berets, will be parachuted into combat zones to spread doubt, despondency, and existential anomie among the enemy.

Hardened by numerous intellectual battles during their long occupation of Paris' Left Bank, the Black Berets will first establish sidewalk cafes at strategic points in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other fundamentalist strongholds. There they will drink coffee and talk animatedly about the absurd nature of life and the human race's isolation in the universe.

-From a story making the rounds of the Internet, reprinted in the Utne Reader.


Thought For the Day

If it were all so simple!
If only there were people somewhere
insidiously committing evil deeds,
and it were necessary only to separate them
from the rest of us and destroy them.
But the line dividing good and evil
cuts through the heart of every human being.
And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn

This quotation interests me not only for its applicability to the current administration's rhetoric, but also because I, too, am often tempted to think of certain people (i.e., corporate execs) as evil people. While it is difficult for me to believe that they really are good people, deep in their (rotten, twisted, and stone-cold) hearts, perhaps you and I would do well to remember that they are products of the same culture that we are.

One of the main tenets of sociology as I understand it is that if a problem pops up often enough in a society, it is better to think of it as a societal problem, rather than an individual problem. For example, sociologists view divorce as a societal issue, rather than just an individual issue, because it occurs so often that it must at least in part be a result of our societal structure. So, accepting that idea, what is it about our society that causes the creation of so many corporate thugs?

I'll have to get back to you on the answer to that question.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002



I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I'll just post the link without comment. (Via MaxSpeak.)

Friday, November 15, 2002


On a positive note...

Here's an article describing how two groups who usually belong to opposite sides of the political spectrum are teaming up to take on SUVs. It's heartening when people realize that they really do stand for the same principles, so go, read the article.

P.S. Best of all, the campaign is going on in North Carolina!


The Daily Tar Heel Strikes Again

An editorial on the back page of the DTH today is entitled "Waste of Energy." Oh, boy.

At first glance, the referendum puts a smile on the face of the tree hugger in all of us. After all, recycling is good, biodegradable milk containers are good and seemingly endless water conservation is good. Why can't environment-friendly energy be good too?

First, this campaign isn't about being a "tree hugger." It's not about feeling good about ourselves, although the student body can indeed be proud of itself if it passes a referendum to make UNC the first green-powered university in the South. This campaign is about the future. It's about changes that have to be made. It's about our responsibility as citizens to work together in the face of a presidential administration that would like to drag every last bit of oil from the ends of the earth (and pay for it with the blood of young people like us) before making the changes we would like to embark on now. I could go on, but the lofty goals of the campaign aren't my main point.

What concerns me most in the editorial is this paragraph:

An increase of $4 per student per semester is simply too much money to allocate to a first-time initiative. If research projects compose the bulk of the initiative's purpose, then surely $300,000 is a bit excessive. Equally important is the issue of who will be responsible for allocating this money to the proper sectors of "green energy" research and provision.

My problem with this paragraph? Well, it's blatantly false. The increase in student fees won't go for resarch, but to tangible projects such as solar panels and purchasing some of the university's power from green sources. So basically, this article slams our campaign on the basis of incorrect information.

I've also noted a disturbing trend in the DTH's coverage of the green energy campaign: the nearly utter absence of SEAC members from their articles. It seems to me that they should come to us and at least get our side of the story- something they
don't seem to have done even though they've already written three complete articles about our

If the Daily Tar Heel cannot get their facts straight or even come to SEAC members for statements this campaign will indeed be a waste of energy for us and a waste of time for them.

Thursday, November 14, 2002


The Daily Tar Hell

While we're on the topic of the media, I have some issues with a very local media outlet- the Daily Tar Heel.

For background, the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) at UNC is (and I say this very humbly) embarking on an illustrious and noteworthy campaign. To make it short, we're trying to get a referendum passed by the student body to raise student fees by $4 so that we can buy things like solar panels for the roofs of buildings and purchase some of the university's power from green energy sources.

In any case, SEAC had a major victory on Tuesday night, when the Student Congress approved a bill 19-4 to place our green energy referendum on the student ballot in February. The DTH didn't seem to see it as such, however.

