August 27, 2014

huffingtonpost:

Jon Stewart’s Priceless Response To Fox News On Ferguson

Jon Stewart is back from vacation, and he’s not wasting any time going after one of his favorite targets: Fox News.

Watch his the full brilliant 10  minute monologue on racism and Ferguson  here. 

(via humanrightswatch)

August 22, 2014

stair-diving-with-hayes:

Ladies and Gentleman, the man that will be in history books. He was throwing the burning tear gas. Not to the cops but away from the children protesting. In his American Shirt and bag of chips. Check his twitter.

(via thepoliticalfreakshow)

August 21, 2014
My Sweden Blog

August 8, 2014
Swedish Insights, The Real Reason for Massive Welfare?

The conversations I have had in Helsingborg have been very interesting to my project. My host, Gustav, has a passion for learning about International Relations and History. This passion translated itself into interesting conversation for my project. As I gently leaned my back against the kitchen counter, Gustav and I conversed in depth about foreign relations and Sweden. One area of conversation we discussed is why Sweden has a well developed social welfare system. Gustav took time to show me a book he has been reading published by a Swedish researcher who argues that Swedish people have a strong trust in their institutions that dates back 600 years. The author uses a variety of public opinion polls and historical facts to support his claim that this “trust” has allowed Swedes to not only have strong faith in their government’s abilities, but also the respect Swedish people have for one another.
My next thought becomes: The contrast between America becomes apparent. One could very well argue that Americans have always distrusted large, imposing government. Our revolution was brought about by an anger towards a super imposing government. To this day, we place a strong emphasis on the freedom of American individuals to spend their money as we please and to live lives as we please. To what extent this emphasis translates into actual freedom is debatable, but nonetheless, the emphasis of importance is certainly there. It seems in Sweden, more emphasis is placed on the well-being of society. The Swedish phrase pronounced “low-gohm” translates into “not too much, not too little.” Swedes use the phrase fairly often for all matters of life and the phrase dates back to the days of Vikings (Swedish source of pride) where food was passed around on boats…all was to be shared and thus, Vikings were to take neither too much or little.

To return to this contrast, I find it quite interesting these ideologies of trust in the institutions and trust in fellow countrymen have the potential to allow Sweden to become the massive public welfare state that is is today. In America, we do not share all the burdens of higher taxes or receive the bounty of benefits this redistribution of income brings. To what extent history and ideology are behind these formulations would be worth investigation.

Gustav also brought up an interesting point. He mentioned that Swedes like to think and are probably true to argue that you can make a success of yourself even if you came from nothing but work hard in school to receive a good education. Why? Because the government pays for it.
This is a neat sort of idea. In some way, it sounds a bit like the American dream to me. You come to a foreign land, work hard, study harder, and you become a success with the ability to work your dream job or support a family.
While I would contend just as much economic opportunity is available in America for immigrants, I would also contend that it may be harder for young immigrants to rise through the ranks of society (even in spite of hard work) because it may be difficult for them to receive an education. Say for instance a lower middle class person in Sweden vs America wants to attend college. If you are lucky in America, you could get all your education paid for or pay very little. Unfortunately, the stats show that college debt is an increasing burden on graduates. In Sweden the opposite is true. In fact, you can even get paid to go to school.
Of course, whether the cost of HIGHER TAXES to make this happen is debatable…but…I can sure say that I would rather pay double what I did in taxes this past year and have my education paid for almost in full than pay what I did OR EVEN nothing and receive little benefit federally.

That is all for now, I am off to relax on the beach shore and study for the LSAT! :)

Til next time.

-August 8th

August 7, 2014
I saw this banner hanging outside a business earlier tonight in Sweden. Like in the USA, immigration/migration is a debates political issue. On one side, proponents of political asylum and liberals are suggesting that it is in Sweden’s interest to take in refugees of of foreign conflicts. Out of the Nordic countries, Sweden allows more of these migrants through it’s borders. While most Nordic countries cap their influx of immigrants at around 25,000 people, approximately 100,000 people enter this way to start a new life in Sweden. These families are far away from their war torn/poverty ridden countries and able to take advantage of the immense public welfare system in Sweden.

