Stop-loss clarification

31 03 2008

To clarify, the reasons behind my stop-loss comment are that we enjoy freedoms that others don’t, and simply because we do enjoy those freedoms, we feel it is our duty to force them on other countries. Some of the anti-American sentiments in other counrties derive from this. However, it is my belief that we are fighting in Iraq because Bush II is fighting his Daddy’s battle. I am 100% in support of the soldiers who are overseas, but I think it is time to bring them home. No one can describe what a win is in this war that we are fighting, therefore lets stop losing soldiers.



30 03 2008

I saw the movie Stop-Loss this weekend. I haven’t heard great reviews about the movie so far, but I’ll have to say the movie was horrifying, but an excellent example of free speech. It’s about the stop-loss in the US military, which is an involuntary extension of a service member’s enlistment contract in order to retain them beyond the normal end of service term. It was created by the US Congress after the Vietnam War as a part of title 10 of the US Code. It is included in (fine print) in an enlistment contract signed by service members, stating that “in the event of war, my enlistment in the Armed Forces continues until six (6) months after the war ends, unless the enlistment is ended sooner by the President of the United States.” I agree with Senator Kerry when he says this is a “backdoor draft.” First of all, this movie just served to remind me that how much we need to get out of Iraq. As we were exiting the theatre, I heard a conversation between a few people discussing whether the movie was “anti-American” or not. My personal opinion is that it is the exact opposite of anti-American. The movie, which was produced by MTV Films, is supposed to be informative about stop-loss, but it has underlying tones of resistance. Ok, more than underlying tones. The movie follows the journey of one staff Sergeant who was stop-lossed and his struggle to avoid going back into combat. There are alot of people in the country who are against the war in Iraq (myself included) and are ready to bring our soldiers home. This movie is an expression against the war, specifically against the stop-loss that is being imposed on soldiers who’ve already done their tour. And as for the anti-American comments, the movie is an example of free speech. One of the reasons we’ve been dragged into this battle is because in this country we can get away with expressing differing opinions without punishment opinions that differ than that of our government without fear of retribution. An organization that I strongly support has done alot of work in opposing the stop-loss, and I would suggest to anyone who is curious to visit their site and learn more about the work that they are doing. Sign up to receive their emails, because Iraq Vets Against the War really is a great organization.

This is how we do it!

27 03 2008

Oh, I couldn’t resist with my title today. Today, there was an article in the NYT called Finding Political News Online, the Young Pass It On. I love it! Granted, I am studying political management, and I work online, so maybe I am a little bias. But ok, here goes. This article talks about how young voters get the news. Online. Not only do we get our news online, but we pass it along online. I (sample of one, yes, I know) watch local news in the morning before I go to work, mostly for weather and traffic updates, but I pick up a few pieces of national news. Then, during the day, I read the NYTimes, the Washington Post, and I peruse Perez Hilton (which is a guilty pleasure). If If I have time during lunch or something, I will check out the Ft. Worth Star Telegram to see what is going on where my family lives, and once a week I try to read The Stranger. Most of my blog postings come from something in one of these publications. Anyway, the point is, these are the places I get my news. That and from friends. I probably get at least 10 urls from friends via instant messenger or email a day. That doesn’t even count blog postings that I read along the way. According to the article, there was a study done by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press with a “broad look at how media was consumed for this campaign cycle.” Not surprisingly, the results were that more than 50% of the respondents over the age of 50 reported watching local news regularly for campaign news. 39% of 30 to 49 year olds report watching local news for campaign news, but less than 25% of people under the age of 30 report that they do. 66% of web users under the age of 30 report that they use social networking sites, and less than 20% of older users do. 40% of young people have watched a candidate speech, interview, commercial, or debate online. Presidential candidates Barack Obama, Hillary R. Clinton, and John McCain all have profiles on Facebook where they have numerous friends, friends who translate into young supporters. It isn’t even a new concept if you think about it. It goes back to the old school idea of “word-of-mouth” marketing, or buzz marketing. When we see something interesting online, we share it. In the online world, we call that “going viral.” I am glad that someone is figuring out that online is the place to go to reach young voters. I think we are going to see a big(ger) turnout of young voters in November, and it is because the use of the net for campaigning has expanded immensely in the past few years. I can go to Youtube right now and find a video of Chelsea Clinton’s appearance at Butler University if I wanted to. And share it with a few friends. I’m glad to see young people getting excited about it. Let’s just hope that translates into votes.

