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September 30, 2006

social capital and community integration

On NPR the other day, I heard a very interesting interview. The interviewee was relating lack of social capital between races as the reason for racial segregation in our cities and communities. He also stated that social capital was essential to making our communities a safer place.

According to the interview, creating social relationships between people of all different communities is a more important first step than simply being integrating communities, because integration should naturally follow once the social relationships are formed. If someone goes to their friends house in a different neighborhood than their own that may be racially different, they are exposed to a different environment than they are used to. Being immersed in that environment will supposedly show them that the neighborhood isn’t that bad and it will allow them to break down the previous assumptions they had about the neighborhood (ex: high crime, etc.). Therefore, you won’t have pre-conceived notions about why you shouldn’t move there, since you will no longer fear being in the racial minority.

In addition, social capital between communities will make communities safer because if something happens in a particular neighborhood, it will not be a problem just for the people in that neighborhood, but also all of their friends and social acquaintances who live in different neighborhoods. Therefore, all different communities will care about the well being of other communities, not just worrying about their own, while other communities are forgotten about and crime and other problems are ignored by the larger public. The example the interviewee gave was that the whole nation was upset about 9/11 even though not all of us are New Yorkers. He attributed this to the fact that a lot of people live in New York City and so many people across the country have social connections to people who live in New York or worked in the world trade center. Therefore, we should get to the point in our own city so that if there are a string of shootings in Northeast Minneapolis, it shouldn’t be a problem just in Northeast Minneapolis, but for the whole city.

It is also possible to take this argument a step further. Putnam argues that the reason why people in the poor neighborhoods can’t bring themselves out of their poverty is because they do not have the social capital required to get high-paying jobs. If we were to create more social bonds between communities, this would become less of an issue and it would be easier for the people in the poor communities to not be so isolated and have easier access to a wider range of job opportunities, therefore increasing the capital in that community, and pulling the community out of its economic rut.

September 29, 2006

Tupelo

While reading about Tupelo, I was struck by the apparent lack of concern at least initially of how one person it seemed was almost totally relied upon to revive the stagnant economy. In a way it reminded me of the case of Flint, Michigan and the conflict there with the automotive industry. Both places had such a huge investment of time, people and other resources in such a select number of things. If you were to take away that singular, economic propellant the entire economy would fall, as it did in Flint. Eventually for Tupelo, they did branch out, and did network in a way for a more diversified economy.

We see the individual as a person do things such as networking, and building social and cultural capital, but in communities such as these where they see the community, their localized society as one entity, wouldn't you think that we would see further evidence of this "bowling alone" effect?

September 28, 2006

Putnam on Myspace?

Social Networking is big business

An CnnMoney article recently reported that the social networking website MySpace could reach a market value of 15 billion. Media mogul Rupert Murdock acquired MySpace less than a year ago for $580 million dollars and the potential jump in value is due partly to international appeal. Britain is adding 25,000 new users a day and there is significant growth in France and Australia. Social Networking online is big business and wildly popular.
What would Putnam think about MySpace? This is an example of how social networking is exploding and as vibrant as ever, but in an online format. The internet has given people access to the world and MySpace is an opportunity for people to interact in a digital format. MySpace has provided a huge forum for the social interaction of millions of people and an exchange of ideas. I believe that Putnam would see this phenomena as a generational divide and the future of social networking as a negative force without face-to-face interaction in a new digital age. I however disagree and see MySpace and the internet as an opportunity to socialize in a busy world with a premium on time. MySpace and technology today, allow us to be more selective with who we do socialize with because we have more opportunities to transverse large distances through newer communication technologies.

Wal-mart did what?

Is Wal-Mart good for HealthCare?

I recently read an article on the CnnMoney website that explained that Wal-Mart was introducing a program to sell over 300 types of generic medication for as low as $4 dollars a prescription. The goal of this plan is to increase foot traffic in stores while people are waiting on their medication. The drugs available will include a range of different medications including anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. This repricing of drug medications is a direct attempt to compete with Walgreens, America’s current number 1 provider of prescription medication.
What strikes me about this article is that this is a rare example of how a corporation’s self-interest and pursuit for profit actually is leading to a social good. Affordable medication is vital for America and few solutions have been offered in the public sector but competition is driving change in the private sector. It is important for there to be more affordable drugs on the market and if this is accomplished by self-interested and profit-seeking corporations, then that is a net gain. Wal-mart has a long track record of social injustices that are well documented and many argue that Wal-Mart is bad for America and the world. But if their program does make prescription medication more affordable to people that need them, then this is indeed a rare example of competition driving social change for the better.

God Loves the Wealthy?

Time magazine's September 18th issue was devoted to followers of television evangelists. Putnam would have a hay day with this topic, being that media can now change religion. Evangilist have gone from being the crazy cartoon like figures of Tammy Faye Baker, and the creepy guy that pushes people's heads as "healing", to a more superficial tag of "Megapastors and authors". Although always contraversial, the new day evangilists have expansed to a new level.
Perhaps in a self serving rightening of these evangilists own lives the message today is that of God wanting you to be rich in order to have a better life. "God wants you to own land. The entire Old Testament is all about land. Land represents that God is with you and God has blessed you," claims Kirbyjon Caldwell, "who pastors Windsor Village, the largest (15,000) United Methodist church in the country". Or Joyce Meyer, author and TV preacher states, "who would want something where you're miserable, broke and ugly and you have to muddle through until you get to heaven?". To me this can only be seen as an excuse for these pastors to make the salaries they recieve for "spreading God's word", or "doing God's work" a deserved, and in fact divined luxury from God himself, since he would never want you to be *gasp* poor, or unsucessful. The scariest thing about these pastor's is that their message is spread through the media to thousands to hundreds of thousands of people.
However there are people like Ron Sider an evangelical antipoverty crusader are rebutting these high power, highly compensated Megapastors by saying, "They have neglected the texts about the danger of riches. Prosperity Gospel Lite is one of the most powerful forms of neglect of the poor". Also in the battle against these Megapastors, is one of their own, Rick Warren, who says, "This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy? Baloney. It's creating a flase idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net-worth".
So how can we whom rely on media for much of our information and entertainment believe. Is it the wealthy Megapastors that we go to to feel sanctified for wanting more because we think we deserve it, or that we all should aspire to be like the Rothschilds, and the Guggenheim's, because that is the goal God wants for us, in order for our happiness? Or do we follow the beliefs of the past, that pastors whom are not as medially connected still preach, that God puts us on earth for the trials and tribulations as well as the happy times, as a lesson to learn before we obtain our places in heaven. That Its okay to go through the tough times, and regognize others struggles to really experience life and you will not only be rewarded in heaven, but that you have done all you could with the time he gave you. I am not a religious person in the organized sense, however upon seeing this article, I knew that the media's reach have gone beyond what I could imagine.

Societal Influence on the Media

In Tuesday’s class, I tried to explain a point I thought was interesting, but I guess I was not clear enough. Hence, I decided to talk about it in this blog:

Last week, I saw the cover of Time magazine, which featured the face of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The close-up portrait of his face is enough to explain the relationship between Iran and the United States. On the cover, Ahmadinejad looks like a soulless-human. Actually, he does not look like human at all. Rather, he looks devilish, and very threatening to all humans. Although I must say that I do not want to get into the issue of nuclear proliferation, especially the current situation with Iran and North Korea, I want to point out how society influences what the media produces, even though we (especially in Tuesday’s class) focus on the other influence: media’s on society.

My aim in this blog, therefore, is to discuss the ways in which the media is influenced by sociological factors that govern those same people that are the consumers. In Tuesday, we discussed how the media is owned by a handful of corporations. To me (may be I was too slow, or it was too early for me to understand, but) it seemed like the class discussion on media as corporations suggested that the media is above society’s influence, such as current politics. An author is a product of his/her environment, and the influence of this environment can never be separated from his/her work. These collective ‘authors’ we call media, therefore, are not spared from the factors that govern the society they are part of, no matter how big of corporations they are. I understand the business aspect of the media which we discussed in class. In fact, the media is a business entity which aims to increase its profit in every way. However, we must not forget that the media is itself a product of its society.

Although Lutz and Collins’ Reading National Geographic focuses on the ways in which the magazine, as well as the western media, constructs representations of non-western peoples which both dichotomizes them (from westerners) and hegemonizes those representations; in this blog I will use an example from it to support my point in how the media is always affected by its society. Lutz and Collins discuss how the magazine portrayed Filipino president Ferdinand E. Marcos (serving from 1965 to 1986, during the Cold War era), from his close alliance with the United States (in which he even shared close personal ties with presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Johnson) to his corruption phase which broke those ties with the U.S. Lutz and Collins point out how, during the ‘friendship’ period, Marcos was portrayed as the family man, pictured with his children and wife, to indicate his similarity to the American presidents. When the close ties severed, the magazine portrayed him as a wicked leader. Both images of Marcos found in the magazine, and other American media, were influenced by the U.S.’s relationship with him. Hence, it is obvious how the media is governed by societal factors.

Going back to the cover of Time magazine, the portrait or the dehumanization of Ahmadinejad is a clear indication of where the United States stands with this man. I’m not defending him, nor do I completely agree with his decisions and ideologies. However, I think the discussion we had in class on Tuesday seemed to point that media corporations and what they produce are unaffected by the ‘consumers’. True, the media, especially television, has a huge impact on how we view the rest of the world. Nevertheless, viewers do also influence what these bigwig corporate people decide to show on television. In addition, the politics and other sociological factors that are current in the country have impact on the ways in which representations, whether negative or positive, domestic or foreign, are produced by the media. We cannot assume viewers to be these passive zombies who are controlled by the box in front of them. We also cannot assume that the media corporations are institutions that live outside of societies, as if they have big conference rooms in outer space in which they watch people from above there and decide what they will show/write to the masses.

It is easier to blame the media, whether for the decrease of social capital as Putman points out, or other social ills. Although I’m no expert in all these areas (sociology, media, etc…heck, I’m just an undergrad student, struggling to finish school) I think it is VERY useful to not silence the other side of the story: the society’s influence on what the media produces. If Putman blames television for the decrease of social capital, it is also important to ask what is actually going on in the society that is driving people to watch more TV and the media’s production of more addictive TV. The other authors critique of Putman’s focus on TV as the sole culprit for the lack of social capital in contemporary America, are very important, since more times than once, we tend to view the media as outside of societal affects.

I think one person in the class said that media produces a representation, and that representation is naturalized by the consuming society. Yes, representations constructed by the media, whether of an enemy president or whatever it is, are very influential and powerful. However, we must not view the media as some kind of computerized robot, but rather view it as an institution controlled by flesh-and-blood humans that are very much part of society.

Cooperative Living Facilities on College Campuses

When scanning the New York Times this evening I came across an article titled, "On Campus, Finding Face Time in a Virtual Age." Considering what we have been discussing in class, I was intrigued. The article began by introducing student Will Stovall an undergraduate at the University of Texas. Stovall stated that he was determined to attend law school, but realized that in order to foresee this goal it would require him to devote more of his time and work harder, consequently making it difficult to find the time for a soical life. In an effort to keep social contact a part of Stovall's everyday life he decided to live in a cooperative living facility, stating that this living option helped in maintaining and creating new intimate ties without having to make the extra effort.

Presently, the University of Texas has 15 cooperative living facilities, (also known as co-ops), that on average can hold up to 150 students. The article states that “the current interest of co-ops has grown in reaction to the alienating aspects of modern campus life." At co-ops students have the choice to eat together every night on the basis that the simple matter of a shared meal can play a large role in bringing students together. Students must contribute 4-6 hours a week to household chores such as cooking, cleaning, or building maintenance. In addition, most co-ops hold regular meetings to make group decisions regarding issues in the house. All of these interactions force students to work together, creating a sense of community within a community where that is decreasing.

With the steady increase of tuition and the growing number of people attending college, students, in my opinion, are facing more pressure now than ever before. It is so important to do well in school now because of the growing competition among students; an undergraduate degree isn't always enough anymore. Plus, many students have to work in addition to attending school in order to even have college as an option. No wonder our generation isn't as involved as our parents may have been or their parents' generation; we don't feel that we have the time. For example, at the end of the day, I feel so drained that all I want to do is sit on the couch and de-stress. The last thing on my mind is leaving the comfort of my home to participate in my community; it seems like too much effort at that point. Considering that we are all students here, I am sure that I am not the only person in this class that feels this way. So on that note, maybe co-ops could be a good option for our generation. It is a way to bring large groups of students together without feeling like they are going out of their way to do so. When large groups of people are brought together in an intimate setting like that, a sense of community is bound to form. It creates a very social environment where, in this case, students can work together, discuss important issues, and form lasting ties without having to leave the home.

Has Lady Liberty Gone the Way of the Stockade?

NPR’s Talk of the Nation Opinion page hosted Ariel Dorfman recently to discuss his recent writing in the Outlook section of the Washington post. Are We Really So Fearful was the title of the editorial in which he fervently condemns our willingness to publicly debate an issue such as the sanctioned use of torture. Dorfman strongly states that what this does is separate us from reasonable and composed status, to a level that differs us little from the motives of those who seek to terrorize us. The actions we take are no longer those that seek to better humanity as a whole, but simply those that would better our position. The reason a captive is not tortured is because they are powerless to a torturer whose actions should never be classifiable as human in any evolved social sense of the word. These actions are those that should never be instilled within a society, and the mere fact tat we are talking about possible benefits of such practices is astounding from a country such as ours which actively flaunts its form of morality.

The interest of this article only deepens when thought about in the light of a trend noticed by Putnam in Bowling Alone. Americans today are far lest trusting than they were over the past half century. The sad part is that this lack in trust is causing us to move backwards in the human struggle. We cannot seem to realize that we are all similar enough that we can understand another person in what they do, but we make no effort to go so far as to understand. It is from this absence of understanding that we can see why our society has a trust problem. I won’t stop there either; it is this lack of understanding that also causes us to see captives as less than humans, and thus allow us to debate torturing them. The corner of every single moral code is the golden rule; the faith you belong to (or don’t belong to) does not exclude a person from agreeing to this rule. Do not commit the actions that you would not someone else to do to you, and don’t use people as a means to an end. Clearly these standards are abridged when torture is used or even advocated, because the only reason to torture is to get information from a person.

It is from our status as a nation that promotes good that we are falling because of this kind of talk. I think it is sad that what we are debating are our founding values as a society. The right to be treated humanely when you are in a state of arrest is so fundamental to what we stand for that we are destroying the heart of what we are as Americans by doing this. In every way this is sinking to the level that people who terrorize us want us to sink to, and most people fail to realize that this is what allows them to claim victory over us. When they attach, we do not have the ability to remain as steadfast as we put off. Personally I really wish that instead of having to prove our sustain to terrorists by fighting wars, we could prove our fortitude by holding our values and by doing as the heavy television viewer tends to when they get cut off on the freeway, give them the finger.