On the other hand, some commentators have suggested this is practice has gone to far. These commentators are more likely to express criticisms of immigrants for being a public burden and not undertaking lessons in Swedish history or culture. It is easy to understand such claims as many immigrants settle into their own communities, largely removed from the dominant majority. As a result, these migrants may not feel strongly compelled to learn more about the local culture or language.

Regardless, this is an interesting issue worthy of examination. I am reminded that migration of people - whether it be to the USA or elsewhere - is met with mixed opinion.

-August 7th 2014

I saw this banner hanging outside a business earlier tonight in Sweden. Like in the USA, immigration/migration is a debates political issue. On one side, proponents of political asylum and liberals are suggesting that it is in Sweden’s interest to take in refugees of of foreign conflicts. Out of the Nordic countries, Sweden allows more of these migrants through it’s borders. While most Nordic countries cap their influx of immigrants at around 25,000 people, approximately 100,000 people enter this way to start a new life in Sweden. These families are far away from their war torn/poverty ridden countries and able to take advantage of the immense public welfare system in Sweden.

On the other hand, some commentators have suggested this is practice has gone to far. These commentators are more likely to express criticisms of immigrants for being a public burden and not undertaking lessons in Swedish history or culture. It is easy to understand such claims as many immigrants settle into their own communities, largely removed from the dominant majority. As a result, these migrants may not feel strongly compelled to learn more about the local culture or language.

Regardless, this is an interesting issue worthy of examination. I am reminded that migration of people - whether it be to the USA or elsewhere - is met with mixed opinion.

-August 7th 2014

August 6, 2014
Stepping Foot Into Sweden: Week One

Swedish Escapades

Dear Blog Readers: I present to you with pleasure my 2014 Magellan Project blog, documenting my experiences abroad in Europe from July 19-August 25 2014.

I arrived to Sweden with SAS Airlines early on a sunny Sunday morning. My flight from Chicago experienced no delays and I had an enjoyable experience on my flight. I sat next this cute couple, both in their mid 50’s or so. They were returning from what should have been a business trip in the United States (but what really became a vacation). Interestingly, they both expressed excitement in car shows. The husband owns several antique automobiles and their hometown is home to the largest gathering of cars in Sweden. Almost 50,000 owners of antique and muscle cars arrive in the town of Vasteras each summer to parade through the city. We also had a friendly chat about sports, with most attention on the Swedish national futbol team & ice hockey. I am contemplating reconnecting with them and couchsurfing their place in Vasteras.

ARRIVAL IN STOCKHOLM:

Had I not known better, I may have well thought Stockholm was a deserted city of spectacular buildings and well kept streets on my first Sunday morning. As I left the dark tunnels of Stockholm’s train system it seemed like I was entering into my own playground. I remember passing through the city center railway station and thinking to myself, really? This is it? Wow…it seems more like a big town!

As it turned out, my host was about as filled with life as the city of Stockholm on Sunday morning. He slept in til noon, leaving me the opportunity and time to finish up my Logical Reasoning Bible from 8AM to noon. I really need to go back and review the LSAT material more but luckily I have the Logic Games Bible to do next.

No need to keep my fingers crossed on the LSAT if I take some time to study up for it right?

Anyways, my first day in Stockholm I went around sightseeing with Jens’ friend, Arturo, an award winning writer. In fact, he won Colombia’s most prestigious award for novellas and short stories for his works about Colombian stories. He travels about every 4-5 years and publishes a new set of stories. In spite of this great honor, he does not make much money from his published works and does another job on the side. He probably makes a better writer than guide, but suffice to say, my first afternoon in Stockholm was successful. Later that evening my new friends had me accompany them to a nightclub in the center of Stockholm which was fun to be at. The next day, after sleeping in quite some time, I hit the streets of Stockholm determined to see the city. I witnessed a pro-Palestine protest, walked through some local parks, and observed beautiful views of this city consisting of so many islands. Stockholm is very well kept. One problem I have encountered for my project is that many Swedes are apprehensive about being appraoched on the street to complete a survey. Luckily, I managed to talk with a few at a coffeeshop so all worked out. The older couple shared their experiences growing up in Sweden and how it was like to live here as children during the second World War. That evening I was lucky to have the air mattress to myself because Jens was sleeping outside the city. The next day, I met up with another couchsurfer named Valentina. She is a COlombian student and together we talked for several hours on this set of rocks above the old city of Stockholm. Later, we partook in the best falafel in Stockholm and I had the opportunity to do some pullups on the outdoor workout facility.

