Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Liberal Arts Grad = Starbucks Barista?

Four years of college for this? Photo: Phoenix New Times.

There’s the way the world should be. And there’s the way it actually is. It’s only sometimes that they are the same.

The Mount Holyoke News reports that liberal arts graduates are less likely to be recruited for jobs. According to a Wall Street Journal article about which colleges and universities recruiters favor:

The highest ranking schools on the list were Pennsylvania State University, Texas A&M University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—big public state universities with undergraduate enrollments of over 30,000 students.

Along with most other top-tier schools, MHC didn’t make the list. And the only Ivy that did make the list was Cornell.

The MH News article goes on at great length about liberal arts graduates’ learning abilities, versatility, and analytical thinking. And those qualities aren’t entirely worthless in the job market, according to ’07 graduate Maya Pillai:

Employers love liberal arts students for the flexibility in approach and easy adaptability to all kinds of jobs; and with the reputation MHC students have, employability rarely depends on just liberal arts vs. the regular schools,” she said.

Steve Koppi, director of the Career Development Center, urged students “not to believe the media hype:”

Koppi cited the NACE’s Job Outlook 2009 survey. According to the survey, the top five personal qualities employers look for are: communication skills (verbal and written) strong work ethic, teamwork skills (works well with others), initiative, and analytical skills. “All skills and abilities developed through a liberal education, like we offer at MHC,” Koppi said.

All true. We’ve got to believe in ourselves and that we’ve got a chance. We’ve got to value the knowledge, skills, and abilities that we’ve developed. That’s no guarantee of success, but sitting in a corner and crying is a guarantee of failure.

But I’d be less than honest if I pretended that the job market wasn’t scary. As intimidated as I am about starting med school, that’s not as intimidating as looking for a job after graduation.

Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.


Praying to be Straight? Why?

Dr. Drew discusses a religious program to "cure" gays with the program director and a gay couple.

I was walking past a TV this afternoon when a talk show topic caught my attention: “Gay to Straight with Prayer?”

The show was “Dr. Drew” on the HLN news channel. I’ve never watched the show beyond the few seconds I saw today, but I know who Dr. Drew is. He’s a psychiatrist who graduated from medical school at the University of Southern California. Before that, he graduated from Amherst College, so he’s local to Shadley and he’s smart enough to get into Amherst. In other words, he’s no random homophobic nut.

From what I could tell, his guests included a fundamentalist Christian minister who wants to “cure” gays, a gay man who he supposedly cured, and a gay minister. I didn’t watch long enough to follow the discussion, but the viewpoints are easy to predict.

The fundamentalist minister probably cited the Bible’s Book of Leviticus to say that gays will burn in Hell. The ex-gay(?) man probably told about how he’s now married to a wonderful woman. And the gay minister pointed out that Leviticus prohibited many other things besides homosexuality, such as shaving and wearing clothes made from two kinds of cloth.

I Wasn’t Quite Right

I just watched some of the show on the Web so that I could grab the picture for this blog. My earlier guess about the fundamentalist minister wasn’t quite fair. He seemed much nicer than I expected, though he’s obviously still wrong about gays needing to be “cured.” The two men on the right side of the picture are a gay couple who met at the minister’s cure-the-gays program. They’re both still gay and are very happy.

People Should Be Happy

Now, I’m probably going to get in trouble with friends for saying this, but I think people can sometimes change their sexual orientation. Not always, but sometimes. Gays can become straight. Straights can also become gay, though I’ve never heard anyone bring up that option.

What makes it so radioactive to discuss changing sexual orientation is that it gets mixed up with a lot of other issues that really have nothing to do with it. It amounts to guilt by association.

Most people who talk about gays changing their sexual orientation are either nutty homophobes or self-hating gays. They believe that gay relationships are wrong, disgusting, an abomination, and all that hateful bigotry. So people think that it’s the only context in which gays might ever want to be straight or vice-versa.

As a future physician, I have what I consider a common-sense attitude: People should be happy. Helping them be happy and healthy will be my goal.

Two Options

If a patient of mine was gay and unhappy about it, we would have two options.

The first option is better. We would try to correct any mistaken beliefs or emotional biases that cause the unhappiness. Since being gay is a perfectly healthy form of human sexual expression, it’s better not to try to change that unless absolutely necessary. I would very strongly advocate the first option.

The second option is more difficult and risks reinforcing negative beliefs. If we’ve tried the first option but the patient just can’t be happy and gay, we could try to change that. Sexual orientation (gay or straight) has multiple causes, both biological and psychological. Some people’s sexual orientation is pretty much set in stone, and the second option won’t work for them. Other people’s orientation is more flexible. If they really want to change, and are absolutely determined to do it, then they can. I’m not saying it’s right or that I’d recommend it, but it’s an option. It shouldn’t be dismissed just because some of the people who push it are hateful homophobes.