Addicted to television

During class on Tuesday we had a discussion talking about how many people are addicted to television, and how it can be so negative for civic and social participation. Some students argued how it was incredibly biased and others pointed out that there are too many unnecessary advertisements. In some European countries, the government owns quite a few of the television networks. In Sweden, for example, the government owns many of the television networks and has strict laws prohibiting advertising to a certain age group and they also have very few commercials. That’s not the case in the US. If the government owned some stations here, would there be less of a bias on news stations or TV in general? Some students also argued that watching TV could in fact help social participation, because friends get together, watch shows and talk about them. According to Kathleen Jamieson of the University of Pennsylvania, “Although heavy use of media interferes with both political and civic engagement, the overall effect of media use is favorable for each outcome.?

Putnam, on the other hand, feels strongly that mass media has a negative effect on today’s society. He points out that television viewing has gone up 50 % since the 1950’s. Putnam stated that “…husbands and wives spend three or four times as much time watching television together as they spend talking to each other… ? (p224). Here I think he is too quick to jump to conclusions. I don’t think he takes into account how much life has changed since then. Today, mass media consumes our lives. Whether it is good or bad for civic and social participation is up for debate.

Andrew Boyd's article reflected in a fun way.

In the article Andrew Boyd wrote about how the internet played such an incredible role in uniting people all around the world to protest and gather, he describes the situation that make such networking possible. It is obviously an incredible thing and the particular website/meeting site was able to be incredibly successful and have a tremendous amount of turnout, and I think it's interesting how the internet being used as a way for people of similar political beliefs to debate and/or determine ways to have an affect on the community, which is something that is incredibly difficult to do at a national or global level in comparison with a local/city level. It is pointed out that this is a means of gaining social capital for specific groups, by allowing people who would never otherwise connect with a specific group to which they belong.

I would like to see if it is possible to explain that all media can create social capital for certain subgroups of our society. In particular, it had crossed my mind that television shows often connect people to one other, such as adolescents who enjoy or dislike something like Laguna Beach. Being such a huge show for young adults and older children across the country, I believe it makes many of them desire to act or have a life situation similar to those in the show, and so they may expect their parents to do the things for them that the parents of the kids in show might. It more than likely sets some standard of how to behave in a society as a young adult, that lies within the legal system but really doesn't relate to it, and therefore effects the future of our society in the form of setting a cultural standard. Any time that people conform to a standard way of behavior, it creates social capital for them by making them somewhat powerful, just as death metal music has stirred up major controversy by the large numbers of youth in the country who have acquired to it. It is not only the internet that made it possible for all of the people in Boyd's article to meet on a website, its their desire to be a part of a group and gain some power by having numbers, and I think the same goes for anything...and any form of media only provides a link for them, which they would find regardless, though obviously the internet is quite a significant one.

This article, being unfurnished and written on a whim, is open to all comments and questions regarding the relationship of Boyd's article to how other forms of media also create social capital and gathering spaces for members of our communities.

September 27, 2006

Media & Politics from a Progressive Standpoint

Searching for a website describing how mass media is politically influenced was not difficult, and the one that I found was from "Progressive Living" which appears to be a rather liberal website with ideas on improving our lives and world. What it claims about the media is that nearly every source is seeking some form of profit and therefor rarely independent in thought from those financially supporting it. If this is true, which it likely is in many cases...how does this reinforce our traditional thoughts and continue to keep all but the lower classes of society thinking in a similar way? I think that the topics of discussion in our media are the main thing affected by the fact that all writing for the public needs to make money somehow. For example, news articles in almost every paper include things that take place in our social contexts, whether it be our school programs, other city programs and local as well as national politics, and the articles about crimes committed that we tend to view as something away from our own lives.

The website ends its page on media with different television news stations, such as NBC and ABC and CNN, and their owners. One interesting example they pointed out was that General Electric, who donated greatly to President Bush's campaign own NBC news. The same type of political influence is true with many of the newspaper corporations across the nation. From a sociologically perspective, I think that lack of an alternative and/or independent or even multi-political newspaper diminishes our ability to compare and contrast different philosophy or abilities out there that could enhance the way we live and operate as communities and as a nation. Not only that, but diversity, I think, enhances our versatility as humans and ability to cope with trauma (such as political tension and wartime). My main point is that this website offers some valuble input, despite its definite liberal background, that our media is extremely influenced by organizations with political agendas, and that there could be a better way of distributing information about our country, to our country's people.

Do we know enough about our government?

I found an article on MSNBC called “Letting Students Down? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15014682/site/newsweek/. It was about a study that was done involving 14,000 students from 50 different colleges around the country. The study tested freshman and senior students on their knowledge about history, American democracy, and civics. Basically, incoming freshmen only scored approximately 50% on the test and seniors barely scored much better. At 16 of the 50 schools (also some of the “best? schools in the country - Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, Duke), the seniors actually did worse than the freshmen. The article also talks about “negative learning? and how we learn a lot about history and government in high school, but when we come to college, there are few, if any, required history/government courses so we forget much of what we learned years ago.

This article reminds me of Putnam’s chapter on political involvement. He talked a lot about the lack of political involvement being linked to lack of knowledge about political and public affairs. He also said that people today are much less knowledgeable about these things than past generations. This study shows that college students are learning very little about how to be good, informed citizens. It’s no wonder our political involvement is so low. As students, we pay a lot of money to get a good education. However, what kind of knowledge are we coming out of school with? Is it knowledge that’s going to help us in the long run? Finally, what kind of leaders are we going to have in the future if our college graduates know very little about the American political system?

Media vs. Facts

Late yesterday, a very prominent figure in the sports world ended up in the hospital late that night. The Dallas Cowboy's newly acquired reciever, Terrell Owens, had been admitted to a local Dallas hspital for taking too many painkillers. He had suffered an allergic reaction because of a reactions with new medication to some other medication/supplements he was taking previously. The intial report said basic facts; he was admitted to a hospital, had taken too many painkillers, and was expected to be released in a day or so. All day, ESPN, and some of CNN's time, was spent telling viewers that because of an unofifcial report describing Owens' reaction to the pills was that he had tryied to attempt suicide. Everyone that called in and said that he was "happy" or "couldn't believe that he would do something like that", were pushed to the wayside. The anchors on the stations seemed to have no care as to what they said, the actual people who knew him. Then there was a police press conference saying that Owen's condition is fine and he didn't commit anything criminal, yet nothing else. Yet, still the media pressed the issue on atempted suicide. Later, the Cowboys had a press conference where Owens told reporters that he was very happyto be where he was, but had an allergic reaction and that was all. STILL, the press had their headlines that Owens had tried to attempt suicide (possibly). Even after all the facts and all the truths presented to them, the TV networks did not seem to care nor have interest in the real story, only if it could be a suicide attempt. Of course every network wants ratings, but why would they not finally decide to take the incorrect headlines down after the fact they were told what the truth was. Maybe this is why politicians see TV as a huge network in political campaigns. It begs the question; are news networks really reporting what they believe to be the best news at the time, or report what is good entertainment? Is this what people WANT to hear? This can only add fuel to the fire of the Putnam-Steger veiwpoints on TV and politics.

do media monsters devour diversity?

The article “do media monsters devour diversity?? goes against most liberal beliefs about how the consolidation of media leads to less diversity. Diversity, according to the article, expressed through format, demographics and ideas is actually facilitated by media conglomerates in some respects. For example, it explains that competing stations in the same market will cater their programs to the majority whereas if those three stations were owned by the same company, there would be no reason for competition but incentive to diversify instead in order to accommodate different audiences.
This was a very insightful article on the issue of corporate monopoly. It makes us realize that diversity in content is not an issue because corporations are acting on their own personal interests. If the trend of merging corporations continues instead of trying to find ways to battle the giants, it would be more effective to get a better understanding of how the interests of independent and/or local business could fit the interests of corporations or vice versa.

The Million Man March

On October 16, 1995, the Million Man March took place in Washington, DC. This march of protest was carried out by the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. The Million Man March was a social movement that set out to include efforts to register African Americans to vote in US elections and to increase black involvement in volunteering and community activities. Speakers also criticized the Republicans after the 1994 congressional elections and they talked about programs such as welfare, Medicaid, housing programs, student aid programs and education programs. Months after this march of protest, one and a half million Black men registered to vote according to the voter registration statistics. This shows us how a group of people set out to accomplish certain goals and they are able to do so as a group.http://http://www3.cnn.com/US/9510/megamarch/march.html

Robert Putnam states that social movement and social capital are so connected that it is hard to determine which is the chicken and which is the egg. He also says that social movements create social capital, by developing new identities and extending social networks. The Million Man March is a perfect example of what Putnam is talking about. The main group that led this march was the Nation of Islam, but other groups such as Phi Beta Sigma and countless of civil rights leaders such as Rosa Parks, Benjamin Chavis, Rev. Jesse Jackson and authors (like Maya Angelou) and singers ( like Stevie Wonder) took part in this movement. Social movement are a type of group action, with countless of individuals and organization. The Million Man March had so many leaders and entertainers, each with their own social networks, and each of them are able to appeal to different kinds of people.

Traditional and Modernity

In my social theory class, we looked at Max Weber’s concepts of social action. According to Weber there are four types of social action: traditional, affectual, value-rational and instrumental- rational. Traditional is guided by behaviors that have been repeatedly followed. Affectual is determined by the individual’s specific affects and feeling. Value-rational is determined by a conscious belief in the value for its own sake (religious or ethical). And instrumental-rational is determined by calculated risk-whatever ends will get you to your means. What Weber argues is that we have moved from a traditional society to a more modern one and thus our values have changed. Traditional action is not rationale; you just do it because it has always been done. In a modern society, instrumental-rational is more favored, we question our action and we undermine traditional commitment.

Robert Putnam talks about how civic participation, religious participation, and community participation have all declined and he always compared as to our parents, or to our grand parents. But he needs to understand that times have changed. We live in a modern world, were we question our action and we pay less attention to traditional action. We work more hours, and with the new technologies such as the internet, we might participate differently in our society. Our values might have changed, we might have become more individualistic but that might not be a bad thing. If we work to better our selves first, then we might work on helping one another.

Book Clubs

Since the launching of Opra Winfrey's book club, it seems like books are getting very popular again. If you were to do a search on book clubs in yahoo or google, it would bring you pages and pages of search results from online book clubs to websites on how to start a book club. In a sense books are becoming a big part in socializing. Many people start their own book clubs so they can socialize with their friends or neighbors. In part with discussing about the book itself, many of these occasions or meetings are made into something very elaborate with people bringing in food and drinks. Besides starting their own book clubs, some people strictly follow the books on Opra's book club. They will read the same book and go online to Oprah's website and talk about it with others on the message boards.

I remember watching the shows when Oprah did on books that would be put into her book club & the audience would go wild. The whole atmosphere in the studio was very upbeat. I remember thinking to myself that people were actually excited about reading books. Even though book clubs have been around for a long time, I believe that Oprah has revitalized the whole concept of book clubs again. Before she launched her book club, I don't recall people having much interest in books or book clubs as much as after she had launched it. Some factors that largely contributes to this would be TV & the internet. Even though Putnam is blaming TV for people's lack of involvement in the community, without the broadcast & publicized of Oprah's show none of these things would have had such a huge inpact on people. You can say that there is a trickle effect where TV has actually play a good role by allowing people to create book clubs of their own & eventually into socializing with others. I also disagree with Putnam's notion that there are the same amount of people in reading groups today as in the past. I mean maybe we think there is a boom in reading clubs because it's so publicized in the media, but you can't ignore the fact that there are also online clubs and discussion forums where people are joining. The internet allows people to socialize and interact with others of the same interest without having to leave the comfort of their home. In answering Putnam's question about whether the flow of information from the internet fosters social capital & genuine community, I say that it does to an extent. The online groups that people belong to on the internet are in a sense as real as it can be, sometimes better than what they can find in reality.

Internet Gambling - Another Means To Disconnect From Society

Once again I recently viewed a segment on CBS 60 Minutes called I-Gaming: Illegal And Thriving. The piece was focused as you can guess around Internet gambling and its increasing popularity, specifically in the United States. However, it is illegal to place bets over the phone or on the internet so there is some controversy whether or not companies are legally or illegally making profits on an illegal action. The way these companies get around such problems is because they are not companies within the United States but rather they are foreign businesses that are primarily fueled by American gamblers. The piece eludes to the United Kingdom as the epicenter for online gambling and how the British government has passed laws allowing internet gambling with restrictions, regulations and taxations. It is a billion dollar business that many American suitors are interested in and would like to see the government offer a proposal to legalize online gambling with restrictions of course. The future is foggy not knowing whether either online gambling will remain illegal or become legal.

This feeds directly into what Putnam describes as a major causation in the downfall of social capital and civic engagement of citizens. People can go online within the confines of their homes where they feel comfortable and can gamble until their hears are content. They no longer have to go to a casino filled with a multitude of indulgences and potential dangers but rather they can sit down in a bathrobe and gamble for hours on end. I have issues with gambling in and of itself and online gambling to me is worse. A person can get lost in what they are doing online and the amount of time they are committing to an activity that has serious outcomes. There is a spectrum for gambling where on the on end of the spectrum you have the chance of winning (very small part of the spectrum - comparatively) and on the other end of the spectrum you have losing (a much broader wedge of the spectrum). Online gambling is more convenient and ultimately will become more appealing because it is economically and financially more rewarding. Instead of having to drive to a casino and possibly pay for a hotel room, people can now stay within the confines of their homes.

People that are advocates of online gambling are disassociating themself from societal organizations as Putnam would advocate. The more time that is spent gambling online the less time that people will be willing to put into civic participation. Why would people want to volunteer their time when they could potentially make money by gambling? Everybody has a natural drive to push themself and the sheer lack of motivation is seemingly becoming a common ill affecting society. However, Putnam does not completely discredit the internet and I am a very big advocate of the internet. I feel that the internet is a tool that can broaden everybody's intellect if they choose too. It is not all complete garbage out there and people are opened to new ideas and ventures through the internet. I believe that the internet is revolutionizing life in every aspect and online gambling is a pitfall of the electronic revolution the world is currently partaking.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/11/17/60minutes/main1052420.shtml

Fox News Controversy

I found an article on Wikipedia that seemed quite interesting in reference to the Fox News Channel controversies in regards to being bias. Did you know that Rupert Murdoch, the Chairman and CEO of the news corporation and the Fox News Channel owner was a publisher of the conservative New York Post newspaper and the conservative magazine of opinion, The Weekly Standard? This is one reason why the controversies against the channel might have gotten started, because Murdoch is a conservative and has implied his views into the company, prints and medias. As for the on-air broadcasters and the reporters out in the field, they are asked to use certain positive language when it comes to discussing pro-life viewpoints, the war, taxes, etc. in which were found in company memos during the investigations. According to the article, in 2004, 35% of the viewing audience were Republicans versus 21% Democrats and 68% of the Fox cable stories mostly contained personal opinions, giving the Republican party the news that they want to hear. Lastly, the Fox News Channels have a few good slogans in which may seem ironic according to the biases of which they are accused: “Fair and Balanced?, “The Most Powerful Name in News? (or as one viewer states, “The Most Bias Name in News?), and “We Report, You Decide?. Steger states that corporations need to play the "rules of the game" which they can't ignore such as, the trends in media and the pressures of media. It seems that Fox News Channel had ignored the latest media trends and pressures to go about their own way of broadcasting and reporting the news which was most convenient for them and mirrored the Republican party.