The next morning, I took the train to Malmo. As the 3rd largest city in Sweden, just 30 minutes from the Danish border, I found Malmo to be fairly different from Stockholm. Stockholm was generally more expensive & more expansive. Malmo was a bit smaller with slightly more immigrants in its population. My first night I met my couchsurfer Sam, who shared some cool insights of Swedish culture with me. One in particular that bears mentioning is a story of taxes.

In Sweden, the word for tax also means treasure. “Skat”= Treasure. Interestingly, many parents in Sweden will name their children Skat because of this meaning. When analyzed from a socio-economic perspective, it is interesting the word skat also means treasure because the benefits derived from “tax” are considered by Swedes to be “treasure.”
From my impressions, Swedes treasure their rights and benefits from the economic system. The next day I met my new hosts that were two German sisters, Vanessa and Lauren. My first day with them, we went to a Swedish park to enjoy a free concert and cheap falafels. The next day, we enjoyed a seaside dinner consisting of traditional Swedish pasta salad (in my opinion, tastier than most I have had the pleasure to partake at home) and Swedish meatballs! Ah, I was very happy to enjoy some actual Swedish meatballs within my first few days in Sweden.

Overall, the weather here is pretty nice. There has not been a single day of rain in my travels so far. The temperature has remained around 80 degrees farenheit. In stockholm, the sun did not set 100% completely until 11:30pm and it was already showing signs of rising around 3:00am or so. This is quite nice because I am loving staying out into the evenings to relax.

The people here a fairly friendly. In Stockholm in particular, I noticed my American accent seemed to catch a lot of people’s attention. People here think I am Swedish when they first speak to me.

The cost of living is fairly expensive as an American but is not too bad by Swedish standards.
On my day in Lund, a university town bordering Malmo, I had the pleasure to interview a nurse for my project.
Some things I learnt are that Sweden will cover the full treatment costs of most healthcare procedures for its citizens, such as chemotherapy for cancer patients. Swedes, by union, almost always get at least 3 weeks vacation per year and often times more. They must take the vacation. This can create problems in the summer since most people take time off then. Factories close down. Hospitals are somewhat short staffed. However, the Swedes on the whole do not appear to care.
The religion most people belong to here is the state Christian religion, if any. Through my conversations I have found that most people argue the church plays a positive role in Swedish scoiety because it gives people a place to relax and learn basic morals. This is said even by non-religious people.

Some of the people I have talked to seem to express some hidden frustration with the rising number of immigrants. Sweden just recently opened the flood gates for victims of the Syrian conflict to seek refuge. Many North Africans and Arabs can be seen in the cities, that may raise the anxiety of some people.

I noticed the people in Sweden are quite attractive and very fashion forward. In this sense, they really are on a whole new level than Americans. Similarly, Swedes also are on a whole new level in terms of their English speaking ability. They might be able to speak some of the best English in Europe! By far surpassing those I passed in Germany.

Soon after Malmo, I left to Copenhagen where I stayed with a Polish girl, Julianna. She was fun to hangout with. She showed me around some nicer parts of Copenhagen and we enjoyed discussing cultural differences. After Copenhagen, I left to travel to Hamburg for the night. I am pretty excited to be making it there. After Hamburg my sights are set on Berlin so I am excited to see what happens next!

