MetroTransit has sent out a press release touting NexTrip, a tool it's created to allow bus riders to see how long before the next bus leaves from their stop.
"NexTrip is an important enhancement to our customer service efforts," said Metro Transit's Brian Lamb. "By leveraging technology we already have in place, we can provide amenities like NexTrip to give our customers even greater confidence in the reliability of their service."
For many commuters, however, an "ammenity" isn't an online gizmo. It's a bus.
It's 7:58 a.m. -- the peak of the morning commute -- and here I am sitting at a Metro Transit bus station in a city of 50,000, just one sliver of Maplewood removed from the boundary of St. Paul.
Using NexTrip (it's a tab next to the Trip Planner on the right side of Metro Transit's home page), I find that the next bus to downtown St. Paul is at 3:44 this afternoon. If I want to go to 6th and Hennepin in Minneapolis, I only have to wait until 5:40 this afternoon.(4 Comments)
Is John McCain a racist for using the term "gook" to refer to his North Vietnamese prison guards?
That's the question that's boiling around the Twin Cities today, thanks to an interview on The Uptake with Irwin Tang, author of Gook: John McCain's Racism and Why It Matters.
Let's be clear before we go too far here. The use of the term now cannot possibly be defended. Tang noted the term "is always a term of war," and recalls that "the only good gook is a dead gook" was the motto of a significant number of soldiers in Vietnam. Dehumanizing the enemy was certainly nothing new to Vietnam, as this propaganda of World War II points out. It's clearly racist now. Why didn't America see it as racist then?
The concern is real, of course. Most genocide and ethnic cleansing stems from the racist quotient of war. Long before there was Radovan Karadzic, the Japanese were in China, for example.
We tried to discuss this on Twitter since filmmaker Chuck Olsen posted the video yesterday, but Twitter is a lousy place for discussion. Nonetheless, it must be asked, is there historical context in which McCain's use of the term must be considered? Does the fact he doesn't use the term constitute a political calculation, or a growing sensitivity -- is this issue John McCain's Swift Boat?
Like most issues in a presidential campaign, the genesis of the controversy is years old -- 8 years old in this case. The controversy actually flared in early 2000 when he was asked about his use of the term during his campaign for president:
"I hate the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live."
McCain offered no apology, noting his use of the term, like the use of the term by most soldiers in Vietnam, referred to his enemy:
"I was referring to my prison guards," McCain said, "and I will continue to refer to them in language that might offend some people because of the beating and torture of my friends."
McCain made it clear that his anger extends only toward his captors. As a senator, he was one of the leaders of the postwar effort to normalize U.S. relations with Vietnam.
Tang, appropriately, notes that it's a racist term. "It a term used toward people you intend to kill." Well, yeah.
But Tang also says McCain uses the term "to dehumanize foreign people of color in order to prepare them for American invasion, for example, the Iranian, who are our next intended target according to John McCain."
Tang gives no quarter to the argument that the war context matters. "If he had used the 'N' word to describe people he had fought with in war or people who had captured him in war or whatnot... we would have disqualified John McCain for the president immediately."
There's one other context. John McCain stopped using the term 8 years ago. He apologized for using it days after defending the fact he did:
"I will continue to condemn those who unfairly mistreated us," McCain said in a statement released Feb. 21. "But out of respect to a great number of people for whom I hold in very high regard, I will no longer use the term that has caused such discomfort... I apologize and renounce all language that is bigoted and offensive, which is contrary to all that I represent and believe."
I posited on Twitter that charges of racism are usually intended to stop a conversation rather than start it, but at some point we have to be willing to discuss these things in a more intelligent way rather than merely hurl allegations.
Maybe this is the day.(66 Comments)
In a way, it's surprising there haven't been more stories like this.
In Taunton, Mass., south of Boston, a woman killed herself, hours before her foreclosed home was to be auctioned.
But there have been some stories like this, the most recent being an elederly woman in Central Oregon.
The foreclosure crisis is taking an emotional toll, of course. An article in USA Today a bit ago seemed to establish -- if not prove -- a relationship between economic tumult and suicide.
In an article published in 2005 by Cambridge University Press, researchers compared suicide data in Australia from January 1968 through August 2002 with economic problems such as unemployment and mortgage interest rates. The study found that economic trends are closely associated with suicide risk, with men showing a heightened risk of suicide in the face of economic adversity.
"For some people, suicide is the rational option when they see no future," says Ken Siegel, a psychologist in Beverly Hills. "One's house is very much a projection of one's self. To have a home taken away is tantamount to having part of yourself taken away. There is embarrassment. For many, it's overwhelmingly unconquerable.
Angel Brownawell, a spokeswoman for The American Psychological Association, says there's no established connection between the housing crisis and suicide per se. "Most of what we see has been anecdotal," she said. But the APA has issued some tips for dealing with the stresses of a lousy economy.(5 Comments)
Some would-be protesters at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul today ran up against a group that may be more likely than the cops to give them a hard time -- reporters.
Today, the Anti-War Committee announced a protest at the Xcel Center on September 4. The group received a permit for a protest, but not at the time it wanted.
"Day 4 will be for a committed and more militant group of activists...." Committee spokesperson Misty Rowan said at a news conference. (Listen)
"Militant?" Say what?
"Anything and everything that will bring a strong message to Republicans," she said. "Our hope is (the convention) will go on with a bang instead of a fizzle."
Guess what the first question was. "Like what?"
"I don't think it's bad to protest with something that's loud and spirited," co-speaker Katrina Plotz (pictured above) said. "Creative tactics that aren't going to be at the traditional march."
On her list? Painted faces.
What about what most people think when they hear a term like militant, violence, for example?
"The violence that I'm worried about is the violence that's being carried out in Iraq right now," she answered, which isn't really an answer.
"You're not answering my question," a blogger said, uttering the five words that mark a great political journalist.
"I know," she said, adding that she doesn't consider the blockades being planned -- allegedly -- by other groups "violence."
"That's not what we're planning," she said.
"We worked very hard to make the Day 1 march on the Xcel something that you can bring your family to and you can all come out for the war. And we believe Day 4 is for the truly committed and for the people who really want to see change and expect that to be a little harder to come to than just showing up with the kids and the balloons." (Listen)
That sounds almost militant. Perhaps, too militant, because the other speaker jumped in to spin that answer...
"If people are wondering about Day 4, is it going to be safe, is it going to be OK to bring their families, we would say 'yes.' I think the more the better."
A few minutes later, however, she said militant might mean that "people face a little more risk by coming down." (Listen)
After saying there wouldn't be any "sit-ins" or "die-ins," that led us back to the question of how the second protest is more militant than the first? "I would say if people have questions, they should get in contact with us," she said.
She said people should go to an organizing committee meeting to find out what the protest is going to look like.
(h/t: Tom Weber)(5 Comments)
When students go to school via "online courses," how do you know they're actually going to school -- virtually speaking, that is?
You don't, according to this Friday's edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. So Congress is about to pass changes to the Higher Education Act that allows "distance-education" schools to more closely monitor what their "students" are up to. The stated concern is the schools want to be sure the person passing a test, for example, is actually the student getting the credit for doing so.
But some college officials are wary of the technologies, noting that they are run by third-party vendors that may not safeguard students' privacy. Among the information the vendors collect are students' fingerprints, and possibly even images from inside their homes.
"This is taking a step into a student's private life," said Rhonda M. Epper, co-executive director of Colorado Community Colleges Online. "I don't know if we want to extend our presence that far."
One of the biometrics systems being considered to identify students works only on Windows, not Macs.
(H/T: Corrie Bergeron via Twitter)(3 Comments)