"Final Solution"-genocide in India

This article talked about director Sharma made a documentary called “Final Solution.? In India in 2002, 58 Hindus were burned to death and the government retaliated by sanctioning the murders of 2500 Muslims, rapes, and more than 200.000 families lost their homes. The movie talked about the racism in India going on today in the modern world between Hindu and Muslim. The India government banned this film. His hope for his film was to get the message across around the word and it did. “Final Solution? had won international awards. http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2004/11/18/62343
Putman talked about how the media has people detach with other people and we became less civic engaging. We spent a lot of time watching the television, but the major proportional of us is watching humors program shows, not world news. India government dominant the media so they only show what they want the people to know, in this case it the minority media (filming) Sharma was using to spread his message out. I am glad we have democracy here in United States, even though the government does not like some views, but they don’t ban other those views. This make me wonder “what is the truth and where does journalist come in?? This is big news, but I don’t see it in major newspaper stand. I am glad his documentary has the world got to think about world problems, not just individual problem. This film shock a lot of people, how can in a modern society today that we have genocide.

September 26, 2006

Why the future of TV is LOST

I found an interesting artcle in the new TIME Magazine titled "Why the Future of Television is LOST." The article is about the TV series LOST. It is acclaimed as being one of the first TV shows for the "Post-TV Generation." It talks about how the new generations have grown up in this fast pace society where TV has always been there. Now with Internet and other souces of technology to utulize people's time TV producers have had to come up with new shows to keep up with the changes and lack of interest with TV. The interesting thing about LOST is that it has many conspiracy surrounding the storyline which has got people using the internet to post blogs and host websites talking about various theories. In one episode their was something known as the "Smoke Monster" and when people would Tivo this episode and watched the monster in slow motion they could see a series of images relating to certain characters that flashed by in fractions of a second. These images could not been seen unless you used slow motion.

I found this very interesting and thought about how Putnam was talking about TV disconnecting people. I believe that in the last few years that TV is connecting more and more people with the help of other technology like the internet. People are hosting "TV Parites" and having friends come over to analyze shows like LOST or another huge hit Grey's Anatomy. After the show is over they get online and start chatting and blogging with people across the world about what happened and coming up with theories. "Part of watching this show is talking about it," says Nicholas Gatto, 14, "It doesn't just end at the credits" (TIME 80). TV producers of the show have also read these blogs and have changed or altered the show by setting up some of the theories and proving them wrong. It is sort of like making the show interactive with the audience. In summary, I think this article is one perfect anatagonist to Putnam's idea of TV being a source of disconnect. I think these "TV parties" are going to be a new trend but for how long will they last? What is next for TV shows in the future? Will the impact of shows like LOST change the trends that Putnam has brought to the forefront about TV?

The article is in TIME Magazine October 2, 2006 issue; pages 79-82.

SENSATIONAL news!!!!!!

A few days ago I was looking at the Star Tribune online and the “front page? top story was titled something about a “mother slain while children hide in closet.? (I really should have bookmarked it because now I can’t find it.) It was a very sensationalized headline, however gruesome the crime may have been. As we just discussed in class today, the question that came up in my mind was one of the necessity of this story on the front page. Although it is a tragic event, it is something that seems to happen daily in this large city of ours. Is it possible that other topics such as politics, economics, health car and education may be more relevant to more people that a crime in one neighborhood? I feel that because these things apply to such a large sector of people in our society that they should be left for the front page and the individual stories left for the inner pages. Because crime is also a relevant factor in our society it still needs to be reported on, however individual cases such as this do not merit front page worthiness.
One reason this may have been put on the front page, however, is because it could be considered a conversation starter. For the newspaper this is good because it increases the times their paper is mentioned, and for people in general it could be considered a builder of social capital in a way. It is the kind of story people tell other people and have discussions about. Although it could be seen as a social capital builder, does this really encourage healthy, strong bonds between people or is it just a reason to gossip? I would venture to state that this is an “empty? conversation started and no real social capital could be gained or retained from it.

Protest on Hennepin

I work as a shift manager for a clothing store in uptown. All of our employees are between the ages of eighteen and twenty six, and only a few of us have or are attending college. Most of us work full time with partying taking up the majority of our recreational time. Our lives revolve around fashion and selling with the occasional starving artist tagging along. We rarely discuss politics at work. It's simply not a topic of importance to most of our employees. One could possibly label us as the neuveau working joes.
Last week we encountered an unexpected event put on by our antitheses. A large crowd of the young and old politically active, the college students and a fraction of aging baby boomers passed by our store carrying colorful signs and yelling some inaudible phrase.
Perhaps thirty years ago this would create quite a disturbance in our store. Imagine a bunch of unoccupied college students waving signs in the faces of the fulltimers. But in 2006, this hardly piqued our interest.

Some of us looked up, but no one bothered to see what the fuss was about. We had work to do, and it was probably just some hopefulls who think they can change something by doing the same ol'.

In chapter nine, Putnam briefly talks about how nonparticipants perceive alternative political participation now compared to the sixties. Protests, demonstrations, and other acts of civil disobience were once considered shocking and revolutionary. Now, they've simply become cliche, or as Putnam describes "...standard operating procedure..." (p165) for political action. Demonstrations are no longer inspiring or intriguing. As our employees wonderfully illustrated, protests barely turn heads anymore, let alone push buttons to create more participants.
Protests, demonstrations, and other alternative civil participation practices have become the norm. It is difficult to change the norms by using normal methods. By limiting oneself to these methods, one is limiting his/her ability to inspire the neveau joes. Would the sixties revolution ever have happened if the whole participation relied solely on letter writing? In order to create more attention and participation, new methods need to be explored.

Louie Armstrong is corrupting America

Since the tragedies of 9/11/01, there have been many cases in which people feel that their rights and freedoms have been trampled on in the name of safety. One such case occurred when radio giant, Clear Channel released a list of songs which were to be banned from their radio stations for fear that they may remind people of 9/11 and may be traumatising to the families who lost loved ones that day. Though it seems odd that when war is in question, most media outlets would like us to remember 9/11, funny how that works. However, as the songs were revealed, people noticed that many of the songs had nothing to do with 9/11 but were simply banned by Clear Channel because those who made the list did not agree with the political message in the song. Some songs had no political message at all and it makes sense to believe that the folks at Clear Channel smoke a lot of crack. Here are some songs banned to keep us safe from the memories of 9/11:

All songs by Rage Against The Machine
AC/DC "Dirty Deeds"
Alanis Morissette "Ironic"
Dave Matthews Band "Crash Into Me"
Bangles "Walk Like an Egyptian"
The Beatles "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Ticket To Ride", & "Obla Di, Obla Da"
Elton John "Rocket Man"
Jerry Lee Lewis "Great Balls of Fire"
Cat Stevens "Peace Train"
Edwin Starr/Bruce Springstein "War"
Van Halen "Jump"
Pat Benatar "Hit Me with Your Best Shot"
Louis Armstrong "What A Wonderful World"
(check out the full list at: http://www.f---edcompany.com/extras/clearchannel_email.cfm)

Damn you Louie Armstrong! The point of this blog is to illustrate that the link between politics and corporations can often become too close , to the point where corporations are used as tools for political corruption. It is scary to think that a political agenda can overcome the interests of the consumer. Political corruption becomes even more frightening when it leaks into corporations which control large sections of the media. As Jim Morrison once said, “ He who controls the media, controls the mind.?.

The Tobacco Industry is People Too.

A recent New York Times article highlighted a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The class action suit claims that smokers were led to believe that light cigarettes were safer and less addictive than regular cigarettes, when the industry knew that this was not true. The plaintif in the case is anyone who has purchesed Light cigarettes. The suit is asking for triple compensation for losses.

The tobacco industry is a very fitting example of a corporation which is willing to lie and gain profits. The film, The Corporation, corporation called out companies who only cared about short term profits regardless of human expense. The lawsuit also highlights another point made by the video The corporation, which is that corporations are seen as people who can be sued. Jury selection for the case is set for January 27th, 2007.

You can check out the full article at: www.nytimes.com/2006/09/25/buisness/25cnd-tobacco.html

Media Ownership

Here are the websites on media ownership I mentioned in class:

  • Media Reform Information Center

  • Columbia Journalism Review: Who Owns What
  • Additionally, there's a really interesting article by Joshua Gamson and Pearl Latteier from Contexts magazine a few years back called "Do media monsters devour diversity?" (Note: if that link doesn't work, go here, click on "Contexts" and then find the Summer 2004 issue. The article starts on p. 26). Surprisngly, their argument is that, at least in terms of diversity, consolidation of media ownership doesn't hurt - and may in fact help - diversity in television programming. It's not required, but would make great material for a blog entry if anyone wants to take it on...

    OPIC's Unusual Mission

    It was recently announced that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC, would be part of a group investing hundreds of millions of dollars in projects to help rebuild war torn Lebanon. Looking into OPIC shows that it is an unusual organization, outwardly contradictory of itself in several ways. To begin with, it is a US government agency, but it is funded without any taxpayer dollars. The proposed goal of OPIC is to "mobilize and facilitate the participation of United States private capital and skills in the economic and social development of less developed countries and areas, and countries in transition from nonmarket to market economies." This seems to be a noble cause, and the list of projects underwritten by OPIC loans would attest to that. For example, they have recently partnered with a Utah based company to decrease the content of salts in water used for irrigation in Pakistan. They partnered with a Chicago based company to build a fully-integrated pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Ghana that will produce ingredients and drugs used to combat tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. On the other hand, some of the projects take a far less humanitarian approach. A recent $1.5 million loan was granted to establish the first Ruby Tuesday restaurant franchise in Seoul, South Korea. In comparison, the loan for the pharmaceutical facility in Ghana was $4.9 million, the irrigation project in Pakistan was $3 million. OPIC does not seem to know whether or not it wants to be a organization that works to promote humanitarian causes, or to pursue change and progress through market-driven economic means.

    Reading OPIC's mandates shows that they are intended to support projects that are "consistent with sound environmental and worker rights standards." While the initiatives they choose to support may fit that criteria, they are also charging market based fees to the companies they finance, who in turn generate profits. Unlike the trends in globalization that Schaeffer points out, in which individual companies relocated their production to Western Europe and Japan solely in response to market forces, OPIC appears to globalize with a conscience. While the projects are still profit driven, the locations and goals are picked with the intent of advancing the economic, living and working conditions of the countries they expand to. Certainly, some of the projects undertaken are more righteous than others, but OPIC is demonstrating the potential for globalization to be a mutually beneficial trend, with the capability of advancing the bottom line of American companies while improving, rather than exploiting, the countries they expand to. This brings to bear several issues though. Are market incentives really the best way to encourage American companies to take an interest in other countries around the globe? Should an organization like OPIC support causes that simply advance economic development while not violating certain local standards in environmental protection and worker rights, or should they be held to the same standards as American workers are given, or a different set of international regulations? Should humanitarian projects like a desalinization plant in Algeria take precedence to a restaurant in South Korea, or will pure economic development lead to more long term independence and improvement in developing countries? OPIC appears to have set off in the right direction, but further guidance and involvement from the public will be needed to steer which way it goes in the future.

    Links:
    Rebuilding Lebanon:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5379632.stm
    OPIC:
    http://www.opic.gov
    Pakistan Irrigation:
    http://www.opic.gov/news/project_profiles/sweetwater.asp
    Ghana Pharmaceuticals:
    http://www.opic.gov/news/pressreleases/2006/pr062206.asp
    OPIC Asia projects:
    http://www.opic.gov/pdf/hl05asia.pdf

    September 25, 2006

    Interest in Youth Voters

    I just saw this article, “Youth culture should not be ignored in ’06,? and it got me thinking. One of the first things the article points out is how youth were a particular target for candidates during the 2004 presidential election but are not receiving the same attention for the local elections taking place this year. This reminded me of what we were talking about in class the other day about the irony in the fact that some people will vote in the presidential election but then they don’t vote in their local elections, where their vote may be more likely to “make a difference.?
    Then the article briefly runs over statistics stating most of today’s youth are registered to vote and they share the same numbers as the rest of the country when it comes to being interested and educated about the current elections. Putnam states on page 165, “Members of today’s older generation are slightly more interested in electoral campaigns than were their predecessors four decades ago, while youths today are less interested than youths were in the 1950s and 1960s.?
    While Putnam and the article are claiming opposite sides in the youth’s interest, one thing the article does point out is that most people in that age range are registered; however, not nearly that many are paying attention to the current elections. This makes me wonder; if politicians took more interest in today’s youth, would they in return pay more attention and become more active citizens? Perhaps this is the remedy to dropping numbers of voters among the youth.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14943592/

    Worker Wage Gap

    The article I read was for The Nation entitled “The Growing Wage Gap.? The article talked about how wages have been slowly rising over the past few decades. The author talks about the Third Way, a group which believes that the wage discrepancy affects only minorities and women not the public at large though. They also state that with the rapid economic, technological, and health care growth over the past few years, people are still able to afford such amenities. Basically the Third Way argues that current economic hardships are being blown out of proportion and minor economic policy changes should be made. The author of the article states the opposite; it’s not just minority and women that are having economic difficulty but men and high school graduates as well. These groups pretty much make up the middle class and even though there have been some advances in our way of living many of the middle class have difficulty attaining such advances because they are not making as much as they should be.

    The patterns that Schaeffer describe can be seen in the article. Schaeffer talks about how economic growth al affected the wages of workers. Workers may have seen an increase in wages but they have been really modest. The author of the article talks about solving the problem lies in improving workers confidence in the government as well as offer financial security. Schaeffer also hints at offering some sort of financial security in order to curb debt amongst workers as well make an effort to increase worker wages so they are able to increase spending and stimulate the economy.

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20061009/madrick

    community organizing with NARAL

    I found Putnam’s critiques of the pro-life/pro-choice organizations very interesting and mostly accurate. I work for NARAL Pro-choice Minnesota, the state branch of the National Abortion Rights Action League, which Putnam discusses in chapter nine. I am a canvasser and I walk around neighborhoods, knock on doors, and get people to give donation’s and become “members? (Putnam is exactly correct, members are used as a number, for lobbying strength, their names are never revealed to anyone, there aren’t NARAL meetings specifically for members).

