Sunday, December 26, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Last week, I approached this topic like any journalist might: with the desire to say something new. I wanted to examine Assange’s philosophy, as opposed to his actions per se, to try to trace out the conceptual links between his push for government transparency and, on the incoming end, the public’s demand for greater regulation of the economy; and, on the outgoing end, a growing consciousness of the disparity between a global economic structure and a national political framework. What I found, however, was far more complex.
Much of what has been said thus far focuses on the normative aspects of this controversy: whether the actions of WikiLeaks should be seen as desirable, or even permissible. It is a very polemic issue in that it is attempting to renegotiate the boundaries between accountability and security and, in the process, conceivably inflicting undue harm upon others. Nevertheless, information is a fundamental tool of democracy and as such it belongs in the hands of the public on whose behalf the government operates. Political apathy is endemic in American society. At the very least, WikiLeaks has presented an opportunity for democratic participation.
But the sheer magnitude of information made available by WikiLeaks raises a whole host of other issues, many of which point to the global order as potentially harmful to citizens. Whether its China’s status as the U.S.’s “banker,” or the propensity for massive infiltrations of state secrets, the interconnectedness of the world has, again, been made excruciatingly clear.
In an article that appeared in a June issue of The New Yorker, Raffi Khatchadourian wrote of Julian Assange, “He had come to understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution.” Assange envisions himself as a champion of the people – a technologically proficient incarnation of FDR. Or, as suggested by Dr. Craig Murphy of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at UMass Boston, even of Woodrow Wilson, whose first of fourteen points advocated “Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”
A noble sentiment, but the question on everyone’s lips has been: “Is such a diplomatic process feasible?” I interviewed Dr. Eben Weitzman, who is the Chair of the Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance Department at McCormack, and he spoke of something called “second tables.” This is an important concept when considering the work of diplomacy. Second tables, he explained, is a term used to signify the dualistic character of negotiation. If the “first table,” is the diplomatic table, then the “second table” is the one at which sits the state department official to whom the diplomat will report. This is true on both sides and at both ends of “the table”: each diplomat will sit again with their respective heads of state, and each respective head of state will have to justify policy decisions to the general public. As Dr. Weitzman put it to me, “If people can’t have confidential conversations, then their ability to negotiate is severely hampered.” Besides, save for the inflammatory comments that, when published, effectively caught many diplomats with their pants down, the private face of diplomacy seems to look a lot like its public face. In many ways, the most recent cables paint a picture of diplomacy that is already surprisingly transparent.
Which may be more than can be said for WikiLeaks as an institution. Although Assange has been given the blessing of Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower responsible for leaking the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971, many still question the legitimacy of his organization. Steve Coll, who operates a blog for The New Yorker, wrote, “Assange declares that he is pioneering an improved, daring form of journalism. That profession however, despite its flaws, has constructed its legitimacy by serving as a check on governmental and corporate power within constitutional arrangements that assume the viability of the rule of law.” And Khatchadourian points out “Assange must confront the paradox of his creation: the thing that he seems to detest most – power without accountability – is encoded in [WikiLeaks] DNA.”
In his provocative essay “We, the People of Europe?” Étienne Balibar noted a similar paradox with regard to the existence of borders around a democratic state: “They [borders] are the absolutely nondemocratic, or ‘discretionary,’ conditions of democratic institutions.” There is a significant irony in the fact that Assange’s organization, with which he hopes “To radically shift regime behavior,” retains some of the inherent contradictions of that so-called regime. Furthermore, if Assange is looking to encourage transcendence of the national political model, he will be faced with the same challenges in providing internal protection for his sources as international organizations are faced with in protecting human rights; viz., the fact that any form of trans-national belonging is always underpinned by a web of international treaties among sovereign states.
Hannah Arendt, in a 1951 statement of prophetic clarity and resonance, wrote, “Deadly danger to any civilization is no longer likely to come from without…The danger is that a global, universally interrelated civilization may produce barbarians from its own midst by forcing millions of people into conditions which, despite all appearances, are the conditions of savages.” It is precisely this kind of danger that Assange is trying to subvert through the WikiLeaks mission.