The trip to Hamburg was fairly interesting. The trains running between Copenhagen and Hamburg are quite packed. I ended up relaxing on the floor with the airplane blanket spread about my person. To my shock, I fell asleep on the way! The train ended up on a boat! The boat (with train & passengers on board) crossed the sea into Germany. In Hamburg, I arrived in the afternoon and was greeted by Katja Heinz & her boyfriend, my hosts. We all cooked dinner together: chicken, noodles, and vegetables then proceeded to traveled into the city. Both were excited to show me the Reeperbahn and Harbor. After a short boat cruise on the Harbor, I tried the famous “Fritz-Kola.” We walked to a fairly large park situated a couple subway stations down then watched a 30 minute waterworks show.

I came back to my host’s place then had a restful night of sleep. I rode the train to Berlin the next day. Sophia, my host, greeted me outside the bus station where I was dropped off. I was staying in the Northwest part of the city. Sophia shared her flat with her boyfriend and amongst other friends on the 4th floor of an apartment building in the Northwestern area of Berlin. It is with these friends I spent the first several hours in Berlin, swimming and climbing “American Ninja Warrior Style” backwards up a tree. Jumping into the lake from 12-15 feet above was quite a rush of excitement!
My evening was spent walking around Berlin with Sophia, admiring some of the sites she liked most. She told me quite a bit about the city, its history, and her perspective on what it is like to grow up German.
I remember one point in the conversation when she mentioned how its unusual to be such a strong nationalist in Germany because of the repressed guilt from WWII. This is pretty interesting because I think something opposite is in place in the USA. In other words, in the US it is ODD or UNUSUAL or looked down-upon to be “unpatriotic.” Looking down on America isn’t taken kindly in many parts. It looks like the opposite might be true of Germany. Even if WWII has now been over for quite some time.
I also learned a bit of modern Berlin history. For example, Berlin witnessed a surge of immigrants seeking a better life following WWII. Many Turkish and Middle Eastern people came to occupy West Berlin. This has resulted in a surge of tasty “falafel” type shops today in the city. The east saw more Vietnamese, Chinese, and Russian immigrants. No surprise here as these were citizens of other Communist led countries.
I was lucky enough to see the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag buildings in person. A “jumppic” photo of myself was snapped outside the Brandenburg Gate that makes me feel pretty good.
I also saw some older parts of the Berlin Wall, biked on a former airport, and traversed the North, South, East & West of the city via bike. I particularly enjoyed munching on Berliner curryworst for my evening snack.
One thing I noticed about Germany (from my viewpoint) as compared to Sweden is that the Swedes have a much better handle of the English language than Germans. Germany appears to be much more ethnically diverse. For instance, the amount of different looking people in Berlin or Hamburg easily outnumbered the amount of minorities (percentage wise) in Stockholm, Malmo, or Copenhagen. I am not contending that is good or bad, just simply an observation. I also found that Germans tended to look more “American” than Swedes. Whether this be a combination of body type, fashion, race, etc. I am not entirely sure, but I can see this difference.
After Berlin I took the train to Amsterdam! Amsterdam was different from what I had originally envisioned for sure.
While Hamburg had a fairly hilly landscape, nice city center and many bridges….Berlin was well spread out, had few bridges, and without a traditional city center…
Amsterdam was more or less a city center engulfed by tourists, locals, and hippies ready to scourge the Amsterdam scene. For starters, I found out weed is LEGAL for the Dutch and foreigners to buy and smoke in Amsterdam. That meant the smell of burning cannibas sativa was quick to fill the nostrils of my nose as I passed through the many “coffee shops” selling the materials to the public.
A walk down Amsterdam’s Red Light District at night was also quite a unique experience. While in Amsterdam, I was treated to delicious tasting pancakes and good foods throughout my stay.
Now, I am back on my way up North to Copenhagen and then onto Helsingborg, a Swedish sea town.