    Anyway, my job came about because the MCCL (Minnesota Citizens Concerned For Life) outnumbered us by tens of thousands. Before the canvass started, NARAL Pro-choice Minnesota had 5,000 members, the MCCL boasted 60,000. Putnam correctly addresses the reason for this huge gap in membership in chapter nine. The MCCL could organize through churches. The “right-to-life? is an idea that is founded in religion and people can freely talk about their views on this issue in church, unlike outside of church where this issue is highly controversial. NARAL did not have a “church? where friends could recruit friends to the organization and feel safe doing so. In addition, most people who consider themselves pro-choice do not see the right to choose as a right that is actually coming under attack and being taken away slowly. The pro-lifers on the other hand, see the immediate need to “save babies/fetuses? (sorry I am obviously biased here) and so are more likely to be involved. However, my point is that since the canvass started a little over a year and a half ago we have gained an immense amount of members, now our totals are somewhere around 30,000.

    The reason for the recent membership explosion and the success of the canvass is person-to-person contact. It is much easier to throw away a piece of mail than tell a person who is really nice and standing in your face to go away. One of the most important skills in a canvasser is to get people to like you and trust you. If someone doesn’t like you or trust you, they are not going to become a member. My point is that social connections are the best way of getting people involved, no matter how brief the social encounter is. Television, Internet, and Mail may be great ways to mobilize people, but no technology can ever produce the same response that person-to-person contact can.

    The clipboard is another interesting component of canvassing that proves how important neighborhood ties are. On our clipboard we have people “sign down? to show support and then we ask them to back it up with a contribution. Even if they don’t give a contribution, their signatures, although worthless at the legislature, are invaluable in the community. I have gone to many houses without a single signature on my clipboard and people have said, “No I don’t want to sign my name on that until my neighbors do, come back after you have some more signatures.? I have also met people who said “Oh! My neighbors signed!? and then happily signed even though before they seemed skeptical. We canvassers are even known to make up names of imaginary people who have an address nearby. When asking for money we also say that “the neighbors are all doing…? and then say a number, or when someone is hesitant to give money we say “the neighbors are all writing a check for next month…? It’s surprising what people will do when they hear that their neighbors are doing so as well. The clipboard and our frequent use of “neighbors? clearly show that any kind of increase in social capital (knowledge that neighbors have also joined, a friendly face, etc.) is detrimental to organizing. Even today’s large impersonal, professionalized, organizations cannot deny that there isn’t any kind of organizing strategy that can replace organizing at the grass-roots level.

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks about the U.S.

    The United Nations held their general assembly last week, and two of the main events were speeches made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Each of these political leaders addressed the United States directly and indirectly, Prsident Chavez even went so far as to suggest that President Bush was the devil incarnate. At the forefront of the concerns of the Iranian president were the nuclear aspirations of Iran, and the U.S.'s stance in the recent conflict in Lebanon. President Ahmadinejad directly challenged President Bush to a live televised debate, to which the White House offered no response. On Wednesday, September 20th, a live interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN provided more insight into the Iranian President's opinion's and motives. Ahmadinejad repeatedly stated that Iran wished for peace and cooperation with the U.S. , which presented a few issues in my mind. With the possibility of conflict with Iran increasing, and the United States poor standing in the eyes of the middle east, I believe now is the time to explore other foreign policy options.

    When watching the interview with President Ahmadinejad, I could not help but notice that his proposals seemed deceiving, and his propositions of peace were anything but benevolent. This all seemed harder to swallow when considering Ahmadinejad's denial of the holocaust, and his call for Israel to be "wiped off the map". I do, however, believe that this presents a unique opportunity to reverse our faulty foreign policy. President Bush has stated that he will not negotiate with Iran until they agree to halt their nuclear program (the same for North Korea). This intuitively seems counter-productive, and will not lead to anything but standoffs and sabre-rattling. Iran will not agree to halting their nuclear program, because having that ability makes them a player on the world stage. The means to produce nuclear weapons will give them recognition in the international community and force people to listen to them. I do not believe that Iran is so foolish as to attack the U.S. if they were to attain nuclear weapons, but rather, if they possess them they have leverage to negotiate.

    This situation presents the opportunity (bear with me) to accept Iran's call for peace and negotiation, and actually sit down and talk with them. If we were to conduct formalized talks with Iran not only could we potentially avoid a military conflict that we currently lack the resources to conduct, but we could reverse our standing in the global community, and demonstrate to the middle east that we are not some fanantical nation hell-bent on a crusade to wipe out the muslim world.

    The problems with this lie in the attitudes and motives of the leaders of the respective states. President Ahmadinejad appears to be irrational and prejudiced, while President Bush will not budge on his policy of non-negotiation for fear of appearing weak. It is time for a policy change on the part of the U.S. , whicht needs to be initiated by someone other than the president. The fostering of discussion is our greatest hope for stability in the middle east, and to break down the barrier that we have constucted against the world.

    Town Comes Together to Fight Ignorance

    This story ran on the World News Tonight website on September 15, 2006. http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/story?id=2449483&page=1

    In the town of Kalispell, Montana there has been much resistance to two new faces in town, a set of singing 14-year-old twin girls. You are probably wondering why two tiny little blonde girls named Lamb and Lynx Gaede have sparked so much controversy in a town in Montana. Lynx and Lamb have just recently moved from California with their mother April and their Stepfather Mark citing their reasoning for moving to Montana because “California isn’t white enough.? The twins sing in a band called Prussian Blue which is a white separatist group that sings the praises of Nazi leaders such as Rudolph Hess. When asked about their views and singing career the girls responded by saying, "We want our people to stay white. We don't want to just be, you know, a big muddle. We just want to preserve our race." The town of Kalispell learned about the family from a Primetime special done on the twins a year ago and have already formed together to raise awareness of the family. The town group doesn’t want the family to feel uncomfortable but wants to make sure that this family understands that form of “hatred and ignorance? will not be tolerated in Kalispell.

    As we have learned from the Putnam readings civic participation is at a low point in American society. Very few people, in contrast to previous years, are participating in any form of social groups being formal organizations or informal connections. This story, however, makes me wonder if the lack of civic participation is not dependent on time or being too busy but rather people just not caring enough. The people of Kalispell have really come together over this family moving to town and many organizations and rallies have stemmed from it. The Montana Human Rights Network, which has more than 1,400 members, has already organized rallies in Kalispell in order to increase awareness on the issue. This article leads me to believe that even though people may have enough time to devote to many different organizations they only get involved in the ones they really care about and feel like they can actually make a difference. I believe in very large organizations, national groups, or elections, many people feel like they, as one single person, really cannot make a difference however in smaller groups that affect their community directly, they feel their participation has a much greater role. This town coming together shows how the community felt directly impacted by the situation and capable of doing something about it, which in turn increased participation.

    Anti-War Protest in Minneapolis

    For disclosure purposes, I’m a member of the Anti-War Organizing League on campus, and have experienced mobilizing for three anti-war rallies on campus in March of 2005, November 2005, and April 2006 and seeing first hand people’s thoughts and reactions to protests.

    This past Saturday, September 23rd, residents of the Twin Cities gathered in Uptown Minneapolis to protest the US occupation of Iraq. An estimated (my estimate) 500 people were there. Despite widespread opposition to the war, fewer people seem to be willing to protest against it than Vietnam. Even compared to the pre-war protests, the numbers are small, when there were protests numbering up to 10,000 people in cities all across America. While there are many factors that play into this, such as many fewer casualties, and the lack of a draft, I believe that people lack of civic engagement plays into this as much, if not more, than those factors.

    While handing out flyers on campus to publicize a protest, I usually get a very positive response from people. Typically people will even turn around after passing me to get a flyer once they realize the flyers aren’t for just another Christian student group or corporate advertising. Only a handful of times have people ever even insulted me. And some of the protests are actually very large, especially the 2,000 students who in November of 2005, which ranks up with some of the U’s anti-war protests in the Vietnam era.

    But, overall, it is hard to get people interested in protesting, even among the people who
    despise the war. From conversations that I’ve had with people, many simply don’t think that protesting actually will end the war.

    Lots of people will probably disagree with me, but I believe that a point that Putnam made in Bowling Alone might be a very good reason why protesting has lost its popularity, especially among college aged students. Putnam stated that demonstrating and protesting today is a more “acceptable? form of civic engagement. A greater number of people today believe that if you want to change things, holding a public protest is an acceptable way to do this, unlike during the 60's, when it was a very anti-establishmentary thing to do. This has even been embraced by protest leaders. For example, during this protest on September 23rd, the segment of the rally where the protestors marched was lead by a police car. When the police car stopped at a light, so did the protest, and when the police car moved (very slowly) the protestors also moved (very slowly).

    What does this look like? Less people today have faith in our system of government and our leaders than maybe any other point in American history. People are looking for an alternative, they are looking to challenge the status quo if they are actually going to be “civically engaged? in this way. Yet, leaders of the mainstream anti-war movement work closer with the system than they did at perhaps any point, especially the 1960's and early 70's. What does somebody who goes to an anti-war protest in order to end the war think when he is led around the city by a police car? Or when they go to Washington D.C. to participate in a rally which is the product of endless hours of negotiations between major bureaucratic coalitions and the city, about what time the rally can be, where the protestors are allowed to be contained, how far away a “free speech zone? can be, and so on?

    When somebody already has little confidence in our system, going to a protest that is almost a product of the system isn’t very self-empowering, let alone a breeding ground for real change. Can we imagine Rosa Parks being led to the “acceptable bus seat? by the police? Or an Abbie Hoffman as the leader of a giant bureaucracy? And more importantly, can we imagine ourselves actually being inspired by that?

    September 24, 2006

    The diminishing union.

    I currently work in a union. I am a woman in the service industry, so granted, it’s a less represented group. Until recently I thought that the union was a crutch. I thought it was an excuse for people to squeeze more money out of the poor defenseless companies that they work for. I thought it was a way for workers to complain about things that they should just live with.

    I thought it was pretty useless until this summer.

    Our union contract was expiring, as it does every three years. The union usually gave up some small amenities because we all wanted to keep our jobs. The general mentality at work was that this would happen again this year and that the union contract would be ratified without incident. That is not what happened.

    The union handed out red shirts as a show of solidarity. Only a few of the older employees who worked for the country longer than I’d been alive wore their shirts. I almost threw mine away.

    The first few weeks of contract negotiations were pretty uneventful. We didn’t hear anything. Then we started getting emails about the HUGE subjects they were trying to iron out. One was that MY job was slated to go away. Words like “strike? and “federal arbitration? were thrown around.

    The representatives with the company started to play mind games with the union’s contract negotiating team. Barely anyone is wearing his or her shirts. The employees feel like they are part of the company first and the union second. You should just give up and go home.

    Slowly more people started to wear their shirts, put signs up in their cars, and started informational picketing in front of our building. There was a deep-seated connection there that no one took advantage of because we didn’t think anything major would happen.

    Then the company released information they were trying to keep quiet but felt necessary to release because of pressure from our union. Not only were they planning to take my job away but those of half of the people in the state. There are 3 call centers in Minnesota and they said there was a possibility of all three of them closing if contract negotiations didn’t go well. It was a thinly veiled but ugly threat. The union held their ground for the most part and got most of what they wanted. My job is still going away but I’ll easily be absorbed into a different department when that happens.

    So, relating this lengthy story back to the reading…

    The unions are losing their power. I think that unions have became the bad guys in recent years because they are perceived as trying to take more out of the pot than they deserve. I think that the social mentality is that companies try to look out for the best interest of their employees. After watching that video in class it makes me realize how engrained the idea is in society today. In reading Schaeffer; that the average middle class citizen didn’t make any more money in the booming ‘90s makes it very clear that inequality is rampant. Especially since at that time companies made enough money to give healthy pay increases to their workers.

    Here’s an interesting side note: In contract negotiations my company wanted to decrease the percentage given to healthcare; just a few months after their gave our president and CEO a $14 million bonus.

    Have Republicans Lost the "Value Voters"?

    On Sunday Sept. 24th the Star Tribune ran a story on the upcoming elections. The article focused mainly on the “value voters,? people who vote for candidates solely based on value issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and the death penalty, and how their support for the conservative party may be waning. “Value Voters? describe themselves as feeling less than satisfied with their current representatives and the lack of attention given to value issues. Recent rallies have been focused on regaining their support and vote. The 2004 elections saw a huge boom in “value voters? but with other issues like the war in Iraq and the declining economy there has been very little focus on the moral issues. The national group Focus on the Family has been trying to regain this support with campaigns to “get church voters to the polls? and Chairman James Dobson will be in the cities next week to give his speech rally.

    I found this article interesting because it directly related to a topic discussed by Putnam. In Bowling Alone, Putnam argues that even as the general trend of social capital and civic participation in the U.S. is very low there are specific groups that are still likely to be more consistent in voter turnout. Churchgoers are one group in specific that are said to be more likely to vote, however, this group is being targeted directly by the conservatives for the upcoming elections. These campaigns are trying to get these “value voters? interested and participating again like they were in 2004 but for some it may already be too little too late. I think it will be extremely interesting to see if these voters will make as much of an impact as they did in the 2004 elections, or if they really do feel forgotten and hopeless. With the war and economy dominating the forefront of discussions and public attention the conservatives could potentially lose the support of their one time guaranteed supporters.

    North Alaskan Slope

    An article by Joel K Bourne, Jr. called “The Alaskan North Slope? was recently assigned in my biogeography class. This article spoke about the interests of the big oil companies, wild creatures, and the native population colliding in the largest U.S wilderness known as the North Alaskan Slope. There were many advantages and disadvantages that these oil interests brought into the area. First, according to Bourne’s article, “The activity provides jobs for some in the village, but locals claim it’s also pushed the caribou away, forcing them to travel ten or twenty miles farther from home to find meat for the table.? The activity that Bourne refers to is the oil drilling in which oil companies bring into the area, thus providing jobs for the native Inuit, bringing economic prosper to the United States. On the contrary, many of these oil companies, for example, ConocoPhillips, a major oil company mentioned in the article, have drilling sites along main rivers and freshwater lakes in the North Slope area. Many oil spills have been recorded throughout history; an estimated 200,000 gallons of oil are lost each month, which then, leak into the rivers, destroying all environment and villages along the way.

    Joel K. Bourne’s article, “The North Alaskan Slope? can relate to the class discussion about globalizing production in the way that corporations such in this case, oil companies, wanting economic growth and profits off the land; not thinking about the environmental destruction. Competition is also another factor that comes into play with major corporations, for example, the auto industry. The competition among the auto industry world leads to the fierce competition among oil corporations such as ConocoPhillips, thus brining rise in oil and its prices. The topic of “oil shortage? is also brought up in discussions as well. America is one of the top “gas guzzling? countries in the world today, forcing us to think of different ways in which we can produce oil, being environmentally safe, within our own country and being less dependent on foreign oils.