Within the current globalized landscape, there is no longer any spot on the planet that is not subsumed under state control. If individuals are forced out by their state, then they become what Arendt would call naked in their humanity. State borders that have traditionally delineated not only nationality, but also social standing, have been drawn towards the centers of civic space --– there is a Chinatown in every major U.S. city. The problem with this model, as Balibar points out, is that “by definition, a globalized market has no “outside” in either a geographical or a sociological sense…There exist only forms of inner exclusion.” It may be possible to view WikiLeaks as an attempt to move outside of this model in order to foster conditions for new forms of inclusion. By eschewing the traditional contextualization processes of journalism, Assange may be offering an unmediated opportunity for the public to engage directly with these forces of globalization and “inner exclusion.” By allowing the general public open access to wide sheaths of information, he is effectively wresting control from institutions and making everyone, himself included, accountable to the public not only for their specific actions, but also for their ideals and overarching policies. In this respect, I think we are seeing a progressive kind of transparency from Julian Assange.
As it appears at the current moment, this controversy has polarized the general public into those with security concerns who maintain status quo support for national politics, on one end of the spectrum, and those with concerns about over classification who maintain liberal theories of transparency and democratic control on the other. In the end, Assange can only work to maintain standards of fair and balanced reporting that some believe have been abandoned or obscured by the traditional news media. If he is able to do that, then we may be seeing the advent of a new kind of journalistic integrity after all.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Have you ever endured the aggravation of being stuck behind an elderly driver, unable to pass as they maintain a constant speed of 15 miles per hour below the speed limit? Have you ever narrowly avoided a crash because an elderly driver was no longer able to operate their vehicle in a safe, capable manner? If so, you're not alone. In a report done by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety, accident claims drastically increase after a person turns 65. Further research by smartmotorist.com has found that older drivers are more likely to be involved in multi-vehicle crashes than younger drivers, and with the number of drivers over age 70 expected to triple in the U.S over the next 20 years, things will only get worse.
In 2007 there were more than 20 million licensed drivers 70 years and older in the United States, according to The Federal Highway Administration. That same year in the state of Massachusetts, drivers in this age group accounted for 32 fatal accidents, or 11 percent of the state's fatal crashes, while accounting for only 13.5 percent of the total population in the state. Nationally, drivers between the ages of 75 and 84 are responsible for a vehicular fatality rate equal to that of teens; the rate quadruples for drivers over the age of 85. This comes as a great surprise because teenage drivers are often considered to be the most dangerous liabilities to safe driving. It is alarming to see how clearly the statistics show a direct correlation between aging and car accidents.
So, what's being done? Not much for many states. Advocates for the rights of the elderly have made it difficult to impose driving restrictions against older drivers, claiming that these restrictions are the product of age-discrimination. There are some states, however, that have been able to move past this debate and impose regulations to ensure the safety of elderly drivers.
The most logical approach in guaranteeing a person's driving ability would be mandatory driving tests; however New Hampshire and Illinois are the only two states who have successfully enforced these road tests. Both states require all drivers age 75 and over to be retested in order to continue operating a motor vehicle legally. Using A less progressive approach, 23 different states are enforcing drivers over age 65 to renew their driver's license every two years, in person. These states feel that a person proves to be a competent driver just by showing up at the Department of Motor Vehicles. There are 16 states, however, who have taken it a step further by mandating all applicants participate in an eye exam with each renewal. This method has had greater results than simply enforcing renewals every two years. In Florida, where eye exams are required for drivers over the age of 80, only 7 percent have actually failed the test. The program was still a success, however, encouraging 20 percent of the over 80 population to forgo renewing their licenses out of fear of failing the eye exam. Since the eye exam was enforced in 2004, vehicular related fatalities for drivers over the age of 80 dropped from 14.88 deaths per 100,000 residents to 12.34 per 100,000 residents. This may not sound like a major improvement, but in a state with 15 million residents, the numbers are actually quite large. .
While vision testing has certainly proven to be effective, there are many other ways that aging impacts a person's driving abilities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that "safe elderly drivers require the complex coordination of many different skills. The physical and mental changes that accompany aging can diminish the abilities of elderly drivers. These include: a slowdown in response time; a loss of clarity in vision and hearing; a loss of muscle strength and flexibility; drowsiness due to medications; and a reduction in the ability to focus or concentrate." Many elderly drivers are involved in crashes that occur because of reasons beyond poor eyesight. In 2009, within a 3 week period of time in Massachusetts a 92 year old man killed his wife when he slammed into her while backing their car into a parking space, an 83 year old woman died when her husband collided with another vehicle and a 4 year old girl was pronounced dead after an 89 year old woman hit her in a crosswalk. One of the worst cases of poor elderly driving occurred in Santa Monica, California, when an 86 year old man drove 300 yards through a crowded farmer's market, killing 10 people and injuring many more. Blood tests were taken following the crash confirming that the man was not under the influence of alcohol and had not been using prescription or recreational drugs. In a statement following the crash, the man claimed that he had tried everything from stomping on the break pedal to jamming the car into park, but could not get the vehicle to stop. Apparently, the pedal he was stomping on was the accelerator, not the break pedal, which lead to speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour during his 300 yard plunge through pedestrians and street vendors. The man was convicted with 10 counts of vehicular man slaughter with gross negligence, the harshest penalty for his actions. He faces a possible 18 years in prison.
