US Presidential Election is Disappointing (At Least Today)

Ok. I’ve got to admit this. American politics is so much frustrating recently. Over the last six months, when a bunch of candidates decided to joint the campaign trail, what we often see is unabashed pompous speeches, be it from the left and the right. Donald Trump remains one of the top contenders from Republicans while Bernie Sanders seems to keep on boasting that he will drag the country to the far left direction, following the step the of the Nordic countries.

I was just amazed to see how successful these guys in capitalizing popularity by pushing through their extreme position. It seems that, the more the candidates exploit bluntly the ‘politically incorrect’ remarks, the more votes they get (“I’ll ban all Muslim travel to US,” “deport all rapist Mexicans out of state,” and so forth) At first, I thought their candidacy is a joke and their popularity will get down as the campaign trail proceeds. That’s also the case when reading how pundits and the media sneered them initially. Yet, as the Iowa Caucus draws to close, they both remain the front-runner in Republican and Democrat (you can see the latest report here).

Albeit I tend to think that their popularity is tentative (the support form the parties’ elites and donors cannot be ruled out), but seeing how the kind of extreme views can drive the nation are worrisome. They both reflect how Americans split along ideological lines. There must be something’s going on. One plausible answer might have to do with the rising inequality. Or how ‘unsuccessful’ immigrants create a sense of bitterness among the middle-class.

Will they actually be the nominees? I am not sure. But following closely the US election this year gives me some comparable insights with country like Indonesia. American politics is no exception from the demagogues. The voters who in favor of political extremism might be minority. But as Paul Krugman’s rightly points out, they are fairly big minority. These big-minority voters could be even more outrageous when fueled by outrage politicians.

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Independent Study

It’s been awhile since my last post. I planned on updating this blog weekly, if not, twice monthly. Yet I blogless over the past three months. Apparently I have lack of enthusiasm to write something on my part. As always, grad school-thingy is the pretext for not taking care of this blog.

The semester has been fairly busy. I took two in-class courses and two non-class courses. Pretty reasonable for a 3rd semester student like me. The non-class courses (we call it independent study and research hours) allowed me to work on a topic of my interest. To be eligible for these courses, I was supposed to pick a professor with whom I shared similar research interests, then proposing my research topic. And predicated upon his approval, if he thinks the topic makes sense, he and I would design our regular meeting throughout the semester. The professor would explicate how he expected me to work, including how frequent the newly-written draft be submitted to him.

I didn’t expect the classes would be so much overwhelm. Being required to submit a draft once a week was such a strain. This is partly because you may find yourself really have nothing to say in one week or two. Alas, given the semester is relatively short, you might want to spend one week to work on the literatures, and another week on, say, method, before you feel certain about what you’re doing. So one week one draft was quite an effort, let alone I have to work on my coursework as well.

But I managed to go through as I noticed the professor won’t be willing to meet prior the draft being submitted. And by the end of this semester, these non-class courses, particularly independent study, turned out to be a blast. The professor indeed took my research seriously and set a pretty high bar for his standard. Before taking these classes, I’ve actually had a rather fixed question to be explored, and had a kind of approach to answer the question. Nonetheless, talking closely (and deeply) to a professor really helped to ground me in. He spotted any flaws in the logic, and re-directed my question to be more relevant.

The output was a working paper, which, I think, rather qualified to be submitted at conferences in my field. And I unwittingly intended to submit this paper for my capstone project next Spring, something I didn’t expect at the beginning. I am pleased to finish earlier what could be one of the most hurdles in my program. I just need to take three more courses and do readings for comprehensive exam next semester to graduate.

By the way, my friends and I will do a trip to Pennsylvania tomorrow. We rent a car and plan to bring our own stuff to make it more frugal. Traveling across the US is indeed expensive, and it will choke your pocket more if you are a poorly-funded student like me.