I feel compelled to share that on my train ride north I found myself sitting in front of two Swedish ladies. I ended up befriending them and one even offered to host me in Gothenburg when I travel there…promising a celebratory birthday party for me on the 15th! I cannot wait.
That evening, I spent the evening with my previous host, Julianna. We caught up a bit in conversation before I left in the morning to Helsinborg. Upon arrival in Helsinborg, I was greeted by my cool host Gustav Hedenborg. He was friendly and we are getting along well. I spent the afternoon walking the ocean shore with him on a radiant summer day. Life is pretty good :)
As I get ready to publish this first post, the warm aroma of Swedish meatballs on the frying skillet captivates my hungry mind. I cannot wait to try them very soon :)

December 7, 2013
"I was called a terrorist yesterday, but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies, and that is what I normally tell other people who say those who are struggling for liberation in their country are terrorists."

Nelson Mandela (via azspot)

(via letterstomycountry)

October 22, 2013
"

On Saturday, a coalition of critics of the U.S. surveillance establishment will gather in Washington D.C., under the banner Stop Watching Us for a rally asking Congress to “stop the NSA’s unconstitutional mass surveillance.”

[…]

This is a vital cause, and I agree with it.

Yet I cannot support this coalition or the rally. It is fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups; their hard-core ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.

"

Tom Watson

I’m a little bewildered by this article and I’m struggling to wrap my head around its logic. The author believes libertarianism to be a poisonous ideology that is, at its root, deeply, even dangerously, conservative. Therefore, to collaborate with libertarians in pursuit of a common goal ultimately helps to advance a worldview that promotes, despite its posturing, an authoritarian society. I guess my response to this is “huh?” 

If progressives and social democrats spent their time exclusively in the company of like-minded activists, they’d find themselves in small groups, participating in esoteric debates that do nothing to advance larger goals, such as ending mass surveillance, cutting an obscenely large defense budget, repealing drug laws, or protecting civil liberties. If political change is going to occur, there must be some force behind it, whether it’s a large crowd of protesters or a well-funded advocacy group. The more souls linking arms and demanding change, the better.

If a libertarian Republican homemaker from Tennessee feels compelled to join a 20-something New York socialist in order to protest mass surveillance, why would anyone seek to destroy that coalition in favor of a smaller, less inclusionary, and less powerful group? To shun fellow Americans seeking to join your cause because you dislike the totality of their political beliefs is not only rude and self-defeating, it runs contrary to the vision of what America is supposed to be: a unified, diverse, and engaged citizenry fighting together to protect each other’s rights. 

(via prettayprettaygood)

LTMC:  Imagine for a moment that the republican party was replaced entirely by the Libertarian party.  The consensus that Progressive Democrats and Libertarians would have is broad indeed:

- End the War on Terror

- End the War on Drugs

- End Mass Incarceration

- End Mass Surveillance

- End the TSA

- Increase oversight of police

- Increase prisoner’s rights

- Demilitarize domestic policing

- Cut military spending

- End U.S. Imperialist foreign policy

This is just the short list.  The amount of common ground between Progressive Democrats and Libertarians far outstrips the amount of common ground between Libertarians and Republicans.  It is foolish and stupid to reject an alliance between Progressives and Libertarians simply because the former disagrees with the latter on economics, taxes, and healthcare policy.  

Tom Watson is 100% wrong on this one.  And he’s doing more damage to Progressive causes by refusing to associate with people who disagree with him.  If Alan Grayson and Dennis Kucinich can work with Ron Paul to co-sponsor an anti-war bill, Watson should be unafraid to make common cause with Libertarians who share his beliefs on mass surveillance.

(via letterstomycountry)

(via letterstomycountry)

October 22, 2013
"I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."

Stephen Hawking (via stxxz)

MIND BLOWN

(via cognitivedissonance)

(via cognitivedissonance)

August 5, 2013

Peacefully typing on his Ipad, Adam Kmett leans back in his chair as a smile slowly comes across his face as he reflects on his travels to China.

"I don’t want to get back on the plane," he says as he types on his Ipad.

After but a a couple weeks abroad, he has gained a better appreciation for the Chinese people and culture through open-minded conversations and casual interviews. The people he has met come from all backgrounds, socially, educationally, economically, and geographically. Every individual has a unique story, a tale of history influenced by media, events concocted by circumstance. Much like myself, these individuals enjoy hearing others experiences and learning from them. They take great interest in my project and travels in order to better understand my story.

