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Ursula Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”

The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain…

Happiness is based on a just discrimination of what is necessary, what is neither necessary nor destructive, and what is destructive.

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Closing Arguments

Law & Order, Nullification

“"Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” Tom Paine wrote that in a pamphlet that helped rally Americans to the cause of liberty in those dark days of December, 1776.

We again face dark days.

Our founding forefathers fashioned a government based on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Today, instead of life, we have a job and sometimes two jobs.

Instead of liberty, we have crushing debt.

And happiness?

We work hard, husbands and wives, ten, 12 hours a day.

We work weekends, and at the end of the week, we have less.

We have less real income, less benefits, less time with our kids.

The American Dream used to be each generation was better off than the previous one.

I mean, are you better off than your parents?

Will your children be better off than you?

We believe that our government has been sold to global corporations that are sucking the blood and the life out of this country.

I mean, it’s all right there in the newspapers what they’re doing.

NAFTA, illegal campaign contributions by foreign businessmen, the sale of foreign policy.

I mean, these people don’t care about us.

They don’t care about Americans.

They, they care about their bottom line.“

(Right, and we don’t? Who’s more at risk for their liberties taken away, their powerful government/businesses taking advantage – Americans or those who don’t have the protection of our institutions and rules and Bill of Rights that we run crying ‘foul’ to?)

Counter:

"This country began as an experiment in freedom.

The foundation of that freedom is equality before the law.

Everyone–whoever they are whatever they may believe–must be equally accountable.

Mr. Christie hopes you will ignore the evidence and nullify the power he says derives from a higher law…

These guys did a great job of memorization.

Too bad they didn’t learn from it.

We all remember that phrase from the Declaration of Independence about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the unalienable rights of everyone.

Notice that "life” comes first.

You can forget everything else about this case if you remember one thing.

These defendants, these conspirators targeted an ordinary citizen, someone just like yourselves– a guy with a job, and in the private sector with bills to pay, and a family to take care of and they took his life.

They took his life!

If it’s okay for them to shoot him it’s okay for them to shoot anyone including any one of you.

Without the law, there can be no freedom. And without justice, there can be no law.“

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“With Power Comes a Selfish Point of View” by Shankar Vedantam

Washington Post, Monday, November 26, 2007; Page A03

“For as far back as historical records go, people in power have told astonishingly bald-faced lies, saying they are acting in the public interest when they are really acting in their own.

Saddam Hussein used to win “elections” with upwards of 95 percent of the vote – the missing 5 percent, no doubt, being a dictator’s gesture in the direction of modesty. In earlier times, conquests and colonialism, even slavery, have been justified as being in the best interest of the victims.

The standard explanation for why those in power act in self-interested, venal and authoritarian ways is that they are bad apples to begin with. Indeed, many people believe that such men and women are the ones most likely to rise to power.

But new research in political science and psychology has provided a novel explanation for why leaders and managers regularly let their followers down and resort to the kind of “layoffs and pay cuts are good for you” talk that defines absurdity. These studies show that leaders often emerge from communities not because they are ruthless, but because they are skilled at managing social relationships.

Something happens to people once they acquire power, however, and the transformation appears to be psychological. Adam Galinsky, a social psychologist at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, recently had volunteers describe either a situation in which they had power over someone else or a situation in which they felt powerless. Those asked to remember a situation in which they felt powerful were made to feel even more powerful by being given control of the distribution of goodies, whereas the volunteers asked to remember a powerless situation were further reminded of their powerlessness when they were asked to estimate how many goodies they expected to receive.

When Galinsky and his colleagues asked all the volunteers to draw the letter E on their foreheads with a marker, those who had been made to feel powerless were three times more likely to draw the E so that it was legible to someone facing them. Those made to feel powerful, however, drew the letter so that it looked correct from their internal perspective but was a mirror image from the point of view of someone facing them.

Galinsky’s point, which he noted in a study published in the journal Psychological Science, is that volunteers made to feel powerful, even in a trivial laboratory experiment, almost instantly lose the ability to see things from other people’s points of view.

Dacher Keltner, a social psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley, said Galinsky’s finding reflects a growing realization that power entails a paradox.

“People in organizations and in hierarchies and in informal groups like college dorms want leaders to be socially intelligent,” Keltner said. “They will sacrifice all manner of things to have leaders who are thoughtful and engaged and give other people voice.”

But once socially gifted people rise to power, Keltner added, the paradox is that “power simplifies our thinking. We tend to see things in terms of our own self-interest, and it makes us more impulsive. We forget our audience in service of gratifying our own impulses.”

Keltner and others have shown that power exacerbates many cognitive biases. People who lack power turn out to be more accurate in guessing the opinions of those around them, whereas those in power tend to be inaccurate. Because subordinates are also hesitant to tell superiors things they do not want to hear, the problem gets worse, with powerful people having even less input and perspective about how others think and feel.

Even U.S. Supreme Court justices, Stanford University psychologist Deborah Gruenfeld found, write more complex arguments when they are in the minority compared with when they are part of the majority.