    September 21, 2006

    Blog Notes

    Sometime this weekend, you should receive an email from me with a grade and some comments on your first blog posting. Like I said in class today, you'll have a chance to edit it again before we grade your first batch of three entries - which is due next Thursday, by the way. The revisions have to be substantial - not just fixing a typo or two though. Just be sure to note in the entry that you updated it (see the entry I wrote about McAdam below for an example).

    In the meantime, if you're still not sure about these things, you can always check out the examples I've written as well as the following excellent entries written by your classmates:

    • Sadia writes about a neighbor's sudden conversion to political campaigning and the questions this raises for her about why people support the candidates they support.

    • James writes about the tension between students and residents in the neighborhood he lives in, Marcy Holmes.

    • Kimberly notes an interesting attempt to redesign suburban homes in a way that will encourage community, but then points out some reasons we should be skeptical of how big an impact these changes might have.

    • Sam discusses the relative lack of attention given to deaths in Iraq compared to the coverage given to celebrity gossip - and the disturbing class and racial biases that seem to exist in this coverage as well.

    Jeff and I will also be updating the Events Calendar in the next few days, so keep an eye on that if you're looking for stuff to write about.

    September 17, 2006

    Immigration raids in Georgia

    Although I chose the topic “Race and Ethnicity? for this blog entry, I chose the article because immigration, especially today, is very much affected by globalization and the politics of globalization, more than ever before, and that is something discussed by Steger.

    More than 120 illegal immigrants have been loaded onto buses bound for immigration courts in Atlanta, 189 miles away. Hundreds more fled Emanuel County. Residents say many scattered into the woods, camping out for days. They worry some are in hiding without food.

    "This reminds me of what I read about Nazi Germany, the Gestapo coming in and yanking people up," Slater said.

    It is interesting that in America, a country in which the social capital is greatly declining, as we are told by Putnam, and are able to see obviously by our own observations, that immigrants are now being targeted. Staying out of the political, constitutional, and human rights arguments on the issue of immigration, illegal immigration, and the practices of the market economy, I wish to focus on the social side of it, and relate it to our reading. Immigrants have historically been very tight knit, whether the immigrants of the America’s past, or the current wave of Hispanic immigrants, because of a history of racism that has permeated America’s white culture from the colonial period. So, because immigrants always have such a tough time fitting in and assimilating with a white Amerikan culture, which, usually wants nothing to do with them socially, they will build up the social links among themselves, and have a very healthy level of social capital.

    Perhaps, I hypothesize, the continuing loss of social capital in America is due to the loss people’s immigrant roots. In most cities during the early to mid 1900's, neighborhoods were populated along ethnic lines. While today, many of these people live in the suburbs, and because they are no longer “ethnic outcasts? have no real need to form tight binds in order to get ahead or belong in this country.

    Where the article comes into play is to show the irony about the declining social capital in this country. What does it say for the future of social relationships and social capital in this country when the segments of the population with the tightest knit communities are being dragged out of their houses at gunpoint to be deported or criminally charged?

    Facebooking Alone

    Facebook.com has grown substantially since Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg launched the site in February 2004 to only Harvard students. Upon success at Harvard, facebook.com began to spread to universities across the nation, currently housing 7.5 million profiles with approximatly 20,000 new profiles created daily. Additionally, facebook.com ranks as the 7th most visited site in the United States. The concept of a facebook is hardly unique to my generation, it is simply the first time facebook caught up to technology and displayed itself on the internet. For generarions the Freshman Facebook was a cornerstone of introduction to the university community, particularly in exculsive private schools up and down the East Coast. This booklet was designed to help freshman know more about the university community they were entering by compiling a book of pictures, alma mater information, and interests of fellow freshamn. An additional purpose of the Freshman Facebook is to provide information about incoming freshamn to clubs, a key method of networking among universities. For example, Harvard University boasts the exclusive Porcellian Club who used the Fresham Facebook as an initial screening process for new members. You can read more about Harvad and clubs at: http://www.thecrimson.harvard.edu/printerfriendly.aspx?ref=239916
    In comparison, the goal of facebook is defined by Zuckerbeg on the facebook blog: "We made the site so that all of our members are a part of smaller networks like schools, companies or regions, so you can only see the profiles of people who are in your networks and your friends." (http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=2208562130). Although facebook.com utilized modern technologies to include a breadth of universities, the basic function of facebook is the same: to help undergraduates break into smaller groups with similar interests and goals to create social networks.

    The reason facebook.com is the seventh most popular website in the United States is the same reason every freshman picked up their copy of the Freshman Facebook before a new term started. Undergraduates want to communicate with each other and create social networks, both of these facilitate these interests. Where facebok.com begins to cleave from Freshman Facebook is in the capacity for social capital. Freshman facebooks allowed freshman to know about each other but still put the communication between students as their responsibilities. With the dawn of facebook.com, no personal communication in needed to know nearly anything, or even talk to, other undergraduates. Zuckerberg allows undergraduates to know about and communicate with each other without ever leaving the safety of their dorm room.

    This concept aligns with Putnams novel well because it shows how the capacity for communication does not coorelate into communication. For example, the Freshman Facebook was used, in part, as a tool to organize students into groups on campus. These groups then met, networked, and formed immeasurable social capital. Facebook.com allows users to form groups of people have similar intestes. The variety of these groups is widespread, from the Carlson School of Management to We Love Johnny Depp to Jesus is my Homeboy. Rarely do friends on facebook who join the same group met, network, and form even the slightest social capital. The differnece between the Freshman Facebook is a decrease in social networks as opposed to a catalyst for social networks. In comparison to Bowling Alone, people have more friends thanks for facebook.com because they can easily know about people they just met -- but facebook.com also allows these friends to communicate in person far less.

    September 14, 2006

    Cigarettes: Politics or Health Issue?

    As a cigarette smoker myself I find myself split on the issue of restricting smoking in public venues. The origional reason for the restriction is one in which I can completely understand and comply with, that cigarettes and cigarette smoke is extremely hazardous to everyones health. However recently the health issue has been put aside and there has been a political struggle that has ensued between business owners and city councils. Some business owners happily complied, however bars and small restaraunt owners did not take the new ban well. Some bar owners in St. Paul were able to lobby thier view to the city, making the ban only effective where food was served as a main source of business. The ban however effective or ineffective is only enforced in Minneapolis and St. PAul. Many states have complied or enforced their own bans since the health effects of cigarette smoking have been revealed, however they are able to not get into political debates by making cigarette smoking in enclosed areas illegal throughout the entire state, not just one or two cities.

    So how much help is banning cigarette smoking doing for the health of nonsmokers? Although while eating your meal you may not have to choke down your burger with burning eyes and sneezing from smoke, as soon as you leave the establishment there is inevitably a group of people hanging around the front door smoking like its their last cigarette, in a tightly huddled group emitting a giant smoke cloud. Even more inconveinient than that is getting used to the new lovely atmoshere inside your favorite restraunt, and then going to a restaraunt just outside of the city lines and have smoking be freely enjoyed within food establishments. As I stated before, I myself am a cigarette smoker, however I myself appreciate not eating while having Jon or Jane Somebody smoking next to me. If I enjoyed that kind of activity, I would just have my burger in one hand and my cigarette in the other. All of the political backlash and resistance to the ban could easily be somewhat subdued (maybe?) by banning cigarette smoking in all food serving establishments, as in other states as I stated before. Are the owners of the establishments under the ban really upset about the ban, or is it the control of the government rubbing them wrong. Either way there will be many more fights and protests against the ban as the ban continues.

    Social Capital and Drinking

    This morning on Fox 9 News they featured a very short segment on a new take on bar closing times. Unfortunately, its not on their website as of yet, so I can't provide a direct link. Some are now advocating that more legislation and regulation on when a person drinks is actually detrimental to the individual. The argument is that the bar is a social scene and men in particular garner a lot of social capital while there. Interestingly enough, the advocates found that this was not necessarily the case for women, or rather it was a far less significant amount in comparison to men.

    This relates directly to what Putnam was saying, that social capital, that the networking that people do in their daily lives can indeed be a large factor. What it doesn't take into account are the factors, the circumstances surrounding the visit to the bar. For example, quite a few people go out to the bars after work and they do so with many of their friends and coworkers. This could be an opportunity to establish new ties and more networks, but when you're surrounded by your friends you're more apt to talk to them than to a stranger at the bar. I think that it's easy to identify opportunities to network and work on your social capital, but it's far harder to actually act upon the opportunity.

    No time for friends anymore

    I actually went searching for an article that related to what I wanted to talk about and I found this article from 2003 called, "Job Stress, Burnout on the RIse." The article mentions that with the smaller workforce, people are taking on more work duties and as a result are becoming more and more stressed out. One line from the article says, "Working excessively long hours begins to take a heavy role on family life and social relationships, adding to the stress level." Also mentioned in the article are the effects work burnout have on productivity and profits.

    The reason I sought out an article like this is because I couldn't help but think how the lack in civic, political, whatever participation may have something to do with the time crunch everyone seems to be in nowadays. Americans especially have managed to pack more into each day than often times physically possible. People are working longer hours and stress is not just affecting their productivity at work but their health as well. With women entering the workforce, there is not someone always at home who is cooking meals and cleaning the house. I also remember reading an article once saying parents pack their kids' schedules so much now that there is not enough time for kids to just be kids anymore. For parents who are raising 2 or 3 kids, life's duties can get a bit overwhelming and little time is left for them to focus on their marriage, maintain relationships with friends and other couples, and be active citizens in their community.

    How this all relates to Putnam is in his chapter, "Informal Social Connections." In this chapter, Putnam says, "Visits with friends are now on the social capital endangered species list." (pg. 100) The truth is, people are so busy from morning until night that often times when they finally have a period of down time or once the day is over, they don't feel like doing anything except sitting at home. I saw this happen to my friend over the summer. She was working two jobs that required her to wake up at 5:45am and was also doing extra work at home for one of the jobs. Whenever I or one of my friends would call her to invite her along for something, she would almost always decline saying she was exhausted and had to get up early. As a result, we didn't see much of my friend this summer. I talked to her about it several times over the summer and one thing I always heard her say was how bummed she was she was lacking a social life but that she is really happy about the resume she will have because of her jobs. I see this pattern in society today; the strive to get ahead, be the best, and make lots of money. And slowly these goals are taking priority over other important areas in life such as a social life and being an active citizen.

    September 13, 2006

    Personal vs. Public Interests

    An article on Time emphasizes the lack of civic participation in the American public. Similar to Robert Putman’s Bowling Alone…, the article draws attention to the decreasing ‘social capital’ of America. The National Conference on Citizenship, a non-profit organization that aims to sustain civic participation, plans to release Civic Health Index, a survey that looks at the civic participation of Americans. Not surprisingly, Robert Putman is the co-author of the article, as well as a member of the advisory board of the National Conference on Citizenship. The authors cite public distrust in one another and decreased community involvement as some of the factors hindering Americans to participate in politics. In addition, the article explains that people do actually vote but their votes are directed towards their own interests “rather than out of a sense of shared responsibility.?

    An example of the focus on personal rather than communal interest: Few days ago my neighbor enthusiastically tried to convince me to vote for Mark Kennedy. I was surprised because she has a lawn sign that endorses Kennedy’s opposition: DFLer Amy Klobuchar. Why Kennedy and why did she endorse his opposition? It turns out that Kennedy spoke at a Somali community center in Minneapolis in which he not only promised to help Somali immigrants in Minnesota, but also said that he recognizes the internationally-unrecognized region of Ogadania. To give a bit of background history, Ogadania is a region inhabited by a Somali clan, the Ogadens, but is located in the nation-state of Ethiopia. British and Italian colonists divided the Somali-inhabited regions into the contemporary nation-states of Somalia, Djoubiti, small parts of Kenya, and a small portion of Ethiopia. Since Ogaden people do not consider themselves Ethiopians and do not receive full citizenship rights from the Ethiopian government, they have been fighting for independence since the colonists constructed nation-states that do not make sense to many oppressed minorities in the former colonized world. My neighbor is from Ogadania and has actually lost some family members to the unjust abuses that the Ethiopian government inflicts on the Ogaden people.

    Kennedy clearly stirred my neighbor’s personal interests and she was passionate about helping him win. She seemed to be unconcerned about where Kennedy stands on important policies that affects her here in Minnesota, such as healthcare and mmigration policies. In addition, she told she was not planning to vote until she heard Kennedy speak, and was unaware of which candidates were running. Nor did she care what name her lawn sign endorsed. In fact, she said that she only said ‘ok’ to the person who knocked on her door to place the sign on her lawn because she was busy and wanted to get back to her errands. Both she and I are not civic participants, aside from voting in the last presidential race (our first and last). Yet she was willing to convince others to vote for Kennedy due to that personal interest in her people’s struggle for independence. Hence, when I read this article, my neighbor’s mini ‘campaign’ for Kennedy came to mind.

    Pursue of personal interests and political disengagement are not unique to my neighbor (or myself), but is a common weakness of the ordinary American citizen. In the article, Putman and his co-author are hoping that the Civic Health Index will enable local communities to reinforce civic participation. So that people would not just accept campaign lawn-signs without the prerequisite political ‘knowledge’ that would enable them to be effectively involved in civic participation. I do no think that the article condemns personal interests. Instead, it calls for an American public which not only has personal interests but are also citizens who are aware of their civic responsibly. As Putman and his co-author in the article put it, “America could really use a civics lesson.?

    In reference to the Time article and Putman's book, as well as my little anecdote, I actually became interested in knowing more about civic participiation among immigrants communities in America. Putman touches this topic a little bit in chapter 5: Connections in the Workplace. Although immigrants living in America might be viewed as having nothing to do with the political domain of this country, I think they are more socially connected than the average American. Social connections become survival tool for immigrants, especially if you are a newly arrived immigrant. These connections may not automatically translate into political involvement, but they do increase the possibility of becoming civically engaged. My neighbor's situation is one example. She was not planning to vote in the general elections. However, when she attended the Somali community center's talk with Mark Kennedy, she automatically became interested in voting. Hence, this shows that immigrants' social connections would increase thier civic participation.

    "Gays Renew Drive Against Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

    "Two were college students, and the other was a college graduate. They had no criminal records. They were fit and eager to serve at a time when wars on two fronts have put a strain on American troops and the need for qualified recruits is great. But the recruiter was forced to turn them away, for one reason: they are gay and unwilling to conceal it" Lizette Alvarez, New York Times.

    I was skimming the New York Times and this article concerning the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy caught my attention immediately. This policy states that gay men and women must serve in silence and refrain from homosexual activity, and that recruiters and commanders cannot ask them about their sexual orientation unless there is evidence that homosexual acts have occured.

