Last night, the Miss USA pageant was held -- unbeknownst to me, since all I know about pageants is what I've seen in Little Miss Sunshine. Near the end of the pageant, celebrity judge Perez Hilton was tasked with asking one question of then-frontrunner Miss California Carrie Prejean. He decided to lob a question about one of the most politically controversial issues of our time; Prejean's response may have cost her the title:
The "tax day tea parties" this week marked arguably the most visible sign of a conservative uprising since before Bush 43's presidency, with over 300,000 estimated attendees across nearly 350 cities nationwide.
But the larger impact embodied by these protests is a bit more subtle: It shows that conservatives have discovered new media in a very powerful way.
Political campaigns of all ideological viewpoints have long gathered e-mail lists of supporters and built professionally-designed websites to serve as their online presence. But only recently has the Internet evolved to serve as a global town hall, with activists uploading pictures and videos from events held around the world, and networking tool, with registered organizers pooling resources and sharing plans.
In the last election season, both Barack Obama and John McCain created social networking sites and event registration tools in addition to Facebook pages and a YouTube channel. The Obama campaign was more successful with these tools for a variety of reasons (younger base of supporters, ridiculous talent on staff), but the online media landscape is changing so rapidly that conservatives have a real chance at surpassing the most impressive techniques of the '08 cycle.
Beyond the ideological debate behind Wednesday's protests, the fact remains that hundreds of events, sometimes thousands of miles apart, were linked together by the power of social media, as organizers coordinated events online and exchanged pictures (video, stories, etc.) afterward.
The conservative filmmaker/activist managed to get himself arrested Wednesday after trying to rile up opposition to a journalism award given to Katie Couric for her Sarah Palin interview. Now he's pushing a 20-minute video of his antics and subsequent arrest, claiming anti-conservative bias.
As a senior at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, I know almost everyone featured in the video, including the university officials, event organizers and campus police who Ziegler claims "literally abused" him. Not too surprisingly, Ziegler is wildly exaggerating what really happened:
In an e-mail to fellow student workers in a university office, my colleague penned a letter which was at once both sad and terrifically ironic.
"I'm having a much harder time finding a full-time job after graduation than I anticipated," my friend, a senior majoring in print journalism, wrote.
"Unfortunately, I am going to have to cut back on my hours ... in order to dedicate more time to the job search," she said, asking if anyone could pick up her Friday shift for the rest of the semester.
The mood among campus seniors hinges on whether one has plans for after graduation. With final exams approaching and graduation ceremonies only a few weeks away, a sense of anxiety is increasingly apparent -- and it's not just the print journalism majors who are struggling.
Cancer may be one of the most powerful forces we have ever seen.
It has the power to take away loved ones, and bring them closer together. Cancer boggles the mind with its indiscriminate cruelty, but also distills our emotions to the simplest common denominator of unconditional love. Cancer wreaks devastation on its victims in many ways, but also unites a community of fighters, survivors and supporters on a level that others can never fully understand.
This month, I've been a little distracted thinking about the many implications of cancer. My aunt, Cheryl Mann, passed away on March 7, 2009, after battling breast cancer for nearly five years. Since being profiled in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a 2005 series, Cheryl, 47, had become a leader in the Atlanta area with the American Cancer Society, helping to raise nearly a million dollars for medical research and awareness. She leaves behind a husband, three young children, and her mother, father, brother and sister.
The irony of the statement was not lost, even on the ears of the media elite, in light of candidate Obama's harsh rhetoric towards then-rival John McCain for saying "the fundamentals of the economy are strong."
"It's not that I think John McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of most Americans," Obama said then. "I just think he doesn't know ... Why else would he say, today, of all days -- just a few hours ago -- that the fundamentals of the economy are still strong?
"Senator – what economy are you talking about?" President Obama last week: "If we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy, all the outstanding companies, workers, all the innovation and dynamism in this economy, then we're going to get through this," Obama said, contradicting his own budget director's recent assertion that "fundamentally, the economy is weak."
Popular opinion suggests that the collegiate Class of 2009 picked the wrong year to enter the job market. My classmates and I joke that we are the luckiest graduates in recent history, happening to chance upon the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
But optimism has its benefits, and there are a few rays of hope which have been mostly overlooked in mainstream coverage of the economic crisis. (Full disclosure: As a graduating senior, it's hard for me to be objective on this.)
1. We have a unique skill set. Our understanding of emerging technologies and new media networks is a terrific advantage compounded by a lack of reliance on traditional industry formulas. From public relations to online publishing, many companies are looking for innovative new ways to attract attention, retain customers and improve revenue models.