Quidditch in a Muggle World

25 03 2008

I am a pretty big Harry Potter fan. I love going to see the movies when they come out, and I have all of the books. I stayed up all night the evening that Deathly Hallows was released because I wanted to know how it ended. JK Rowling’s world of Hogwarts and the wizarding community is imaginative, creative, and so detailed that her writing gives you the opportunity to get lost in Harry Potter’s world. Anyway, couldn’t help but get excited when I stumbled across this article from The Daily Princetonian, Princeton University’s daily paper. Apparently, a group of Middlebury students decided back in the Fall of 2005 that they wanted to bring the famous wizarding sport Quidditch to the “muggle” (or non-magic, for those of you that haven’t read any of the Harry Potter books) world. So, they formed their own Quidditch team. If you haven’t read Harry Potter, I’ll briefly explain Quidditch. It is a sport played on broomsticks while flying through the air. There are 7 players on each team: a keeper, 2 beaters, 3 chasers, and a seeker. There are four balls in Quidditch: The Quaffle, which is about the size of a volleyball that the chasers attempt to throw through one of three hoops stationed at either end of the “pitch.” The hoops are guarded by the keeper. There are two bludgers in Quidditch. Bludgers are two bowling ball sized demon balls that zoom around the pitch with a mind of their own. The beaters keep track of these two with the help of bats (that look like cricket bats). The final ball in Quidditch is called the golden snitch. It is a small ball about the size of a plum with wings that flies around very fast. It is the seeker’s job (Harry Potter’s position) to find and catch the snitch, which ends the game. So, you can see that several of these things might cause some problems for the students seeking to play Quidditch. Well, Middlebury attempted to tweak the game so they could play while keeping as close to the original as possible. For example, the players are required to play with a broomstick between their legs at all times. That sounds…challenging. The snitch it not a ball at all, but instead a person dressed in yellow who runs crazily around the basketball court-sized patch of grass. He (or she) has a black sock dangling from his yellow costume, and is effectively “caught” when the sock has been captured. Somewhat like flag football.
Anyway, as I said, this article was published today in Princeton’s Daily paper because Middlebury has taken Quidditch on the road. In an attempt to spread their version of the wizard sport to other universities, Middlebury has been traveling to other schools and scheduling games. They’ve played Bard, Penn, and now Princeton, and have scheduled games against Columbia and Vassar. Apparently, ESPN, CBS News, and MTVU all made an appearance at the Middlebury vs. Princeton Quidditch match. Can we expect to see more schools forming their own Quidditch teams? I for one think this is hilarious. If my school had a Quidditch team…well, I probably wouldn’t play, but I would definitely go watch. Here is a clip I found on YouTube from a Middlebury Quidditch Tournament:

Life is good. When I stumble upon stories like this, they leave me smiling the rest of the day.
Oh, did everyone hear that they have decided to make the final installment of the Harry Potter movies/books, Deathly Hallows into two movies? Hooray, the fun will last just a little longer!

Dr. Death in Congress

25 03 2008

As if we don’t have enough characters in the United States Congress already…Dr. Jack Kevorkian has announced that he is running for a congressional seat in Michigan as an independent. We’ve all heard of Dr. Kevorkian, otherwise known as Dr. Death. He was convicted in 1998 for assisting in the suicide of a patient in the final stages of ALS. This was not the first time Kevorkian had been on trial for assisting suicide. His medical license was revoked in 1991 by the state of Michigan. According to Kevorkian’s lawyer, he assisted in the deaths of over 100 terminally ill patients between 1990 and 1998. Then in 1998 he was convicted of second-degree homicide of patient Thomas Youk. Youk was in the final stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often times called Lou Gehrig’s disease. Kevorkian was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison for second degree homicide, charged so because Youk was physically inable to kill himself. Terminally ill from a strain of hepatitis C which he contracted while researching in Vietnam, Kevorkian was not expected to live much after May of 2006. But he has and is, and was paroled in June of 2007 for good behavior. He wasn’t running around helping people die in prison, I suppose. On March 12th, he announced that he will seek a seat in Congress, running against long-term Michigan congressman Joe Knollenberg (R). One of his main goals is to decriminalize doctor-assisted suicide. Does it sound like Congress is becoming more and more like the setting for a cartoon?

