Thursday, December 30, 2004

What is un biased?

I came across this quote from Andrew O'hehir's new book about the New York Times recent reporting scandals, which defines cleverly what is often (falsely) considered inpartiality as "a point of perpetual, semi-neutral waffledom, halfway across the infinitesimal distance between Joe Lieberman and John McCain." Lately it seems a news organization acts rampantly biased in the style of a Fox News and still disingenuously claim to be unbiased, or it hides behind a tradition of respectability like "the paper of record" does while reporting based on their own skewed sense of what is impartial. (For instance, Howell Raines' Times relentless pursuit of the Whitewater non-scandal). A paper like the Times can hide its clear partiality behinds its relatively small newspaper font and stately masthead, but neutrality is not achieved merely by trying to appear neutral.

Friday, December 17, 2004

France can be funny!

My family used to have this hilarious CD by the comedian--or more accurately, comic singer, but is that a job title?--named Alan Sherman. He wrote funny lyrics to the tune of well-known songs and melodies. As I was reminiscing about my stay in Paris with my parents--which is all that I ever do nowadays!--I recalled a cleverly hilarious song Sherman wrote called "You Went the Wrong Way Old King Louis," about Louis XVI. Alright here are the lyrics to said song. Read them all; they're a riot:

Louis the Sixteenth was the King of France in 1789.
He was worse than Louis the Fifteenth.
He was worse than Louis the Fourteenth.He was worse than Louis the Thirteenth.
He was the worst since Louis the First.

King Louis was living like a king, but the people were living rotten.
So the people, they started an uprising which they called the French Revolution, and of course you remember their battle cry, which will never be forgotten:

You went the wrong way, Old King Louie.
You made the population cry.
'Cause all you did was sit and pet
With Marie AntoinetteIn your place at Versailles.

And now the country's gone kablooie.
So we are giving you the air.
That oughta teach you not to
Spend all your time fooling 'round
At the Folies Bergere.

If you had been a nicer king,
We wouldn't do a thing,
But you were bad, you must admit.
We're gonna take you and the Queen
Down to the guillotine,
And shorten you a little bit.

You came the wrong way, Old King Louie.
And now you ain't got far to go.
Too bad you won't be here to seeThat great big Eiffel Tower,
Or Brigitte Bardot.

To you King Louie we say fooey.
You disappointed all of France.
But then what else could we expect
From a king in silk stockings
And pink satin pants.

You filled your stomach with chop suey.
And also crepe suzettes and steak.
And when they told your wife Marie
That nobody had bread, she said "Let 'em eat cake."

We're gonna take you and the Queen
Down to the guillotine,
It's somewhere in the heart of town.
And when that fella's through,
With what he's gonna do,
You'll have no place to hang your crown.

You came the wrong way Old King Louie.
Now we must put you on the shelf.
That's why the people are revolting, 'cause Louie,
You're pretty revolting yourself!

For some reason, I really find this line funny: "We're gonna take you and the Queen, Down to the guillotine, It's somewhere in the heart of town." I just like that they don't know where the guillotine is. The rest of the song is just incredibly clever.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Just an addendum to my last post. I guess there has been a repsonse to He's Just not that Into You. An excerpt from an article about the book on Salon:

Ian Kerner, a sex therapist and the author of "She Comes First," will publish a response to HJNTIY in February. "Be Honest: You're Not That Into Him Either!" will be released by HarperCollins' ReganBooks. Kerner, 38 and married, acknowledged the fundamental truth of the original book's message, but said it's presented in deeply flawed ways. Kerner objects to Behrendt and Tuccillo's advice about not making phone calls or being aggressive. "It's like they're telling us to sit back pulling petals off daisies: He's into me, he's not into me..."


"[The book] felt so prescriptive and so goddamn cocky and like such a simplistic view of life and love," Kerner said. "Any relationship comes down to two people and backgrounds and context and how they meet, and to reduce it to a set of rules ... There's something insidious about it ... It is disempowering and a lot like "The Rules," and it sort of leaves all the power with the guys." As a sex therapist, Kerner said, he finds that both genders fall "prey to complexities and vulnerabilities, and men wonder how to be masculine and what to do. So I would hate for a woman to read that book and think that any guy that doesn't call simply isn't into her. In some cases it might be true but definitely not always."