Happiness is More Important Than Stereotypes

I reiterate: People should be happy — preferably by accepting and loving themselves as they are.

But if for some reason they can’t do it, we shouldn’t let ideology or stereotypes stand in the way of helping them be the people they want to be and having the lives they want to have.

Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.

Sneaky Scientists Undermine Patriotic Ignorance

According to the Boston Herald, a majority of Massachusetts residents think that global warming is real:

More than half of Massachusetts residents believe global warming is real and at least partially caused by human activity …

Now that might be only because Massachusetts is dominated by them godless libruls, Democrats, and Kenyans who want to take away everyone’s guns and require gay marriage for first-graders. As Stephen Colbert said, reality has a well-known liberal bias.

But global warming isn’t the only subject on which progressives, scientists, and other subversives have worked their insidious deceptions. Other polls reveal that:

  • Only 40 percent of Americans deny the theory of evolution.
  • Only 44 percent of Americans still believe that God created the world in six days.
  • Only 43 percent of Americans believe that gay relationships are wrong.
  • A full 59 percent of Americans believe it’s okay for unmarried people to have sex. That’s fornication! OMG, we are all doomed.

There’s only one reassuring statistic:

  • About 60 percent of Americans are unsure why Justin Bieber exists. The other 40 percent have never heard of him. 🙂

Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.

Political Realism Bites

I’ve been a progressive Democrat since before I could vote. And I voted for President Obama in 2008 because I thought he would change things. Or at least that he would fight to change things.

Now, I don’t know what I am. Disappointed, I guess.

We wanted change. Almost all of us wanted it, not just Democrats or Obama supporters. Even McCain and Palin supporters wanted change. As misguided as they were, even they knew that America couldn’t go on the way it had under Bush and Cheney.

We wanted an end to costly and unjustifiable wars, to torture, to Guantanamo, to wiretapping, to excessive secrecy. We wanted an end to the incestuous relationship between government and big business. We wanted regulation of Wall Street to prevent another economic catastrophe. We wanted greater equality. We wanted government to listen to ordinary people, not just to lobbyists with paper bags full of cash that they delivered to politicians and regulators.

Surprise. We didn’t get any of that. Instead, we got a few token victories. Very few.

Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor are on the Supreme Court. “Don’t ask don’t tell” is on its way to the dumpster.

Elizabeth Warren is temporarily running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but the Obama administration won’t support her publicly because it might annoy Republicans and Wall Street.

We got a kinda sorta health care reform that moves an inch in the right direction but sells out to insurance companies, drug companies, and the medical industry. It has no public option or Medicare for all, which are ways to provide quality care and control costs. (As a future doctor, I feel no shame or hesitation in criticizing the medical industry. I’ll be working to improve it.)

On the other side, we got airport strip-searches that don’t catch terrorists but do humiliate passengers. We got more money shoveled into Wall Street with almost no strings attached. We got another war, this time in Libya, and no end in sight to the two big wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Guantanamo is still open for business. The U.S. government still tortures prisoners, including U.S. soldiers like Bradley Manning who have no link to terrorism. We got one Obama surrender after another to the craziest elements of the Republican Party — on taxes, on regulation, on policy.

In the middle of an economic crisis with real unemployment over 10 percent, Obama knows better than to think that it’s a good time to cut government spending or jobs programs. With inequality in America higher than in Egypt, where they just had a revolution over it, Obama knows better than to cut taxes on the super-rich and cut assistance to poor people. But the nutty Tea Party people and the Wall Streeters want it, so he agrees with them that it’s a wonderful idea. He just wants to do it a little smaller.

Where is the leadership? Where is the standing up for what’s right? Where is the change?

I’d hate to think that 2008 could be the first and last time I bother to vote in a presidential election.

If the only choice is between a “know nothing” party dominated by big business, and a “smart enough to know better” party dominated by big business, then why should I waste my time? I don’t want them to shut down the federal government or ravage the neediest to enrich the richest, but it’s not like I have any control or even influence over any of it.

The Obama administration has to give me a reason to support it other than “we’re not quite as bad as the Republicans.” Otherwise, I’ve got studying to do.

Copyright 2011 by Rinth de Shadley.

Needless Compromise Gives Obama a Headache

President Obama is getting a tough lesson in the evils of pre-emptive compromise.

Last week, his tax-cut compromise with Republicans was blasted from every direction. As usual, he had agreed to all of the Republicans’ key demands before negotiations even started.

His pre-emptive compromise agreed to extra tax cuts  for billionaires, including lower estate taxes. That broke one of his campaign promises and enraged most Democrats. In order to benefit people who already have billions of dollars, it would both increase the government’s budget deficit and worsen inequality in America. Deficits are now the highest they’ve ever been. Inequality is the highest it’s been since 1928.