Recently I met with Tony Forbes, a 95 year old resident of Winchester, Massachusetts about his experience operating a vehicle as an older man. Until a few months ago Forbes drove his vehicle every day, but after missing a stop sign, as many senior drivers do, he caused a three car collision. Fortunately no one was seriously injured in the crash, but his family took the car away and sold it in order to prevent further incidents. When I asked Forbes about the collision he exclaimed, “It wasn't my fault. I don't know why everyone keeps making such a big deal out of this.” Later he offered to show me his car so I could see the damage from the crash. I reminded him that his family had sold the vehicle months ago, but he insisted that I was wrong and that the vehicle was parked out front. Eventually I obliged for him to show me and he was very concerned to see the car was missing. “Somebody stole my car! I'm calling the police” he declared. Fortunately his daughter lives next door and was able to remind him that the car really had been sold, which took much convincing and left him very upset. Since the sale of the car 3 months ago he has called to report the vehicle stolen twice, according to his daughter, who is his primary caregiver. It's scary that this man is still legally licensed to drive by the state of Massachusetts and, if not for his family, could still be operating a motor vehicle on a daily basis with no concern from the state.
The state of Maryland has recognized the many ways age effects the driving abilities of the elderly. After assembling a group of nearly 1900 volunteers between the ages of 55 and 96, state officials conducted a test consisting of basic commands and asked the subjects to repeat simple movements. The criteria was designed specifically to test the cognitive skills of the volunteers. In January, 2006 the results were published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society and concluded that those who performed poorly on the test were 25 percent more likely to cause a car crash. Because of the test results Maryland is the only state that mandates cognitive screenings for drivers with concerning records and behaviors. The only trouble with this program is that it is not necessarily preventative. Drivers with concerning records have already caused accidents. Sure, the state is keeping them from causing more, but true prevention would keep them from causing any.
In 2003, California had introduced a trial program designed to prevent unfit drivers from maintaining a driver's license, and hopefully reduce the number of accidents caused by incapable drivers. The system required drivers of all ages to pass a driving knowledge test, cognitive screening and a vision exam. Each step was considered a tier in this three-tiered system. If a driver were to fail either of the first two tiers, a road test would be required in order to renew their driver's license. Those who could not pass the vision exam, however, were automatically failed. The trial only involved 152 drivers, and the results were inconclusive, which lead to California abandoning the project before it could be implemented.
The number of accidents caused by older drivers is undoubtedly concerning. It may not be possible for all states to require road testing for all older drivers, but most states need to consider a more aggressive screening system for the elderly. Some may argue that this is age-discrimination, however, the numbers prove the safety risks created by unfit elderly drivers, and it is clear that more needs to be done to improve this problem.
I know a number of people I graduated high school with or grew up with that either became pregnant or became parents in their teens. Most chose to keep their babies and raise them themselves, with the help of family members. Others chose to have an abortion, and none chose adoption. I have seen people struggle over what decision to make and have seen the way it has impacted their lives in both positive and negative ways. While there is no doubt in my mind that they love their children, I'm sure they would have rather waited and given them a better life than they have now by either graduating from college or getting a well-paying job. Some people simply cannot wait to start their own families, and I know a couple of girls who have two or three children and are under the age of 24. I could simply never imagine doing this, and I see what a struggle it is for them. Hopefully teens will stop focusing on what they see on TV and read in magazines and see the real picture. Learn the facts, look at the statistics, and then decide what is best for you. I believe that every woman has the right to choose what happens to her own body, and whatever decision she makes is the best one for her. Before you start doing anything, just stop and take a look at yourself in the mirror. Get educated on teen pregnancy and do not choose to become just another statistic.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Is Facebook going too far this time? Facebook launched its new messaging system this past Monday. Facebook Message will incorporate chat, text messaging, status updates, and email. But is this new feature going to be an overload for the company and its users? Mr. Zuckerberg doesn’t think so.