In some ways, the results should not be surprising: Not having power forces you to see things from other people’s points of view and increases empathy and social behavior. Having power allows you to ignore other points of view – depriving you of the social skills that led to power in the first place. When powerful people such as Musharraf say and do things that are absurd, in other words, it could be that they are simply unaware of how they appear to others.

Keltner once had groups of three people sit before a bowl that contained five cookies, and each volunteer took one. That left two cookies. By mutual agreement, the volunteers always left the last cookie in the bowl. So who took the fourth cookie?

Invariably, Keltner found, the person in the group who had been randomly assigned to feel powerful rudely grabbed the fourth cookie.

“We videotaped how they ate,” Keltner said, laughing. “The high-powered person ate with their mouth open, cookie crumbs falling all over their shirt.”

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One of my articles for my undergraduate student newspaper, The Echo

2/19/08

Sometimes it was fun to be Sudan.

Anti-Western rants just aren’t as fun when you have to represent the U.S. at the same time.

This past weekend, five Taylor students, myself included, had the opportunity to join Anderson University in representing the country of Sudan at the Harvard National Model United Nations. Nearly 1,000 students from all different colleges, even countries, gathered to solve major world problems through committee meetings and resolution drafting.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

The weekend was a grueling endurance test. If you’ve ever had a two-hour class – imagine doubling the time, quadrupling the members, and replace the teacher with half the class who each receive 30 second speaking times and no limits on repetition. Then take an hour and a half break and do it again.

In my committee of Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural issues, we took an hour and a half to decide to address free and fair elections over migrant workers.

Blocs formed quickly. After declaring an unmoderated caucus, which basically meant we could meet in small groups and discuss what we thought the solutions should be, the European Union formed an intense huddle, continuing even when the caucus ended. The 30 second speeches resumed, with African, Asian, and East European states repeating the necessity of respecting state sovereignty – basically that no one can interfere with a country unless it asks for help. Ominously for us, as Sudan was among this number, the EU never even looked up.

It struck me then to wonder if this was the state of the world. The West, with their reasonably stable governments and rich purses, huddle in a big, important mass, coming up with big plans of how to fix the rest, while the less privileged countries shrill about their rights and the need to remain stable on their own terms.

The resolution we planned included an idea Iran considered essential: that any state had a right to any government it deemed suitable to its cultural, economic, and social situation. Who chooses this government? Why, the government in charge of course. I pointed out to the group at large that we were trying to solve the issue of free and fair elections, not circumvent them. I was shot down by the sheer number of non-strictly-democratic states.

“Can’t we be better than our states?” I finally asked. Someone said yes, but the girl next to me immediately turned.

“No!” Uzbekistan told me. “You have to act exactly how they would.”

So we drafted a resolution I knew wouldn’t get passed, but founded on that tenet of sovereignty. Bowing to sheer pressure, so did the other resolution, emphasizing the need for countries to ask for help rather than it being forced on them, though they didn’t word it as strongly as us.

Only one delegate pointed out that neither resolution covered the possibility of a corrupt or authoritarian government. As if to punctuate the point, we had a guest speaker: President Mwai Kibaki who hailed the democratic process of his country. ‘Rebels’ promptly swept into the room, shouting anti-Kibaki slogans and escorting him out of the room. One seized the podium and angrily asked us how we could believe this sham of an election, while the President was ‘executed’ in the hallway.

After the silence, eventually we still passed the resolution.

I looked around at the delegates: Japan, the U.S., Liberia, South Africa, Ecuador, Russia, North Korea, the Philippines, China, Guinea, Iran, Armenia, Kenya, France, Vanuatu – the tug-of-war between the small and troubled, the big and brash. How do we prevent another Kenya, another former Yugoslavia, another Sudan without causing another Afghanistan or Iraq?

At the end of the conference, I glumly looked down at sheet on which I’d written ideas of real progress and cooperation – and instead held up my Sudan sign to vote for Russia’s resolution. That’s what Sudan would do.

Sometimes it wasn’t very fun to be Sudan.

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The 10 Worst Mistakes of First-Time Job Hunters by Kelly Eggers

It’s a rare gift at any age to know what your passion is,“ said Bruce Tulgan, CEO of Rainmaker Thinking, a New Haven, Conn.-based management consultancy that focuses on integrating generations in the workplace. “In 99 out of 100 cases, people start to learn about a career path, gain experience in something, and over time they become passionate about it.

The Wall Street Journal

[The age-old question: which comes first, commitment or passion?]

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Amos 3:6-7

When the ram’s horn blows a warning, shouldn’t the people be alarmed?
Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord has planned it?
Indeed, the Sovereign Lord never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets.“

What I take from this? God never sends judgment without sending warning first – because our response matters more to Him.
What’s even more interesting is how He tests His prophets by showing them judgment – and then relenting if/when they interceded for the people. Abraham bargained with God to try and spare Sodom and Gomorroh, Moses pleaded for Israel not to be wiped out, Amos pleaded against locust and fire… The list goes on – and Jonah is chastised for his hard-heartedness!
Oh if our modern day prophets had such hearts! Not only the courage to warn, but the love to plead for grace!