Obama tried to sweeten the compromise by insisting on a few good things, such as extended unemployment benefits and tax cuts for people making under $200,000 a year ($250,000 for families). That enraged Senate Republicans, who think that the non-rich should just go ahead and die already.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell: "If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

Health Care Reform Compromise Backfires

Yesterday, another pre-emptive compromise backfired on the president.

To smooth passage of health care reform, President Obama agreed with Republicans to give up demands for a public health insurance program, single-payer, or “Medicare for everyone.” Any of those would have put pressure on insurance companies to treat their customers fairly. If people didn’t like how their private health insurance company treated them, then they could enroll in the government plan. So that was unacceptable.

But the only way to make a Republican-friendly health care reform work was to incorporate Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch’s 1993 proposal that required everyone to buy health insurance. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had signed that same requirement into law as governor of Massachusetts. Without it, healthy people would wait until they got sick to buy insurance, so the system would quickly go bankrupt.

So the health care reform bill contained the Republican idea of an “individual mandate” for all Americans to buy health insurance, while providing assistance and exceptions for the poor.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney: Still too creepy for words. Photo: AP.

Now, that pre-emptive compromise has come back to bite Obama. And us.

Republicans are screaming about how oppressive the individual mandate is, hoping that most people won’t know it was their idea in the first place. A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.

The court ruling wasn’t unexpected, since the judge is a Republican appointed by the Bush-Cheney administration. However, the entire health care reform is now in danger because the next stop is the U.S. Supreme Court. Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court is controlled by Republicans who have not been shy about ignoring precedents to make political rulings such as Citizens United, which allows corporations to buy elections. They will try very hard to destroy the parts of health care reform that benefit most Americans.

The Real Lesson

The real lesson is that when you know what’s right, you should do it. Compromise only on points that really should be negotiable.

And don’t, like President Obama, give up all your important principles before negotiations even start.

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

The Rights and Wrongs of WikiLeaks

Diplomacy sometimes requires secrecy and hypocrisy. Photo: The New York Times.

I started to write something about WikiLeaks when I got back to school last night after Thanksgiving recess, but I was too tired from the trip to finish it. Sorry. Here it is.

WikiLeaks publishes confidential documents it receives from whistleblowers in government and corporations. Naturally, governments and corporations want to keep the documents secret.

Sometimes, secrecy is a good thing. It means that people can give their honest opinions without being afraid that what they said will end up on cable news or in The New York Times.

Just as often, though, governments and corporations use secrecy to cover up crimes and keep the public from learning what it needs to know.

During last spring’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the BP oil company tightly controlled what information people could get about the spill. It kept most of the information secret, even hiding a lot of it from the Obama administration, Congress, and the EPA. That fact was discovered later.

The U.S. government tried to keep secret the fact that soldiers, contractors, and intelligence agents had tortured and even killed prisoners in Iraq. It also tried to keep secret the fact that soldiers and helicopters had shot unarmed civilians, including reporters.

WikiLeaks’ latest release of documents seems to mix important information (such as U.S. spying on U.N. diplomats) with other revelations that are trivial and embarrassing (such as  ambassadors’ snarky comments about foreign leaders). A lot of it is no surprise: For example, the government of Afghanistan is corrupt, which everyone already knew.

And some of the information is valid but would have been better kept secret, such as private communications between the U.S. and foreign governments.

Yes, it helps understand the Middle East to know that Saudi Arabia wanted America to attack Iran. It means that our pressure on Iran is not, as some people have alleged, all about our “slavish support for Israel.” And the fact that Saudi Arabia wanted us to attack Iran probably did not shock anyone who had thought about the situation.

Still, suspecting something is different from knowing it.

The publication of confidential negotiations will embarrass some people and humiliate other people. It will even endanger people such as the president of Yemen, who rightly or wrongly gave secret permission for the United States to bomb his country in fighting terrorism.

The fact that the information is now public will force governments to react to it in ways that they wouldn’t choose if they knew about it but it was still private. And WikiLeaks’ publication of some U.S. diplomats’ trivial but negative comments about world leaders might damage our relationships with their countries.

Some people have said that it’s the U.S. government’s just punishment for claiming that it can eavesdrop on everyone else’s telephone and Internet communications. That might be true, but it’s not the issue. The issue is whether the WikiLeaks document publication helps or hurts the cause of human rights and international peace.

And I’m afraid that the answer is yes. It helps and hurts.

Some of the information probably should have been revealed. But WikiLeaks would have been on better moral ground if it had released only documents that showed criminal activity, not just the hypocrisy that international politics sometimes requires.

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

A New Name for Airport Security

I didn’t think of it, but someone mentioned a new name for airport strip-searches and feel-ups:

“Gate rape.”

It might be funny if it weren’t true.