Zuckerberg’s view of email is that it is too slow, formal and cumbersome. Is this statement accurate for all email users? Teenagers believe it is a dead form of communication. This is why Zuckerberg created this new messaging system. He wants to reach out to teenagers by making this type of communication easier and faster for them. But what about being professional and having a job that uses email? Zuckerberg cannot think that million dollar companies will take an applicant seriously if they present a @Facebook.com email address to them. For the younger generation this may be okay, but companies and adults still believe that email is a professional and easy way to communicate.
Zuckerberg is pushing this issue too heavily. There are so many technological issues that can go wrong. Also, people many not even want to use the new feature. Many older, adult users of Facebook may find it much too challenging to have all these features grouped in one place. Some may not even understand how to use it. So, why is Zuckerberg pushing to change the Facebook world yet again? It may be because he has the notion that “a modern messaging system is [not] going to be e-mail.” Zuckerberg knows that people in America already spend an enormous amount of time on Facebook. If this new messaging system proves to be successful it will increase how much time is spent on Facebook and thus, create much more revenue for him.
This is one of Facebook’s biggest engineering projects; it took 15 months and 15 engineers to produce. It is no wonder why Zuckerberg would need to gain more revenue; he just spent all his money creating this new messaging system. Hopefully, this new feature will not be as successful as Zuckerberg has planned. The reason being is because people will be consuming more Facebook every minute of the day, things may become confusing and the privacy of one’s email, messages and chats may be broadcast to the whole Facebook community. We all know stated in the New York Times article on November 15th, 2010 “that the company’s privacy practices have often drawn scrutiny” from the public and its users.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Very soon, it would be pancake o’clock.
One thing didn’t sit right with us, though, because three dudes sitting at an IHOP for two hours binging on mid-grade pancakes was actually rather pathetic-looking. So, we took our favorite train of thought one-way express to crazyville, where only one conclusion came out to greet us. Three people might be pathetic, but thirty people is a party, don’t matter how you slice it. Within a minute of this promotion’s discovery, all you can eat was turned into all who could eat, and Pancake Fuck Night was born.
Now as we all know, IHOP is no place special. Most of the time I find myself there, it’s not because the restaurant fits just perfectly into my ideal night out. We were out to change that this time and with a group of twenty-eight people we made the half-mile march from my home - a noisy gaggle of sophomoric laughter which fell upon the IHOP with unrestrained enthusiasm, as we jokingly said that we planned to keep eating until the restaurant ran out of pancake mix, and we could demand a refund and coupons due to lack of service. Before long, three hours had passed, several hundred pancakes eaten, and everybody said their goodbyes and dispersed into the night. Dunner and Matt and I, the administrative element, was pleased with how the night had gone down. But we were playing the long game, and had already begun our discussion for the next year’s feast.
The year passed all too quickly, but we had the advantage of several months’ planning time, organization for Pancake Fuck Night II beginning three months in advance. To our surprise, the second night was twice the party of the first one in literally every way: Our attendance doubled to sixty-two people. Over the course of four hours, we racked up a bill of almost five hundred dollars, ate four hundred and fifty pancakes, weaponized over a thousand packets of salt and pepper, and generally raised all kinds of hell. Thankfully though, we were in possession of a coupon for 20% off the entire bill, saving us over fifty dollars in what was agreed by all in attendance as a marvelous dick move against the restaurant.
In the aftermath, I began to wonder if there was any way to top our second year’s event. There are only so many people we all knew to invite, and 2009 had scraped the bottom of the barrel for attendees. But unbeknownst to us a very powerful ally was coming to life behind the scenes as our tremendous group broke off and went back home. The power of local legend.
Two months ago, I made the announcement for Pancake Fuck Night III, with the modest goal in mind of increasing attendance by half: ninety people or bust I said. What I wasn’t aware of was that two years of raiding IHOP gets people talking. In the months since, our simple gatherings had become the sort of thing one could make his friends feel like a fool for missing. “You’re doing another pancake night?!” a friend wrote to me right after my announcement was sent across the width and breadth of the Facebook, “I’m SO in! No way I’ll miss this!” she finished.
It wasn’t long before people began inviting their friends, and their friends’ friends, and the original goal of ninety people that I thought to be lofty was met and trumped in a mere three days. I should have thought something was up right then, but it never occurred to me how quickly something can snowball.