Tricks of the Trade

24 03 2008

An article published in the NYT yesterday revealed that one of the earliest shopping techniques is making a comeback. Not that haggling ever really left, but it is definitely not thought of as common practice in any of the places that I shop. This article says that the notion of bargaining down the price is becoming increasingly popular in major retail outlets. According to the article, retail historian from the Harvard Business School Nancy Koehn says that haggling in department stores used to be commonplace, before stores adopted fixed pricing in the 1850s. But with technology-enabled price comparison and online negotiating, the retail salesforce is quietly being allowed more freedoms to negotiate prices with customers. The downward spiraling economy has also put more power in the consumers’ hands when it comes to price negotiating. There are examples of in the article of people who’ve successfully “haggled” down the prices of large and small ticket items, from big screen televisions at well-known retailers such as Best Buy, to things such as rugs and clothing. Koehn blames the “ebay phenomenon.” She says that ten years ago people didn’t like to haggle, and they thought they weren’t any good at it. But using ebay has boosted confidence. I am not sure I agree with her. Bidding for something on ebay is quite different than negotiating face to face with someone. First of all, price negotiations go on all the time. Didn’t today JP Morgan increase they offer to buy Bear Stearns to $10 a share in order to appease shareholders? That’s price negotiating. Paying below sticker when you buy a car. Making an offer on a house. These are all instances in which people are haggling. I was in New York a few months ago, and my roommate and I made a few purchases from street vendors. We never paid what they asked initially. It’s all part of haggling. My confidence in haggling is pretty limited when I am negotiating with someone face to face about a purchase. Whereas on ebay, I have no problem making a bid on something. That being said…is haggling really making a comeback? How far is it going to to? And how is this going to affect the lines at registers? I know I intentionally go grocery shopping late at night because there are few people there. I don’t like waiting in line to buy my groceries. If we have to wait for people to haggle on the price of everything in their basket….would we get home before the milk went bad?
I need to stop and buy some toothpaste on my way home. I wonder if I can get it for $2.50, instead of $3.14. I guess it’s worth a try…wonder how many people I will irritate in the process by trying to haggle with the cashier.
Happy shopping!

The TiVo Giant…

24 03 2008

I have a DVR in my house. Not TiVo, but a DVR from Comcast. As a result, I never watch live television anymore. Well, I rarely do. Although, with my busy life right now, I barely watch anything. I am so spoiled to being able to “zoom” through commercials, that I get irritated when I have to watch them. I usually catch the beginning of the first commercial, and the tail end of the last commercial. I have been wondering for a while now how the advent of TiVo and DVR are going to affect companies that advertise with commercials on television. Actually, I have peppered one of my professors with so many questions about it, that when he found an article regarding the subject, he forwarded it to me. The article, published today in Advertising Age, answers, or tries to, some of the questions I’ve had regarding the effect of TiVo. The study which was conducted over three years, found that new product purchasing in DVR households was about 5% lower than in non-DVR households. This is not a significant enough number to be distasterous for any major brands. Brands that spend 20% of more of there media budget outside television saw no difference. So, are we going to see any changes to the way brands are marketed in the media? I’m willing to bet yes. A 5% decrease in sales in households that have DVRs is not threatening right now. But eventually, DVRs are going to penetrate more and more households. That 5% starts to look “bigger and badder” as DVRs become more popular. I predict more product placement. It doesn’t have the same effect as a commercial, but given the choice of the product being seen, or not…what do advertisers choose? I also think that we are going to see a restructing of how media buys are conducted. I think it will get as detailed as which place your commercial will hold in the 5 minute slot in the second commercial break of CSI Miami. The first commercial and the last commercial should be more expensive, because (as I said) those are the commercials that are more likely to be seen in a DVR situation. How about online advertising? Are we going to see more online advertisements? I think so. People don’t think about online advertising as much right now, but let me state one glaring fact. People are more engaged when working on the computer than they are when they are staring at a television screen. Think of it as leaning back in a recliner, versus sitting at a desk. Even if I am just playing a lame computer game I am more engaged when I am on the computer than when I have the television on. I guess we will just have to wait and see in the months (years) to come.
You can read the rest of the article by Jack Neff here.