    This policy is based on the idea that open homosexuality is damaging to unit morale and cohesion. President of the Conservative Center for Military Readiness, Elaine Donnelly, stated that "people in the military live in conditions of little or no privacy. In conditions of forced intimacy, people should not have to expose themselves to other persons who are sexually attracted to them." This argument seems increadibly silly to me because whether one is openly homosexual or keeping his/her sexual orientation a secret is not going to change whether one is sexually attracted to another member or not. Wouldn't it be easier to address this issue if we were just open about the situation from the get go?

    Concerning the argument that open homosexuality would be damaging to unit cohesion: the article also states that "24 foreign armies, most notably those of Britain and Israel, have integrated openly gay people into their ranks with little impact on effectivenss and recruitment." If it works there, why couldn't it work here? Afterall, the U.S. military states that they are a reflection of America, representing virtually every possible ethnic and religious group. Aren't they being just a bit hipocritical? So this leads me to wonder that maybe this policy and the determination to keep enforcing it has little do to with whether it would be damaging to the military or not, and more based on the fear of the political controversies it would bring up, especially in a time of war during a tough election year. I understand that this is an increadibly contreversial topic, but it's something to think about.

    Politics from above or below?

    I overheard a conversation recently between two people about Keith Ellison. This was before the primaries and the discussion was about some slip-ups with the law that Ellison had. Among a few of these there were instances of tardiness to important events and unpaid parking tickets. Because only one of these is against the law, I'll keep my question and comments to that subject. This lead me to think that, if I considered Ellison the best candidate for the job, should I be concerned about his misgivings, petty as they may be, with the law.

    The arguements that this brings up are: Is it the governments most basic job to crack down on these sort of petty crimes and therefore he should be suspended from any post he would be elected to until he has made the appropriate reperations? Or if he is the best candidate, should we be bothered by the lack of enforcement of these petty misgivings? To this I reply that in the best interest of the act of democracy, I would vote for him. The reasons behind this are that if I truly believe him to be the best candidate to represent myself, I would not give that representation up for a few petty "crimes" that can easily and quickly be fixed if they were actually to be enforced.

    Turnout likely to be low in primaries

    The article I read was from MPR about the expectation that the primary elections in Minnesota would expect a low turn out. Voter turnout for the primaires has been declining since the 1998. Voter turn out hasn't been higher than 20% in years even deeping to single digits a few years ago. Compared to the national elections, Minnesota usually has one of the highest voter turnouts in the nation, but compared to primaries most states have low turnouts. The Minnesota Secretary of State, Mary Kiffmeyer, says that people are affilated with a politcal party are more likely to vote compared to those who are not affilated with a political party. Curtis Gans from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate says that lower voter turnout is the result of lower civic engagement and lowe regard for political parties. This kind of relates to what Putnam states about disingagement from from politics may be because of political unhappiness, with policies and parties. The article also touches on how civic disingagement may effect our voter turnout, which is somewhat hinted at by Putnam.

    MPR: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2006/09/10/primarypreview/

    Myth of Meritocracy

    Last week in my Social Organizations class we read an article in The Economist titled "Inequality and the American Dream." This article talked about how globalization is making the rich richer and the middle class poorer. The author talks about how little of an impact immigration has on the average American wage and talks about the various arguments about how America's economic system is immoral. The author of the article thinks that meritocracy is the most important thing for Americans to worry about; insomuch as the country isn't a true meritocracy. "A meritocracy works only if it is seen to be fair." There are also examples on how the rich set themselves up to stay that way for generations.

    I thought that this article tied well with the individualistic ideas of "Bowling Alone." The idea that Americans are holding tighter to ideas of individualism are more important than thinking of ourselves as members of a community is, I think, ingrained in ideas of meritocracy. If someone can't do something it's their own fault. Individual culpability for a social problem. An interesting thing that the article says is that in European countries it is easier for the poor to rise up than it is in America. In America, where we say that a person can pull themselves up by their bootstraps it's very improbable. The Economist points out that it's very disconcerting given the fact that America is becoming the model for the world. An interesting note; the author made a very first world western assumption. They say " [G]overnment should not be looking for ways to haul the rich down. Rather it should help others . . . to climb up..." The interesting assumption here is a world with unlimited resources. The United States only holds 5% of the world's population, but they use 25% of the world's resources. The assumption that everyone can have everything that they want if they try hard enough is in the fiber of the author's mind even though they are saying it's fairly impossible.

    the website: it's through a school website; I apologize if you can't see it:
    http://sas.epnet.com.floyd.lib.umn.edu/citation.asp?tb=0&_ug=sid+1A891FC6%2D3535%2D4397%2DAFEE%2DEA42D48A0EC3%40sessionmgr5+F88F&_us=SLsrc+ext+30AB&_usmtl=ftv+True+137E&_uso=hd+False+db%5B0+%2Daph+1BEE&bk=S&EBSCOContent=ZWJjY8Pe9HePp7Nrwtvva6Gmr4GPprWFo625faCWxpjDpfKAoaqvfqWnrbjQ3%2B151N7uvuMA&rn=&fn=&db=aph&an=21213485&sm=&cf=1

    Urban Planning: A Remedy for American Community?

    In an attempt to revive American culture back to the community centric 1950's and 60's, an urban developer in Kansas City, Missouri is moving away from conventional suburbia. In modern suburbia, many of the homes are large and similar in structure to the surrounding homes in the subdivision. In contrast, this urban planner built a subdivision that has smaller, uniques homes that are very different from each other. Additionally, the new subdivision has large front porches designed to entertain neighbors, friends, and family. This plan echos Putnam because it addresses the same societal ill: the decline in American community. This urban planning venture attempts to revive the casual card games and chats on front porches by providing a living space where this is possible. The goal is to create a bond between homes instead of a random aggregate of houses.

    On face, this remedy for the lack of community and involvememt is compelling, but has one major flaw. Most modern subdivisions are composed of similar houses because it is more efficient to build several similar houses instead of several differet houses. The benefits of this efficiency are twofold for the comsumer: 1) houses that are built efficiently are less expensive and 2) houses that are built efficiently allow for more houses to be constructed. The creation of this urban planning venture may lead to the construction of simply another wealthy neighborhood rather then a bonding community. Moreover, there is no compelling evidence to suggest that this venture will bridge into the community at large. Rather, this venture may serve to unite the neighborhood but keep all other participation (clubs, leagues, ect.) at the same rate. In conclusion, this neighborhood echoes Putnam because it recognizes the decline in American community but does not necessarily solve for this harm.

    State Capital

    Three years ago I toured the state capital. What I remembered most was the building was more impressive than the people. The structure looked grand and gave me a sense of ‘power.’ I attended part of the state legislative meeting. In the meeting some chairs were empty. A lot of representatives were eating, sleeping, or reading the newspapers. Only a few were debating topics on banning guns and education. They sounded like they were bickering and were using sarcastic comments on each other. During break time I went and talked to a Democratic Mmong state legislative representative. I noticed he was one of the representatives that were sleeping in the meeting. He looked weary and he told me everybody knew the outcome so there is not point of debating because the republican was in control so they will make a decision. He also mentioned being a minority in there, so no one will listen to him.
    The people that were elected by us and representing us, but they seem to be in their own little world and not doing their duty. ‘Democracy’ did not apply in that meeting. People were not expressing what they truly feel and they felt their words had no effect that is why they were doing other things. This reminded me of the 2004 presidential election, where we all know either Kerry or Bush would win. I feel in United States our democracy is restricted and we have limited option. It is hard for the average citizen to be an active participant when our role models such our representatives are disillusion about politics.

    "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" (Spike Lee, 2006)

    For this blog entry, I watched Spike Lee's film "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" (2006). This film is based on Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities. We all know that this hurricane was the worst natural disaster in U.S. History. This four hour HBO documentary is full of familiar images such as the flooding, damaged homes and the discovery of human remains. But this documentary provides us with the residents who witnessed, and those who reported the devastation. Spike Lee reminded us of the slow federal response to the disaster. Furthermore, it was pointed out that the levees protecting the city had broken. But some residents suggested that they heard loud explosions before the flooding, and some have said that the levee system was "intentionally dynamited". And lee connected this story to the 1927 Great Flood of Mississippi.

    At the end of the documentary we see several residents returning to ruined homes, while looking for their perhaps dead loved ones. So what could we say about the slow federal response, where was the government aid, and why are residents still homeless today? America as we have heard is "one Nation," and in a sense it is a society broken down within different communities (states and cities). But after watching this documentary, it looks like some sociologists as Robert Putnam stated are telling the truth that "community bonds in America have weakened steadily throughout our history..." (25) How would we have responded 40 years ago? We must strengthen our "social capital" and our society should practice generalized reciprocity. We must look out for one another, and help each other in times of need. No one in America should be hungry or homeless regardless of their skin color.

    (Front Page) IS LINDSAY LOHAN MARRIED? (page 12B) minnesota soldier killed in Iraq

    The other day I was perusing through a copy of the Star Tribune, and I happened to notice a tragic and shocking event behind the colorful advertisements and front pages devoted to Hollwood break-ups and engagements, major league sports, and fashion trends. Another U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq, and even more noteworthy, the first Hmong from Minnesota. This was not the first time that I had noticed that the death of another of our country's finest, a reminder of the sacrifices made day in and day out by those on the front lines, had been demoted to the back pages. I made these same observations when I served as a soldier in Iraq, and when I got home immediately thereafter. The initial shock and repudiation has faded, but every time I have to scan the entire newspaper for the news that should serve as a glaring reminder to the American public of the cost of this war I begin to question the underlying motives behind the blissful ignorance.

    Surely, it can be stated that the American public has a short attention span, and furthermore, a low tolerance for casulties. I would, however, like to delve deeper into this problem ( the aforementioned neglect of reporting on the Iraq war), and suggest that the apparent complancency on the part of the media outlets (who serve the interests of the American public) in reporting on the Iraq war is subjected to racial and class-based discrimination.
    An overwhelming number of the members of the U.S. military come from the lower class of American society. In addition to that, the military has a disproportionate number of minorities among it's ranks. It may seem like a far stretch of the imagination, but it is worth looking into to suggest that maybe the public's apparent uneasiness with stomaching the casulties of their nation is based in other aspects (i.e. Vietnam), but is exacerbated by the racial and class differences between those serving, and those in power.

    http://www.startribune.com/462/story/661544.html

    Michigan six grade girls required to take cervical cancer shot

    In a news article on AbcNews.com, starting next year girls entering the sixth grade in Michigan will have to take a vaccine that fights against cervical cancer. Michigan will become the first of its kind to require such a vaccine being backed by the legislation. The vaccine is supposed to prevent infections from some strains of the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus, which can cause cervical cancer and genital warts. Even though it's required, the 3-shot vaccination which costs $360 may not be covered by all insurance. Even so, poltiticians still think this as a major breakthough in the prevention of cancer and as a life saver.

    "We believe we can save the lives of these girls," states Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom


    I think this vaccine is a great thing. It prevents one of the deadliest killers in human beings, cancer. It will give women some relief in their life knowing that they will not get cervical cancer. In the other hand, what if the government made it a requirement for school enrollment? Everybody will have to be vaccinated and that will cause some problems. The government is definately trying to help save lives, but there are other consequences that shouldn't be overlook. Some people would say that the government may be sending a message that underage sex is okay. I agree with that notion in the sense that if some people/teens know that they are protected by the vaccine, then they will act irresponsibly and take the vaccine for granted. Since underage sex is already a problem, this vaccine will more or likely cause an increase in the problem due to the belief that the vaccine will prevent the contracting of diseases and or viruses that can lead to cervical cancer. The government should put more consideration into account about the future of the girls who are receiving the vaccine. More education needs to be done on the public in order to fulfill the mission of saving lives in the future. The parents & children need to know both the pros and cons of taking this vaccine in order for it to be used successfully.

    North Minneapolis Shooting

    Courtney Brown became the 44th homicide victim in the City of Minneapolis this year when he was shot to death on September 2nd. He was only 15 years old. One of the four people arrested in connection with Courtney's death is 17 year old, Darryl Johnson. Darryl allegedly shot Courtney over a Morgan State basketball jersey and a pair of tennis shoes. Darryl is being tried as an adult charged with first degree murder.

    Courtney's senseless death is huge tragedy. It is difficult to comprehend that a young person's life was lost over an article of clothing. As I listened to the various media sources discuss Courtney's murder over the past week, I tried to listen through a "Putnam filter". The media reports and community leaders praised the police for making the arrests, made pleas for additional police officers and even rejoiced over the first degree murder charge of Darryl the shooter. Representatives from St Paul who were discussing the incident on a local news channel, verbalized plans to increase the number of police officers in the city as proposed increases in the number of officers in Minneapolis may push this sort of crime over the river to St Paul.

    What I didn't hear in various reports I listened to were proposed plans to increase, as Putnam would say, the social capital in the North Side of Minneapolis. I couldn't help feeling that somehow North Minneapolis failed Darryl Johnson. Until very recently Darryl and his family were residents of the North Side. Neighbors interviewed on the news told of continous criminal activity at Darryl's home and were relieved with the move. Why hadn't something been addressed by the community earlier? Why now that Courtney is dead is the attention given? In Putnam's report discussed in class, North Minneapoils scored lowest in social trust. In "Bowling Alone" Putnam states"we invest more in guns, dogs and locks than in social capital for crime defense " (pg 107). I do not want to downplay Courtney's death nor make excuses for Darry's actions, but bigger plans need to be in place for North Minneapolis and communities alike. Discussions should not be focused on obtaining additional police officers but rather on ways to improve the community on the North Side. Funding should be sought for after school programs, community recreation centers, anti-gun education and neighborhood associations.

    North Minneapolis is in the process of electing a new police chief and discussions I've heard of the acting chief, Tim Dolan, may add some promise. Tim Dolan was born and raised in North Minneapolis. He has family and friends who continue to reside in the community who are looking to Tim to increase the social trust and capital of North Minneapolis. Tim Dolan feels a personal connection the the community which may motivate other residents to take an active role in improving the community.


    http://www.startribune.com/462/story/669620.html
    http://www.startribune.com/357/story/673029.html

    Oval Office Tying Iraq to Al Qaeda

    On a recent episode of the Countdown with Keith Oberman on MSNBC, there was a segment on how the members of the presidency have continually for the past few months made claims that Iraq and Saddam Hussein have ties to Al Qaeda. The President himself was quoted with "the hardest part of my job is tying Iraq to Al Qaeda." Mentioned on the show was how the Oval Office is losing credibility daily because the committee investigation the war in Iraq and its complications have proven to show no significant relationship between any member of Saddam's regime with any known Al Qaeda member. To me, there is a bigger, more socio-cultural problem with the entire thing, which is that many of us, seemingly as a nation, consider people of a part of the world so far away, to be all the same or at least quite close. The middle east is a much larger, more diverse and unstable part of the world than perhaps we think, and for the President to try and make claims or expand any ties of Iraq to the War on Terror makes it seem as though we consider them one in the same. From a sociological standpoint, do we view this as a cultural problem? As an unjust way of dealing with terrorism by holding Iraqi's responsible? In my opinion, Al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks obviously helped legitimize the war in Iraq but is that right or does that make sense?