So far, these findings have led to very informative and even eye-opening new information regarding perspectives in a few respective areas such as:

the Communist Party
America
Customs/Traditions
Economics
Social Issues including religion, homosexuality, and abortion.


With more sure to come, these ideas can lead Adam to offer takeaways from traveling that can be shared with friends.

For now….he smiles and goes back to the journey…and hopefully a second date tomorrow with the girl who has the red bow tie in her hair.

March 24, 2013
questionall:

Does anyone else find this excessive?

questionall:

Does anyone else find this excessive?

(via randomactsofchaos)

January 10, 2013
Writing to Write… Without Looking Back on what i say :]

What if you didn’t even own your body?

In a world increasingly forgetful of our surroundings, we as humans sometimes overlook that we are also creatures of the Earth. The air we breathe was also the air our ancestors inhaled hundreds of thousands of years ago. The composition of elements making up our bodies are permanent to the Earth itself, not even ourselves, for we exist in only short bit of time. Money is like time, unless well spent it is useless.

That’s another point I’d like to hash out too I suppose. What drives us to consume so much money? Surely, there are many factors to this question that all act in various proportions to varying degrees of input, but at the bottom there must be an answer. Is it our quest for power? Our quest for ‘happiness’? There is so much money out there but so little distribution, and those with it seem to abuse their ‘power’ and perpetuate the inequality.

On my Facebook profile I write under my religious beliefs I am a humanist, believing in the ultimate emancipation of humanity. To me, that represents a transition out of the current world order to an order of direct democracy, self-sustainability, and peace. These all democratic institutions I have been informing myself of are fascinating to say the least. And to speak to my last statement, I contend they could be highly valuable in serving as future models to renewing a societal order based upon principles of fairness and equality. At our current disposition of time, there seems to be no greater inequality of income in history. Compounding the problem, those with the power to keep the status quo permanently locked seem to be doing just that.

When we are little children we dream of changing the world. We dream of peace and harmony. But then as we get older, those  beautiful fixations are yanked from our minds as we are told that they could never happen, solving problems are impossible to fix. But how can one know this for oneself if one has never bothered to try? What floods out these fires, which burn to see change. What damns these ideas that we once held so near and dear?

On the news tonight, the headline spoke of a “influenza pandemic” that has killed some people in the country recently. What is not told are the stories of the lives of innocent people who die everyday in the hospital due to illness obtained while in the hospital. Innocent people die everyday there, and far more do.

192,000 people died last year like that alone. Here is my contention. Why are these lost voices not worth remembering? Perhaps in part because these deaths are a fact of the status quo, the way we do things. But look at what underlies the status quo: huge corporations, enormously profitable drug manufacturers, and hospitals with multiple tiers of management. If hospitals were run democratically, wouldn’t one believe people might be more concerned about the dying people they see everyday then uplifting profits, overmedicating, and most generally overhospitalizing?

Take another issue, at my school so many people gripe and complain about the school. 50,000 price tag and they can’t help but moan about the President’s salary, or the crappy food at GnT’s or the 3rd floor of Rossin. But are these people stupid? No, I contend they do not see themselves as entering into a community where they can stimulate change. In these democratic schools I doubt that is the case. What is the difference?

Look, to answer my original question, and to tie all these points together. If Mother Nature owns our bodies and has given us a lease on life, why not make our best effort to change the status quo, to demand a better sense of equality, and to ensure there is even a planet Earth our great ancestors might be able to see years and years from now.

Right now a ship is scraping the ocean floor damning the ecosystem that had been untouched by anything foreign. Right now, a person is being fired at their job because the corporation sees them as liquidity (easily releasable). Right now, a student is learning Calculus but their sincerest interest is to be learning about the history of China because they love that culture.

I must always remind myself never to stay comfortable. One must stay positive, up-beat, and proactive in seeking out the problems of the world in need of fixing.

In the words of Horace Mann, “Until you have done something for humanity you should be ashamed to die.” - Horace Mann

#change #goals #thoughts #world #corporations #schools #democracy #freedom #lovelife

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