The article covering the event begins innocently by stating the facts:

Student Congress passed a resolution 19-4 Tuesday that will put a referendum on the February general election ballot giving students the chance to decide whether they want student fees to fund efforts to expand renewable energy programs on campus.

The resolution calls for a vote on a $4 per semester student fee increase to fund sustainable energy projects on campus and buy power from renewable energy providers.

That's all fine and good. The article then launches into what strikes me as excessive negativity:

But some Congress representatives were concerned that student funds would be taken off campus and put to uses that would not directly benefit students.

Controversy arose over where the power would be generated and how much of it would benefit UNC students.

In the proposed plan, power would be generated off campus by N.C. GreenPower and sent to a power grid. UNC would be one of the recipients of the energy from the grid, while student fees paid to the power company would be invested to create a collateral base for renewable energy. This collateral would in effect create a market and ensure funding for future green energy projects.

Finance Committee Chairwoman Natalie Russell said the resolution was "fundamentally wrong in using student fees to create a market."

The power grid would provide power not directly for UNC but for the Chapel Hill community, and representatives were hesitant to let fees be spent in a way that might not directly benefit students.

I don't mind the fact that this article gives the negative side of the issue. I think that's fair. What's not fair is that it doesn't give voice at all to the positive side of the issue- and since I was present at the Student Congress meeting where the bill was passed, I can say with absolute certainty that there were plenty of good reasons presented. Yet the only direct quote on either side of the issue is from Representative Natalie Russell, who was fervently against the bill's passage. All of this seems out of balance with the fact that the congress passed the bill by a large margin, again, it was nineteen to four, and the fact that at least one representative who was originally against the bill was convinced of our cause during the course of the debate and voted "Yes" in the end. None of the arguments that moved him to change his mind, or that led the other eighteen representatives to cast their votes in favor of the bill, are presented here.

More disturbing, before telling her my personal thoughts on it, I had my roommate read the article and the first thing she said to me was, "This article seems really negative." She also said that if she hadn't known about the issue already from me, she would have thought after reading the article that the passage of the bill was a bad thing.

This has deep implications, because my roommate is one of the most liberal people I know, and if reading that article would have convinced her to vote "No" on the student referendum in February, we have a serious problem indeed. I have the feeling that if the DTH continues to cover our campaign in a negative light, it will, in effect, sabatoge all of our efforts.

Fortunately, I'm not sure that many people would read an article with the attention-grabbing headline of "Renewable Energy Referendum Gets OK in Congress." And the article that profiled the bill before its passage did not cast the campaign in a negative light at all. SEAC can recover from one negative article. We can only hope that the spin of the coverage improves beginning now.

Full article here.



The lead-in to's top story today reads:

Iraq's defiant response to the United Nations leaves room for interpretation on whether Baghdad really has accepted the U.N. resolution demanding weapons inspections -- and that could mean a military confrontation is waiting down the road.

Maybe I've been abducted by aliens, have taken an acid trip, and been knocked on the head with a tree trunk a few times- maybe, just maybe, I'm plain old crazy- but isn't that the same letter that says that Iraq will allow inspectors back in to show "that Iraq neither had produced nor was in possession of any weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear, chemical or biological -- throughout the time of the inspectors' absence from Iraq."?

Well, actually, I just lifted that quotation from the CNN article with the lead-in I mentioned. That means that the ::grits teeth:: corporate media is deliberately misleading the American people by placing in huge letters hypothetical hawkish musings that contradict the text of the article, but one only knows that if one reads the entire article.

It seems likely that instead of reading the entire article, the harried American would only skim headlines, leading him or her to believe Iraq is being defiant, and that the second most important news item is "Jeanne Moos looks at a contest for the cleverest cat act."

That leaves me with only one word to say: Auuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Article here.

Friday, November 01, 2002


I went to the anti-war rally in San Francisco last Saturday. It was a lot of fun (also a lot of walking--1.7 miles--OK, I'm out of shape).