Why I'm not so into 'He's Just Not Into You'

On it's face, the new "flying-off-the-shelves" book by two "Sex in the City" writers, Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo He's Just Not That Into You seems a wake-up call to all self-deluding women (most of us) about the relationships that we overanalyze to death. I have not read the book but have read several articles about it, and the message is anything but subtle: the relationship or fling or crush that you are over-analyzing, often in your favor ("well he might just be to intimidated to call me") is just not interested. It makes sense. Guys, we are told, aren't complex, as one of them replied to me at a party once when I claimed not to understand them, "we're simple people." Women, the conventional wisdom goes, are the ones who make everything complex, read into things, overthink. Lately, there has even been what I call an over-analyzing backlash. I have wrung my hands over this tendency as much as the next girl, until I figured out that the reason that females engage in this practice is not because we're crazy or neurotic but because men are hard to predict (human beings are hard to predict!). Thus, if for some reason, we are interested in someone who, as is now revealed to us, has been "just not that into" us we anxiously use every sign to gauge his committment-level: see over-analyzing is not some weird thing that girls do, it's an evolutionary response, as legitimate as any other (if we subscribe to the idea that girls are most concerned about finding someone who will committ).

This is my problem with He's Just Not That Into You, however: while it claims to be freeing women from that agonizing spiral of over-analysis, it puts a new and perhaps even more self-conscious phrase into our head, the phrase, "he's just not that into you." As a woman quoted in one of the articles that I've read about the book said, why can't the title to book 'You're Just Not that Into Him?' See, the problem with Behrendt and Tuccillo's approach is that while it claims to take the pressure off the girl--to encourage her to drop the guy who's just not that into her as soon as she detects it--it still suggests that she try to interpret the relationship by trying to read the guy's every moves. Now, however, it's in the name of figuring out as quick as possible how not into you he is.

Here is how I propose Behrendt and Tuccillo could make this book well-meaning instead of just gimmicky: advise a woman to estabish her priorities--are they to go out with a guy who a lot of women find attractive but who maybe isn't that committed (some women find that attractive)?; is it to go out with a guy who will committ? What is it that we want? Or does it even matter, really, especially if we're only in our 20s? (Lord knows guys aren't advised to establish what it is they want). Anyway, my main point is, there must be more talk of what a woman thinks and not how she can detect what a man thinks. Then maybe we will see books written with a title as equally applicable to the modern world of relationships as Behrendt's and Tuccillo's: She's Just not that Into You.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Just so I make clear that I am not aloof to the politics of my host country, I want to note the recent election of Nicolas Sarkozy to the position of party head of the main center-right party in France, the UMP. I'll tell you one thing and maybe the only thing that I really like about Sarkozy thus far: that he challenges President Jacques Chirac, even if some of it is a show to get his backers energized--and there are a lot of them, as he is the most popular politician in France right now. The U.S.'s UMP equivalent, the Republican party (well of course, the GOP is more extreme right and the UMP and the GOP obviously disagree on several foreign policy issues, like Iraq) suppresses discord in the party as much as possible. Thus, when I hear people get enthusiastic about the possibility of a McCain or a Giuliani nomination for president in '08, I have to feel bad for their enthusiasm because the Republicans under Bush aren't letting a prominent moderate have any say in running the government and they sure aren't going to let a moderate win the S. Carolina primary or even the Iowa primary in '08. Meanwhile, here in France, Nicolas Sarkozy continues to keep Chirac and PM Jean-Pierre Raffarin on their toes, and even though I may not agree with the guy too often, at least the UMP has multiple power brokers.

U.S. Government to Ukraine: Don't run your elections like we do

The standoff in the Ukraine over the presidential election has been an incredible display of citizens rallying for fair elections, or maybe just for their "Viktor Y." to win. All the same, watching each candidate's supporters on the news, especially Yuschenko's is incredible. A country with such concerned citizens deserves a fair election.

This, of course, is what the Western European countries and the U.S. are demanding, but as the recent U.S. presidential election was mired with unfair voting conditions and partisan election officials like the Secretary of State for Ohio (and lest we forget the most infamous partisan of them all, Katherine Harris of Florida from Election 2000), the government lacks much credibility in its urgings that the Ukraine have a new election, even if these recommendations are correct.

This article goes through all of the problems in Ohio, such as the heavy shortage of voting machines in urban precincts when additonal machines were more than available in that county's board of elections office and the Republican-fielded election chargers who went out to heavily Democratic precincts to challenge voters, remniscent of the poll tests (and taking a cue from the Chief Justice of the United States', William Rehnquist's tactics in Arizona many years ago). So it's time the U.S. Republicans stopped talking out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to valuing the right to vote.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The Jerk

At the inauguration of former President Bill Clinton's new presidential library, George W. Bush tried to push his way in front of Clinton, even though the protocol was (and decorum would dictate) that Clinton to walk out first. Our current president, what a guy. Bush also reportedly uttered this musing about the library that next to the Arkansas River: "a submarine could take this place out." What??

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Line 14

I enjoy ticking off things while I'm here in Paris, that is, keeping track of what I have done. So far, I have been to 18 of the twenty arrondissements and taken nearly every Metro line.