    It is apparent that from a societal standpoint, we can only relate to what we know from our own society to the little we know about another society. In addition, when things that our society view as negative, such as poverty, or strictness toward womens rights (making them cover their faces in public), or even see middle easterns as terrorists in movies, it makes us think negative things about them as if they are the all one big group as well. Not to overemphasize the obvious, but we could quite possibly be agreeing or more understanding of the war should there be a connection between the two groups because justice, or the ability to provide it, is one of the most important traits to us as a nation, particularly when we are looking for it.

    Response to "Reflections of Society within the Music Industry"

    The author of the blog post "Reflections of Society Within the Music Industry" argued that "mainstream music has always reflected intrests of of the majority of it's audience..." He referenced protest song musicians such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young during the Vienam war era, arguing that since it was a time of large community activism, these musicians emerged. The author goes on to say that musicians now are only about appearance and sex, reflecting a shallow society that would not perform any acts that would not lead to instant personal gratification. I agree to a certain extent, however, I believe he missed certain major points.

    First of all, one should not omit the fact that sixties protest artists such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young, were not mainstream musicians. They were in fact "long haired freaky people" that perhaps triggered a movement by inspiring alternative thinkers to realize their own power. The infamy of the sixties protest movements was not cause by the majority of general society, but instead a noisy minority that recognized its own power. Current musicians such as Jessica Simpson and Nelly fall into the norms of present society. And the norms of society are not the people who inspire change. I would argue that we do have musicians comparable to Bob Dylan and Neil Young (at least in comparable positions to inspire, not necessarily musical/lyrical talent.) A Perfect Circle put out an entire C.D. protesting the Iraqi war. Rasputina's The Mayor references Bush's inability to lead a country. Who hasn't at least heard of Ani Difranco. They may not be of the same popularity as Jessica Simpson...but they don't need to be, and perhaps shouldn't. be.
    I think instead the problem may lie in the musicians' ability to inspire power within its listeners. Eliasoph's article argues that people's failure to get involved lies in their feelings of powerlessness, not in a simple selfish desire to do only things that produce instant selfish gratification. Musicians today are fighting an audience of cynical folks who grew up in the 80's and 90's, producing a generation that would rather escape from than change society. In otherwords, a generation of people who feel completely powerless. In order to change this, I believe current "long haired freaky people" musicians need not change the content of their music but rather their level of inspirational abilities.

    Harvard calls it quits...

    A recent article on MSNBC stated that Harvard, one of the most well known universities in the world, is going to end it's long standing early acceptance program. An early acceptance program allows seniors in high school to apply almost an entire year early, and some argue that this eases the stress of college hunting. Many argue that the program was a good idea because it allowed students to know far in advance if they were accepted to the school, while others thought it a hindrance. Many times, kids who are wealthy will be the ones accepted in early acceptance programs, because they can afford to go to the top schools in the country. One of the main reasons Harvard decided to end the program was for the benefit of low-income and minority students, whom Harvard University stated to be at a disadvantage through the program. Many low-income students chose to opt out of the early acceptance program because they had to wait for other schools to compare financial aid packages.Through it's 370 year existence, Harvard has managed to rank among America's top 5 school; currently number 2 in the nation. This came as a suprise to many, but Tom Bok, current president of the university stated:

    "We hope that doing away with early admission will improve the process and make it simpler and fairer.?

    Starting in the fall of 2008, the administration says the school will only have one application for the entire incoming freshman class. Reuters stated that while Harvardd calls it quits, many other top schools in the country will keep their programs intact. When I read this article, I thought of Putnam's reminiscing on social capital. He talks about how the wealthy can sometimes have an advantage over lower income people, and Harvard is trying to deter that gap by only having one application. When one thinks of Harvard usually one could imagine wealth and power. Many top university officials argue that Harvard will lose many top students by ending the program and, in turn, lose funding. The aspect of power is still there, but wealth seems to be fading away. This, in my opinion, is Harvard's way of making a bold statement that they aren't intimidated by the upper class of the US.

    Hilary Clinton for President?

    In a recent interview with ABC News reporter Cynthia McFadden, Sen. Rodham Clinton responded “I haven’t made a decision about it,? when asked about potentially running for Presidency in 2008. American politics have become much more accepting of new ideas in recent years, and although being a female candidate for a major political party is unprecedented, a woman president is no longer an outlandish thought. This shows a more liberal shift in American politics and society as a whole. It has taken America roughly 217 years (almost 55 elections) to even have a female candidate, let alone one with an actual chance of winning. This shows huge strides in gender equality for a country run entirely by white males since birth. This leads many to ask if this country is really ready for a female President. The fact that Clinton is a woman may prove too detrimental to her campaign regardless of her platforms. It is almost certain that the war in Iraq will still be a major issue in 2008, and as stereotypical as it may seem, many people view a woman to be unfit for a job dealing with war and military defense. If the voters of this country are willing to accept a woman being capable of handling military situations, this country is ready for a woman president.

    Although proving that females are capable of holding such a position of power will be an issue in Clinton’s campaign, I believe the real problem she will face will be to please both sides of the American public. How does Clinton maintain the support of her already loyal democratic followers while appealing to a more conservative side as well? Her pro-war opinions, although pleasing to the more conservative bunch, have already created quite a stir among the democrats. If Clinton chooses to run she will be putting herself in a position that could potentially gain conservative support while losing some of the democratic support or vice versa. Clinton is known for being a very strong and empowered woman but it is hard to predict the outcome if she were to run for President. Putnam discusses how civic participation has decreased and voter turnout for elections in the US is very poor but having a female candidate could possibly spark a much needed change in participation. Some people may vote for Clinton because she is a woman,and they feel the need to support a woman candidate. On the other hand, more people may vote for other candidates because she is a woman and they want to make sure she doesn't win. The public, of all political affiliations will be anxiously awaiting her decision and then we’ll see how much of a liberal change American politics has actually experienced.

    Marcy Homes Neighborhood

    I am apart of a Fraternity that lives in the Marcy Homes Neighborhood. Over the past five years or so one of our graduates, Mark, has been fighting for our house and other students in the area trying to change ordinances and local policy. The reason he has been doing this is because the members of the Marcy Homes Council hold monthly meetings to discuss and vote on policies and ordinances that affect the Neighborhood more importantly benefiting themselves and family owned houses, while trying to reduce student living in the area. The reason they get away with doing this is because there is no representation by students living in the area. The number one reason for this lack of representation is that no students vote in the area or even send delgates to be on the board. Therefore, Mark goes around giving speeches for our house and other student groups to make people aware.

    The reason I thought about this was that all the years Mark has been fighting these issues I myself never took it seriously. As we have been reading Bowling Alone and going over those statistics on politics and democracy, made me realize that these problematic issues Putnam raises such as the declijne in voting. In which, he showed that the U.S. ranked 23 out 24 democracies. is really happening especially on the local level. I guess my question to you would be is it possible to make a change and hit these issues head on? If all one has to do is vote yes or no on a local policy which would take less than 10 min to accomplish. Then why such a decline? What are the major factors associated with this? Lastly, If these policies directly affect the students in the area to which it could affect student houseing or make houseing harder to come by why still no action over at least the 5 years I have been living here?

    Speech From President Bush

    On Tuesday, President Bush addressed the nation in speech about 9/11 and the war on terrorism. He described the state of the United States as being, "safe, yet not safe." He also stated that the reason for being in Iraq was because the U.S. needed to do something now so that our kids wouldn't have to put up with terrorists in the future who could possibly have nuclear weapons. However, NPR radio has reported that support for the President has diminished and is very low because of how he handled the war in Iraq.

    if we disect the speech into the theories on state and society, the President and his advisors are best criticized by the views of a pluralist approach. Obviously, the President is influenced by citizens and local organized groups within the country to make descions regarding these various entities. This in turn influences state action such as the war in Iraq, or other ongoing policies. To have political stability, they need the support of their interest groups so that they can function properly. However, there are overlapping veies and variant degrees of how policies should be handled, which is why many may have supported this war initially, but now thier support has fallen or diminished to a certain degree. Lastly, they have pressures form inside their ranks towards different policies. Cheney has links to oil companies and whether that influenced any decisions is for them to know and us to find out. In any case, they have these pressures inside which may have caused continuous involvement in Iraq even when favor has subsided on this controversial topic.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6059926

    Wal-mart Blacklisted in Scandanavia

    The widely heard, but infrequently acted upon (in America) concerns that Wal-mart is exploiting its workers and suppliers is now being taken up by Sweden and Norway. Both countries have sold all of their stock holdings in the company, which were parts of national pension funds for the respective governments. Norway deemed Wal-mart to be in violation of their Ethical Investment guidelines, while Sweden cited persistent human rights violations. The economic impact of this criticism is minimal, but the message it sends demonstrates how seriously the global community is concerned with Wal-mart's practices.

    While the actions of these two nations may come as a surprise, the reaction of the United States ambassador to Norway was even more surprising. Ambassador Benson Whitney accused Norway of betraying the values of "fairness, transparency, justice, dialogue and ethics," while arbitrarily investigating and banning solely American companies. Wal-mart is not the first to be nationally blacklisted. Kerr-Mcgee and Freeport-Mason were both banned previously. Interestingly, Ambassador Whitney did nothing to defend the business, ethical, and human rights practices of Wal-mart, but rather criticized the Norwegian process of evaluation, and the lack of established standards for this process. While Whitney may not have stepped up to bat for Wal-mart, others in the Bush administration have. Vice president Cheney, for example, lauded praises on Wal-mart as embodying "some of the very best qualities in our country."

    All of this posturing raises several questions about how America should react. Is it best for us to stand up for an American company, and protect our economic interests in situations where we do nothing to criticize that company's practices? Should we assume a hand-off, laissez-faire stance, and let investors, be it individuals, groups, or governments, buy and sell as they choose? Or is it time that we step back and objectively evaluate the practices of the companies we sanction? Ambassador Whitney drew the distinction between individuals buying or selling a certain stock on ethical grounds and a national government doing the same. If the case is that Scandinavians truly feel that they are part of the government, and that it is representing their interests, then is there any difference?

    http://www.bitsofnews.com/content/view/3829/43/
    http://www.aftenposten.no/english/local/article1442785.ece

    September 12, 2006

    2006 Racism in America

    According to an article found on CNN, a Louisiana, white bus driver, was suspended due to the cause of ordering nine African American children to sit in the back two rows of the bus. Jarvonica Williams, age 16, was one of the children ordered to sit in the rear of the school bus, she stated, "..the bus driver allowed many white students to have seats all to themselves while some blacks were forced to stand or sit in others' laps." Why did this happen, and what were the words of the students as this event unfolded? Iva Richmond is the mother of 2 children who rode that bus, she says, "..they previously had a black bus driver, but their bus assignment changed this year. When school started this month, the white driver told them she had assigned them seats with the black children at the back of the bus." There were complaints brought to the principal and to the parish school officials but, apparently, the bus driver was only given suspention without pay. The investigation is still on going...

    I decided to write about this article because it is very interesting that in this day in age there is a continuation of racism still being spread throughout the country even after the Civil Rights Movement. The United States of America is a country that is suppose to give all people, regardless of race, age, and gender, to have everyday freedom in their lives. America is called the "melting pot" for a reason. Every person in this country counts...If the Civil Rights Movement would had never of happened, as I see it, America would not be what it is today, a free and democratic nation, giving equality to all race, ethnicity, and gender. African Americans also make up quite a large percentage of this country and can have a great effect on it when taken to the voting poles, community meetings, or other decision making. In addition, racism may also lead to declination of public participation aswell. Today we can still see that everyone has their own clicks, for example, in schools you may see white mingling with their own, african american, latino, etc in their own group too. This is also occuring in chuches as well. There are still today, white/black churches giving these separations between communities. Racism obviously exists in the present day, as we can see from the article, and no one will be able to get rid of it. Keep an open mind about how strongly discrimination can affect a country and how great the influence race has on America.

    9/11 Miniseries on ABC

    Last night (Mon. Sept. 11) I watched approximately 1-2 hours of the second half of the 9/11 miniseries on ABC. Basically this miniseries was supposed to be a dramatization. Even though I read the "disclosure statement" that said it was a dramatization when it first came on, I assumed it would be portraying mostly accurate events. As I watched, I saw things that made the Clinton administration (as well as the Bush administration) look pretty bad. Today, I read in a few different stories on CNN.com that many of the events portrayed in the miniseries were not accurate. http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/TV/09/08/review.television.911.reut/index.html I also found out that just days before it aired, scenes were edited because of the inaccuracy.

    It bothered me to find out that so much of the miniseries was inaccurate. I just figured that if someone was going to put together something about 9/11, and have it air on Sept. 11th, that they'd do their best to make it as accurate as possible. I'm sure that many others who watched this miniseries assumed that it was mostly accurate, as I did. The producers of the program were I guess one could say that disclaimers don't always work for our society. Even though it explicitly said it was partly fiction and a dramatization, most people assume that the story is nearly accurate. 9/11 had such a major impact on the entire world, and, in my opinion, to portray it inaccurately is simply irresponsible.

    McAdam Talk: When participation works (and when it doesn't)

    UPDATED - 9-21-2006

    I went to Doug McAdam's talk today in the sociology department workshop and it was excellent: he's an engaging speaker and his work is fascinating. I'd highly encourage everyone to attend tomorrow's talk at 4:00 in room 125, Nolte Center. I also thought I'd write up a quick posting on it to further illustrate what I'm expecting from you. (I didn't see any of you there - but if you were and I missed you and you plan on writing about the talk, please go ahead: there was material for several entries! The talk tomorrow is also about a different study than today's talk.) Note that for this posting I've used the "Extended Entry" box in Movable Type so that you can just click "Continue reading..." below to see the whole entry. This is a good idea for your own posts if they end up being a little bit long. Notice I also added a "Civic Participation" category - a pretty obvious addition since we're reading/discussing Putnam - I'm surprised I hadn't thought of it earlier.

    McAdam's talk was on a comparison between volunteers for two activist groups: 1) participants in "Freedom Summer," the topic of McAdam's fabulous book by the same name: white college students who, in Summer 1964, went to Mississippi to participate in the black civil rights movement. 2) participants in "Teach for America," an organization that sends freshly-graduated students to poor and underserved schools to teach in exchange for paying back a chunk of their loans. In Freedom Summer, McAdam found that the young people who went to Mississippi in 1964 had a life-changing event, and their activism in 1964 placed them on a trajectory of activism and involvement that lasted for decades (in comparison with students who applied to participate in Freedom Summer, but, for one reason or another, did not end up going). In part modelling their program off of the success McAdam described in Freedom Summer, Teach for America, by sending relatively affluent young people off to an intensive "volunteering"-type situation, aims to produce active, effective citizens by giving them a life-transforming event a la Freedom Summer. McAdam compared the two cases and found very different outcomes: graduates of TFA actually seem less likely to be involved in civic activism than those who were offered positions in TFA but declined to participate.