Things I liked:

-The number of people--I heard later (from the rally organizers, I think, so take it for what it's worth) that the rally stretched along the entire 1.7-mile route and that it took three hours for everyone to make it to the end of the march. Of course, that doesn't tell you anything unless you know how dense or sparse the protestors were. At least where I was, there were enough people that the next person in front or behind was 2-4 feet away and the person beside you was about a foot away. Obviously, this wasn't an army regiment, and people moved around a lot. Some areas were more densely packed than that figure, some less. But that seems about right from my week-old memory (or weak old memory, if you like). I think police estimates pegged the rally at about 45,000; the organizers thought it was 80,000 to 100,000. A lot of people, either way.

-The restraint most people showed in their signs. Obviously, very few people there liked Bush or his administration, and there were a lot of signs deriding or mocking Bush, Cheney, et al., and their foreign policy. But in the 3+ hours I was there, I only saw one sign that really sent a chill down my spine--something about how the Pentagon deserved to be crashed into by a plane. And, in general, people seemed to concentrate on the war, not tangential issues.

-People bringing their kids, their families. A while ago, I made a post to a Portland Indymedia discussion board about the protests against Bush there. Apparently, a couple had brought their young children to the rally, and then when the cops used pepper spray, some of it got on the kids. Some people were saying that these people should lose their children since they endangered them. I made a variety of points, one of them being that most rallies are peaceful. Like this one. People should bring their kids. This needs to be a movement of families, where people can feel that their kids will be safe, and I think it is. It could be better, but I think we showed that bringing your kids to protests isn't endangerment--it's education. Not to mention that maybe having kids around will make both protestors and police think twice before becoming violent.

Things I didn't like:

The political slant of the rally. Three of us left the rally and got some lunch at a sandwich shop on Market St. before heading back to Stanford. One of the other people (my roommate, actually) and I both had the same thought: we think of ourselves as fairly radical on campus (and perhaps we are), but in the grand scheme of things, there are a lot of people who are much more radical than we are. Obviously, there are many more people than that who are less radical, but nevertheless it was a startling realization. And I don't think it's bad to have these people on board. As my roommate also mentioned, it's easy to dismiss these people's beliefs out of hand, but then most people would probably dismiss our views just as quickly as we might like to dismiss the views of the even-more-radical-than-we-are left (technical term). And every person counts, no matter what his/her party affiliation. So, I don't mind having these people marching beside me. But I would have liked a greater diversity of political positions. Despite what some proponents of war say, there are a lot of reasons to be against an invasion of Iraq, reasons that span the political spectrum. I wish we'd heard more of those. I wish we'd seen more real American flags, though I think the corporate-logo flags were also appropriate (note: that's not a picture from the S.F. rally, just a picture of the flag for reference). And comments along the lines of "Zionism is the worst form of racism," which I actually heard one of the speakers say, don't help anyone. Some of the speakers tried to make the case that an opposition to invasion of Iraq must be tied in some way to an attempt to resolve the situation in Israel and Palestine. I think that that case can be made, but as a friend of mine once said to me, "These aren't one-sentence issues." Let's focus on what we can all agree on.

-The tone of several of the speakers. I guess a certain amount of rallying the troops is necessary, and maybe it's difficult to do that without appearing self-righteous. Still, I found myself getting annoyed at some of the rhetoric. At one point, a speaker referred to Colin Powell as a "plantation slave". Sure, I probably wouldn't agree with the guy on 80-90% of policy issues, and he didn't seem to really be trying to stop the invasion, just do it a little more cautiously. And for all of his efforts, he hasn't made much impact on Bush's policy (though arguably it was his influence that brought bush to the UN, which may turn out to be quite an important event in the end). But still--this is the one guy with some power in the Bush administration who's working for a saner way to do things--and you're criticizing him?

Things that amused me:

-A guy at the end of the march exhorting us to join Lyndon LaRouche's cause and asking us "When will you stop marching impotently?" Could anything be more ironic?

I don't mean to criticize the rally overmuch. I think it was an incredible show of the extent to which people oppose this war, and it was beautiful to see people moving together with a common goal. I just think that there's a lot we could do to make things better, too.