It may not have been as evident in this weekend's CPAC conference with the typical bumper stickers and bombastic speakers, but a growing number of Republicans are moving to close the technology gap with 2010 campaigns in mind.
Consider the innovative USB bracelets handed out by Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's campaign at the California Republican Party Convention. The 512MB flash drives contain a two-minute campaign video with space left for other files, so it can be used for daily tasks while bearing Meg Whitman's campaign message around the user's wrist.
For the former eBay CEO, the bracelets are a strong reinforcement of her theme, "A New California." But their price tag -- up to $8-$12 apiece, a quick Web search suggests -- threatens to undercut Whitman's desired image as a fiscal conservative.
UPDATE 6:31pm: Whitman campaign spokesman Mitch Zak says in an e-mail that the campaign distributed close to 1,000 USB bracelets at the state party convention, at a cost of around $7 apiece. The idea came from senior advisor Jeff Randle, according to Zak, and "the response was phenomenal."
Zak adds: "We liked them because they allowed people to show their support for the Campaign, we were able to share a video produced to engage people in the effort and it's something that people will keep and use most likely for the duration of the Campaign. It's a great value and demonstrates the power of technology and creativity Meg wants to harness to create a New California."
SACRAMENTO, CA -- Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina indicated today that she might seek the Republican nomination in 2010 to challenge incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
In a meeting with California College Republicans, Fiorina acknowledged that she is "considering a run for Barbara Boxer's seat" in the U.S. Senate. The room of young Republicans erupted with applause at the mention of Boxer's name. The Senate Democrat is a staunch liberal and the subject of much ire in conservative circles.
Animated disagreement between coworkers is a venerable tradition often denied to Bright Hall's far-flung, break room-less staff. Advise & Dissent is an attempt to fix that. Click here for past debates.
My colleague Megan Baker has a post up today proposing that the U.S. would be well-served by a lower age limit on alcohol consumption, in advance of a "60 Minutes" special airing Sunday which is sure to renew the national debate.
Critics of the current age limit are undoubtedly well-intentioned, but their focus is ill-advised. Lowering the age limit from 21 years of age to 18 would send precisely the wrong signal to young people across the country: that alcohol isn't as dangerous and serious a substance as has been suggested for the last twenty-five years, when the current limit was put into effect.
Rather than focusing energy on slightly modifying a somewhat arbitrary number, we should instead unite around effective education and prevention programs led by student ambassadors armed with the real facts. Too many alcohol education programs sound like they've been crafted by out-of-touch administrators instead of actual peers.
Last year, McCain 2008 economic adviser Phil Gramm was forced to resign after commenting that America had become "a nation of whiners." A recent New York Times story indicates that a similar mentality has spread to the younger generation in colleges across America, but students may not be entirely to blame.
Based on a study conducted by the University of California, Irvine, The Times reports that students are complaining more often about their grades and expecting to earn a B-average just for showing up. The study's lead researcher and other college professors attribute the shift to "achievement anxiety" and mounting parental pressure, adding that the mentality is reinforced by experiences in K-12 education in which many students have never received a grade lower than an A:
James Hogge, associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: "Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that 'if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.'"
I see two things happening here. First, the article is right to point out that the pressure placed on students to achieve straight A's has spread across more and more families, pervaded our academic system and subsequently dictated career and financial success with increasing subjectivity.
Put it down as one of the great message boards of our time. Great in the worst possible way.
Powered by shameless self-pity, adored for its pure, unadulterated entertainment value, and shared for its sheer addictiveness, FMyLife.com is destined to become a permanent resource to put your most disappointing days in their proper perspective -- even if it is a bit NSFW (not safe for work).
One user submits: Today, I received my passport in the mail. They got my birthdate wrong. Then I picked up my birth certificate that I had sent in with the application. Turns out my parents have been celebrating my birthday on the wrong day for 16 years. FML.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, whose conclusions typically aren't very controversial, said the proposed Democratic "stimulus" bill's short-term advantages would be eclipsed by the long-term ramifications of creating additional debt. In other words: this big, supposedly important thing might hurt more than it helps. That's scary.
But the hyperbolic rhetoric being used right now by the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats certainly doesn't reflect the all-too-apparent need for a thorough debate, as they try to shove through this massive and immediate stimulus package which has been struggling to secure final passage in Congress. Per the Washington Times:
Last week [Obama] said, "A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe." ... House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said last month that our economy "is dark, darker, darkest." Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin said, "This economy is in mortal danger of absolute collapse." And Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said of the economic-stimulus bill, "If we don't pass this thing, it's Armageddon."
A line of 50 students, dressed in business attire and clutching thin binders with carefully-prepared résumés, wove beyond the line of tiny booths at USC's annual career fair Thursday and stretched onto an adjacent cement walkway.