    What's going on here? According to the conventional wisdom, volunteering ought to magically lead directly to concerned and active citizens, right? Putnam, in particular, has attracted a lot of popular and academic attention to the virtues of participation and involvement in associations. However, what separates the occassions when participation really does have these positive impacts from the times when it doesn't? Instead of just celebrating participation and volunteerism as inherent goods, let's see when it is good and perhaps even when it has bad civic effects. In this case, McAdam argues TFA lacks a few things Freedom Summer had going for it. In particular, Freedom Summer occurred at a very different time with different people. College students in 1964 had been raised in a fairly idealistic time in American history: we'd overcome the Depression, defeated Fascism and there was a real sense (which we might laugh at as naive now) that solving the worlds major problems were within our grasp. Send people with this worldview into 1964 Mississippi and you get a huge shock: the gap between expectations and reality are so great, people get really angry, but at the same time, they know they can do something about it. On the other hand, we're in a much more cynical, though perhaps realistic, age: the volunteers know what they're getting into with TFA, so the odds of the experience totally transforming how they look at the world in the way Freedom Summer did for those participants is much more slim. In fact, whereas finding a problem they couldn't just fix added to the motivation for the Freedom Summer volunteers, it's possible that having a more realistic perspective going in by TFA participants would actually make a bad experience even worse, leading to burnout ("even this doesn't seem to do any good...") rather than anger that things are worse than people think and people need to know about it. Additionally, organizationally, TFA does a good job of getting its participants to keep working within its own organization. Freedom Summer, however, was much less institutionlized: the message to departing activists was "Go to your own communities and fight all forms of injustice!" The point is that these are actually very different types of activism and civic associations and the differences matter for the effects they have. McAdam, by looking closely at comparisons between two different movements/associations, can help us understand exactly how and why participation matters, which helps us push our discussion of civic participation and associations beyond abstract assumptions about associations magically creating life-long model citizens.

    Reflections of Society within the Music Industry

    Putnam raises the point, as others in the class have mentioned, that more and more people do not wish to bring political topics into everyday conversations because Americans are becoming more individualy focused. I believe that a similar phenomenon can be witnessed within the music industry. Mainstream music has always reflected the interest of the majority of it's audience, so it would make sense that if a country was concerned with war, artists might write protest songs, where a society that is highly individualized would not. In the wake of the Veitnam War, we saw the rise of artists such as Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and The Sex Pistols, all with politically driven lyrics. Today, during the Iraq War, we see more artists being used as corparate tools to sell skin cream and breast inplants. Rather than focusing on topics such as war, hunger, and political injustice, mainstream artists like Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, and Nelly seem to have a message that is more focused on individualized topics like sex, smoking marijuana, and uh...sex. This is a reflection of the individualization of our society.
    This individualization of song content in mainstream music underlines a disturbing trend that reflects many people's reasoning for becoming involved in community organizations. People seem to think more along the lines of, "What's in it for me?" rather than seeing a bigger picture or asking "How can I make the world a better place". It is important to note that music is not causing individualization but rather it is reflecting it. So, assuming that mainstream music is still a reflection of mainstream society today as it has been in the past, we can tell from examining the music industry, that America is becoming more focused on individualized issues rather than problems that encompass the entire society. This may explain a dropoff in community involvement and political activism.

    Online Audio/Visual Resources

    In addition to attending events and writing about news items and personal experiences, one good resource is television and radio - and so much of this is online and accessible anytime now, it's even easier.

    Here's a list of online audio/visual resources you can use when searching out material to write about. I discovered podcasts myself about a year ago and have since subscribed to several and listen to them on the lightrail & bus on the way to and from campus each day. Consider doing the same - it's a great way to keep up on things by "multitasking" during otherwise boring task. Here's a few specific resources, and more will be added as Jeff and I find them. If you've got any additions of your own, click on the "Comments" link and add it yourself.

    • iTunes Podcasts - if you've got iTunes on your computer (it's free), go to the iTunes Music Store and click on the Podcasts link. Under the News category, you can find loads of good podcasts, from major news outlets like ABC, CBS and CNN to lots of smaller independent podcasts.
    • NPR Podcasts (Link) - On Point, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered...NPR has lots of programs that deal with politics and society. (In fact, they have a page actually called "Politics & Society", though you don't have to limit yourself.)
    • Network podcasts - CBS podcasts, ABC podcasts...all have them now.
    • Frontline (Link) - Frontline puts many of their episodes online for free, video and all. Lots of them would be great material for class blogging.

    This list will grow as we find more. Enjoy!

    September 11, 2006

    The Insincerity of Politics

    The fifth anniversary of the suicide attacks on American soil that claimed the lives of 2,973 people just passed, and as such it was of consequence that a remembrance be paid for such. A speech was given by the President to honor those whose memory we commemorated. The speech commenced with a significant majority not dealing with those who we remember, but instead being devoted to partisan policies currently being carried out around the world. This speech ended up being a response to the major problems facing the United States in Iraq due to the massive occurrence of sectarian violence. Around the media circuit, talks are of civil war in Iraq based on the rise in death rates in specific areas such as Baghdad. The coupling of these policies with an emotional day such causes a portion of the populous to understand constructive discourse that disagrees with such policy to be contrary to the positive remembrance of those who died on September 11th. With the midterm elections not far off, this seems an attempt to strengthen the Republican candidates in their races for national office.

    I find extreme fault in the doctrine of a “War on Terror? that America is to carry out and win. Incidentally, the War on Terror was the main focus of the speech the President gave. When the question is asked “who this war is being fought against,? the current administration would answer “terrorists,? but the term “terrorist? is very general. Unfortunately, in our present situation, terrorist does not solely refer to “Muslim Extremist.? We need only look to the past conflict in Lebanon to see that Hezbollah was not an extremist group independent of the populous, but was a group of the people who fought for the people. The people constitute these groups are civilians. This is why when we look at Iraq, there are so many trials facing our occupation; we are not fighting an army, we are fighting a movement. All it seems to take to fuel the flames of this movement is to continue with an attitude of aggression. We must take the high ground and show the extremists for what they are by going much farther out of our way than the blunt arm of the military is capable of. We must give the disenfranchised legitimacy by listening to them and demonstrating that we have a sincere desire to help before they feel a need for extremism. Unfortunately the current administration feels less of a need to demonstrate sincerity towards these people than it does to further its political policies. Put yourself in the shoes of a youth who has lost family and friends at the hands of a freedom that was imposed simply to appease the tensions of the wealthiest nation in the world. From this standpoint, listen to Bush’s speech and try to find a glint of sincerity towards any past wrongs. http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/09/12/911.politics/index.html

    Cheney: war critics aid enemies

    As we approach the 2006 election, Vice President Dick Cheney is again trying to drum up patriotic support for both the war, and his fellow republicans running for reelection. On NBC's Meet the Press this past sunday, he said:

    ...those doubts are encouraged, obviously, when they see the kind of debate that we've had in the United States," he said. "Suggestions, for example, that we should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq simply feed into that whole notion, validates the strategy of the terrorists."

    Who knows where present day republicans would be without this soundbyte for the past five years? They were able to ride it to victory in the past two elections, 2002 and 2004, to say the least. In the two years since George Bush has been reelected, support for the war in Iraq has steadily dropped, as well as the approval ratings of those who support the war, who tend to be Republicans. In past elections, the 'ace in the hole' for Republicans has tended to be appearing strong on national defense and utilizing wartime politics to their advantage. In 2004, with the war in Iraq being only a little over a year old, the Republicans were able to argue effectively that only they were competent enough to manage the global war on terrorism, and it is believed to be the major reason why Bush and Republicans were able to keep control of the government, despite relatively low approval ratings on the President's part. However, now, two years later, with the same situation on the ground in Iraq, and other parts of the world and region descending into violence, the formerly invincible argument seems to be the republicans only hope of keeping a hold on Congress. The most interesting thing coming out of this election, i think, will be how long a party practicing relatively unpopular domestic policies year after year can ride the same foreign policy argument that they started five years ago today.

    "Submission" An alternate perspective to Muslim Religion

    Back in August I saw a program on CBS 60 Minutes called "Submission". The program was about a descendant of the famous artist Vincent Van Gogh, Theo Van Gogh who was a fiery film maker who touched on every religion and was not reserved in his opinion on anything. Theo Van Gogh was slain in broad daylight by a Islamic radical acting in the name of Allah. HIs film, "Submission", depicted images of a naked woman with passages from the Koran written on her skin and more images of a woman beaten severely by her husband. This film was aired on Dutch television and quickly created a rift between Islamic citizens within a generally very neutral society, Holland. The author, Hirsi Ali, has been subject to multiple death threats and is now under heavy security as an advisor to the U.S. government. She is firm in her belief that the Islamic religion is very sexist and holds restrictions on women as second-hand citizens. Her ideals hold strong for her but she has been subject to much scrutiny and many death threats; even her own parents do not agree with her and will not talk to her because they feel she is "misguided". Both Hirsi Ali and Theo Van Gogh are passionate in their work and both wanted badly to make this film even though they knew that their would be ramifications for their actions. The death of Theo Van Gogh has caused much turmoil in Holland in which the people are very understanding and caring for one another.

    I feel that Theo Van Gogh did not die in vein, he stood up for what he believed in and stated his opinion whether or not it was asked for. His depiction in "Submission" is not entirely his own creation and it is not the first hotbed topic that he has chosed a side on and offended many people. His execution is very untimely as the Islamic religion and way of life is underneath the proverbial microscope as the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq rages on. This is a very tragic event but I feel that with the way society is on such high alert for any and all suspicious activity only adds fuel to fire that is a rift between the Islamic community and many thousands of Holland's citizens. "Submission" is a strong depicting image of one person's thought on Islam but it is just a thought. It seems very extreme to me that a person would feel compelled to openly slaughter another because of their opinion but it is the world we live in and it is sad. To know that people will ultimately be deterred from making or creating artistic pieces in fear of their lives, you know that it is a scary world that we live in but hopefully artistic freedom will never be limited because of the extreme instances of the past.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/03/11/60minutes/main679609.shtml

    September 10, 2006

    Mini-series causes political problems

    A 9/11 mini-series, yet to be broadcast is deeply troubling the political world. The mini-series, entitled “The Path to 9/11? portrays the Clinton administration’s pursuit of Bin Laden. It is currently undergoing editing by ABC because of multiple scenes that are overly fictionalized, and make the Clinton administration seem careless in their pursuit of Bin Laden. One interesting aspect of the mini-series is the consultant on the mini-series, Thomas Kean, also co-chairman of the 9/11 commission, and not surprisingly, a republican. He has been accused of being driven by bribes from ABC or his own politics to portray the Clinton administration in a negative way. Two aides to Clinton, even wrote a letter stating that Mr. Kean’s actions were, “destroying the bi-partisan aura of the 9/11 commission.? The Democratic Party is so afraid of the new mini-series that it gathered over 100,000 signatures in 24 hours against its broadcast.

    This mini-series wouldn’t have caused such problems if American’s didn’t take TV as seriously as they do. According to Mr. Kean, the mini-series is still a mini-series, not a documentary. However, as made obvious by the reaction to the mini-series, it may be all the same to the American public. The debate over this mini-series shows clearly how great an influence television can have on American society. Americans continue to sit glued to the TV for more and more hours each day, absorbing all the stuff that is spewed out at them, no matter what it is. American’s dependence on televised media has possibly made the American public too easy to influence. It seems that fads are constantly shifting and changing, largely due to what’s being broadcast on the TV. Could political trends also be dictated by what is shown on TV? Or is this all just being blown out of proportion?

    September 7, 2006

    Lecture notes & "Display Name" warning

    Just a few quick notes:

    • I really appreciated how well today's class went: the willingness of people to talk and participate, the range of thoughts and ideas shared, etc. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the semester.
    • I've posted the lecture notes from today's class in the Student's Only section of the site. For those of you who just added the class today, I realized I forgot to give out the username and password for this section of the site today. Send me an email and I can give it to you.
    • When you try to change your "Display Name" for the blog (as described in the How to Blog posting), you'll get an error message after you click "Save." Ignore it. It has in fact saved your Display Name change. To verify this, you can log out and log back in, return to the Author Profile and make sure the new name is in place.

    September 5, 2006

    October

    • Monday, 2nd, 9th, and 16th. "Eyes on the Prize." - This documentary feature will be aired on PBS at 8 PM on three consecutive Mondays. The documentary itself traces the American Civil Rights Movement back to the late 1950's through the eyes of those who experienced it. More information can be found at http://www.pbs.org/previews/amex_eyesonprize/
    • Tuesday, 3rd. Colin Powell - You can pick up tickets at the Humphrey front desk (room 130) today but you should do it sooner, rather than later. 2 tickets/person. They go fast once opened to the public...
    • Wednesday, 11th. "Coco-Cola Student Forum." - Representatives from Coca-Cola headquarters will be in town to discuss with students the issues regarding their allegded human rights violations. The forum, which is free and open to students, will be held from 7-9 pm in the movie theatre of Coffman Memorial Union.

    • Thursday, 12th. "Dancing with the Devil: Taking on West Africa's Warlords, Mafia, and Thugs." - Judge David Crane, chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, will speak on "Dancing with the Devil: Taking on West Africa's Warlords, Mafia, and Thugs" Thursday, October 12, at 7:30 p.m. in Cowles Auditorium. Crane's talk, which is cosponsored by the Minnesota International Center, the Minnesota Human Rights Center, University of St. Thomas Law School, and Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, is free and open to the public.

    • Sunday, 15th. "Meet the Press." - NBC will be be hosting a debate between U.S. Senate candidates Amy Klobuchar (D) and Mark Kennedy (R). These two candidates are running for the vacated senate seat that Minnesota Senator Mark Dayton (D) left open by retiring. The show will air at 9 AM on NBC.
    • Wednesday, 18th. "War on the Middle Class." -Journalist Lou Dobbs of CNN will be hosting this special at 7 pm on CNN. Part of their greater series on the upcoming elections, this specific special will concentrate more on the issue of how the American middle class has fared during recent years.
    • Monday, 30th. "Voting with a Mouse: How Bloggers Have Altered the Political Landscape." - David Carr, a reporter for the New York Times, will be discussing how the recent blog movement has changed the way political elections occur. It will be held in Cowles Auditorium in the Humphrey Center from noon-1:30pm and is free to the public.

    November

    December

    • Event list coming soon.