So now, some sixty days after planning began, the Pancake Fuck Night III Facebook event has four hundred and fifty confirmed guests, with another four hundred righty-nine maybes. We’re scratching at a thousand people now, almost five times the legal number of people that IHOP can hold. I’m shocked and amazed, absolutely taken aback by the scope of the beast that my two friends and I unknowingly begot only three years ago. This will undoubtedly be the most titanic event any of us have ever organized, and the planning will be a frustrating, long process. But if we can pull this off, if we can get a thousand people into that restaurant over the course of a day, we might actually accomplish our jackass objective from the first year’s night, and run that IHOP’s pancake vault straight into the ground.
For anyone and everyone interested in attending Pancake Fuck Night III, please see the information for the event here, at the Pancake Fuck Night III Facebook page
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Why? Oh, as a result of talking with teenagers. Yes, that’s right, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced an ambitious development on November 15th, transforming Facebook from a social networking site to an all-out communication system.
After speaking with high-schoolers, Zuckerberg discovered that although most of them had email accounts, barely any actually utilized them, leading him to make the assumption that email is essentially a thing of the past.
His new service, which is currently open by invitation only until available to all users, brings chat, texting, status updates, and email together in one convenient location.
That’s right, you will soon be able to flaunt an @facebook.com email address! But, do you really want to?
According to Zuckerberg, email has become “too formal, too slow, and too cumbersome” and he makes it quite clear that his great idea will get folks off regular email. However, what it sounds like is that Zuckerberg is turning a no brainer into an aggregated belief. Of course the majority of teens do not use email; what reasons or obligations do most have to do so? That should not by any means imply that email is old fashioned, or as Zuckerberg says, “showing its age.”
Facebook, as we all know it, is a social site. I don’t know about my fellow adults, but I think I can safely assume that most of us would not want our email address associated with any aspect of Facebook. The popular site is far from professional and while an @facebook.com email address may suit the needs and interest of adolescents, I have witnessed too many job downfalls as a result of entangling work and play on Facebook. I think I’ll keep my friends in one spot, and my professional life in another, thank you.
As for having everything together in one place, I am pretty sure that I can muster up enough energy to log into my secure yahoo account, and then, yes, open up another tab for Facebook. I am not quite sure of the last time my email was unmanageable either. I can actually recall many a moment in which I sat there longer waiting for my statuses to update than my email inbox.
Some analysts say that people will begin to use Facebook’s system more than their familial email accounts, but I say that’s crazy. Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and Google ain’t going nowhere. Bring it on.
The sit-down dining area is spacious with seats similar to traditional train cars, all with the added benefit of trains passing behind the restaurant. Pearl Street Station offers a friendly environment suitable for the family and for private functions. And if you’re planning a party at your house, you can order a Party Pan from the menu. All Party Pans serve 25-30 people and you can order anything from the main menu, from steak tips to shrimp scampi.
On a recent visit, I found out that Pearl Street Station offers 20 cent wings on Mondays and Sundays, but only during football games. If that does not appeal to you, then the steak tips sure as hell will. Grilled to order in barbeque sauce, the tips are mouth watering and can be ordered as part of the restaurant’s Just the Ticket Combo with ribs, lamb or sausages and a side of garlic mashed potatoes, fries and/or rice pilaf, all for around $14. And depending on how hungry you are, you could get all four meats (steak tips, lamb, sausages and ribs), also with two sides, for $16.
If the sit-in area does not appeal to you, the horseshoe shaped bar might. With excellent bartenders who can whip up any drink you’d like and plasma screen televisions scattered around the bar, you will find yourself relaxing after an exhausting day. A perfect place to meet up with friends, or make new ones, you will end up coming back to Pearl Street Station, as many already do. Then, there is The Jar, filled with little scraps of paper that have numbers on them; pick the slip of paper with your table's number on it and your meal is free.
Pearl Street Station is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 A.M. to 2 A.M. and on Sunday from 1 P.M. to 12 A.M.
By: Samantha Sarantakis
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Monday: Roast Beef Dinner- $10.99 (all you can eat)
Tuesday: Fish and Chips- $11.99 (all you can eat)
Wednesday: Italian Pasta Night- $8.99 (all you can eat)
Thursday: Shrimp Festival- $12.99 (all you can eat)
63 Columbian Street
360 Gannett Road
769 Bedford Street