Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How I Feel About Sarah Palin

Here are some excerpts from a recent article from Sam Harris, founder of The Reason Project and author of The New York Times best seller “Letter to a Christian Nation.” I wish I could express myself this well!

"The point to be lamented is not that Sarah Palin comes from outside Washington, or that she has glimpsed so little of the earth's surface (she didn't have a passport until last year), or that she's never met a foreign head of state. The point is that she comes to us, seeking the second most important job in the world, without any intellectual training relevant to the challenges and responsibilities that await her. There is nothing to suggest that she even sees a role for careful analysis or a deep understanding of world events when it comes to deciding the fate of a nation. In her interview with Gibson, Palin managed to turn a joke about seeing Russia from her window into a straight-faced claim that Alaska's geographical proximity to Russia gave her some essential foreign-policy experience. Palin may be a perfectly wonderful person, a loving mother and a great American success story—but she is a beauty queen/sports reporter who stumbled into small-town politics, and who is now on the verge of stumbling into, or upon, world history."

"The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin's lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. "They think they're better than you!" is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. "Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!" Yes, all too ordinary. [snip] Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—-in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated."

"I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn't: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with millions of Americans-—but we shouldn't be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either. There is no question that if President McCain chokes on a spare rib and Palin becomes the first woman president, she and her supporters will believe that God, in all his majesty and wisdom, has brought it to pass. Why would God give Sarah Palin a job she isn't ready for? He wouldn't. Everything happens for a reason. Palin seems perfectly willing to stake the welfare of our country—-even the welfare of our species—-as collateral in her own personal journey of faith. Of course, McCain has made the same unconscionable wager on his personal journey to the White House. [snip] Ask yourself: Is it a good idea to place the most powerful military on earth at her disposal? Do we actually want our leaders thinking about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say to the Iranians, or to the North Koreans, or to the Pakistanis, or to the Russians or to the Chinese: "All options remain on the table"? We have endured eight years of an administration that seemed touched by religious ideology. Bush's claim to Bob Woodward that he consulted a "higher Father" before going to war in Iraq got many of us sitting upright, before our attention wandered again to less ethereal signs of his incompetence. For all my concern about Bush's religious beliefs, and about his merely average grasp of terrestrial reality, I have never once thought that he was an over-the-brink, Rapture-ready extremist. Palin seems as though she might be the real McCoy."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Physiological Basis for your Political Opinions?

This is fascinating stuff. In a new article published in Science this month, researchers from Rice University concluded that political attitudes are predicted by physiological traits. Political Science professor John Alford and his colleagues studied 46 adult individuals with strong political beliefs from Lincoln, Nebraska. Initially, subjects were asked to fill out questionnaires tracking their beliefs, personality traits, and demographic information. Later, they were brought into the lab where they were hooked up to physiological measuring equipment and given a series of tests. In the first test, they were shown photos of threatening images (spiders, bloody faces, and maggots) interspersed with a sequence of other images. They were then shown non-threatening images (bunny, child, bowl of fruit). Their physiological reactions to these stimuli were recorded. The second test involved measuring involuntary responses to startling noises.

The researchers found that strong negative reactions to the threatening images and startling noises correlated with political beliefs characterized by a preference for “socially protective policies” including defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, opposition to pacifism, obedience, warrentless searches, and the Iraq War. On the other hand, people who experienced only mild reactions to the threatening visual and auditory stimuli were much more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control. They concluded, “Political attitudes vary with physiological traits linked to divergent manners of experiencing and processing environmental threats." This may help to explain "both the lack of malleability in the beliefs of individuals with strong political convictions and the associated ubiquity of political conflict.”

Rice University (2008, September 22). Political Attitudes Are Predicted By Physiological Traits, Research Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved 09/22/08.

Friday, September 19, 2008


That's right, folks, I am the proud new owner of my very own whitewater kayak!!

So here's the basic chain of events leading up to this glorious day:

September 2007: Captain Awesome takes a kayaking class at EWU and starts bugging everyone he knows to give it a try.
September 2007-March 2008: Captain Awesome and friends relentlessly hound me to try this new sport
March 2008: I finally take the plunge and start learning the basics at Open Pool nights.
April 2008: My first time out on the river. Bad idea, nearly died : ).
May 2008: I take the Intro to Whitewater Kayaking class through Epic Adventures at Eastern.
July-August 2008: I'm back on the river, running class II and III rapids on the Spokane and Clark Fork. I get my roll!
September 2008: Combat rolls. NEW BOAT!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not Too Bad

[From XKCD]


I’ve been working hard on my kayaking skills lately. The Spokane River finally came back up to runnable levels (above 1500 CFS) and the weather is staying beautiful even though we are into September now, so we’ve been going out on the river nearly every night. Last night we may have over-extended ourselves, however. We didn’t get started until about 6pm and we had a pretty long run to do. We ended up doing the last mile or so completely in the dark. It was a beautiful night and we had a full moon, but it was still a bit disconcerting trying to navigate rapids without really being able to see them. We were on an easy stretch of the river, so none of the rapids were really dangerous (so don’t worry Mom!). Anyway, it was a wonderful time.

Last week I ran the upper Spokane several times. That’s probably the most popular section here in town. It has some solid Class II rapids, popular playspots and is great for beginners. I still find it very scary, but am starting to get the hang of it. On Friday, I got two combat rolls (that’s where you roll yourself back upright in a rapid as opposed to freaking out and swimming which is what I usually do) which is pretty cool. Thanks to the ever-patient Captain Awesome for teaching me this cool, cool sport!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Series of Events....

....With apologies to my dear husband who is actually a total badass in the woods and doesn't usually set things on fire.