I was at first appalled and later delighted at my most recent Metro line addition: Line 14. Line 14 is basically an underground monorail, so there is no train driver, and the inside of the train cars are the most spacious of any of the lines. Furthermore, there are only 8 stops on the train (compared to what seems like 50 stops on line 7), and the train speeds underground. Because of Line 14, I was able to get from the 16th Arrondissment on the West of Paris to the Bibliotheque Francaise-Francois Mitterand in the 13th, on the East side of Paris in 35 minutes. To quote Larry David, pretty, pretty, pretty good.

At first I thought that Line 14 was frivolous and somewhat defiant of other Metro lines. First of all, there just seems to be too much space in the car. I have gotten used to being crammed up next to my other vacant-eyed Metro compatriots, the concept of personal space withering away from my memory. Line 14 seems to acknowledge, however, that more space can be afforded to Metro riders. I don't know about that.

Also, like I said, there are only 8 stops on the Metro. If you need to go to Pyramides or Bercy, you're in luck, but want to get anywhere on the Left Bank--no Line 14 for you! It seems to both discriminate against Left Bankers or Left Bank destinationers. Still, a friend made a good point: it goes through several key Metro hubs in Paris, so even if you're not necessarily getting off at Gare de Lyon, you can transfer at Gare de Lyon and get there a lot faster than if you were taking Line 1 from La Defense.

Okay, clearly I'm a little too well-versed in le system Metro, so I'll sign off and admit that I have begun to plan ways to take the Line 14 as much as possible. What a gem!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Bush Lackeys "Steering" the Ship

So, with the mass exile of cabinet secretaries from the Bush administration and Bush's subsequent appointments of replacements, we are starting to get a general idea of what Bush wants of his second term cabinet secretaries and its exactly what he wanted of his first termers: the euphemism (though I still think it has a negative connotation) is loyalty, it really is lackeyism or cronyism. Condoleeza Rice, once rumored to have a somewhat reasonable, diplomacy-centered approach in fact proved to be I suppose the term is "hawkish" but most of all an unabashed defender of things that turned out not to be factual but that were nonetheless advanced by the Bush administration, especially the non-connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Quaeda.

Porter Goss is another example of a crony who appears to have obtained his job by sucking up to GW Bush. He is in the middle of a semi-purge of the CIA and has brought in some of his buddies and given them new posts.

Of course, any official, when given the chance, will to a certain degree be comfortable appointing people he knows and likes; however, the problem with Bush is that he and his administration have ignored or tried to affect truthful reporting on the part of agencies that are supposed to have a good amount of independence from the president, and every agency, should have that, especially the CIA. The last administration that appeared this bent on loyalty was the Nixon Administration, and we know what turned out from that. Hopefully there aren't enemies' lists being compiled with enemies the likes of Paul Newman.


My friend forwarded me a great article that, frankly, emphasized something so painfully obvious that it eludes most people, including me, until now: presidential candidates almost wholly ignore Urban America.

Now, I think a lot of this has to do with our electoral college system, which renders it crucial that a candidate get a majority of votes in a state (rather than try to accumulate votes across the U.S. through popular vote, which would make it more efficient to do as much urban campaigning as possible). Still, it can't be ignored that urban areas go strongly for Democrats and rural and "exurb" areas, well, don't. It also can't be ignored that the Republican party sometimes subtly but usually indiscreetly denigrates urban America, despite the cities' contribution to America's GDP, its tax base, its dynamism and culture, etc. etc. and so on.

Now, I understand that people who live in less dense areas won't see the benefit of taxes for social programs, mass transit, city cleaning crews, etc. the way people who live in urban or certain suburban areas do, but unfortunately, the people out in many of those sprawled suburbs and the southern and western rural areas get back more taxes than they give in the form of government programs and infrastructure (think roads, lots of roads) so those people down south and in certain western states are complaining like ingrates. As the article that I have quoted pointes out,

While red-state voters like to complain about "tax-and-spend liberals," red states are hopelessly dependent on the largess of the federal government to prop up their dwindling rural population. Red states like North Dakota, New Mexico, Mississippi, Alaska, West Virginia, Montana, Alabama, South Dakota, and Arkansas top the list of federal spending per dollar of federal taxes paid. And who's paying the most? Blue states. Cities--and states dominated by their cities. Welfare states, in contrast, demand federal money to fund wasteful roads to nowhere.

Not that I think this has much of a chance, but it would be great if Congressmen gave these people their wish: tax them less but redistribute the taxes that we urban and semi-urban people pay to benefit US. I call it the Voluntary Taxation for Ingrates plan. Of course, I don't want to exclude anyone in less populated areas who sees the benefit in keeping our air clean, our forests alive, maybe having better national train transport so we can journey from those rural areas to the cities and back, you all can come along! But the rural areas in the South and West, those that tend to offer the least, well, I wonder what they would think if they went without the revenues of productivity that comes from those of us who live in "Gomorrah." As my friend put it "Cities!"

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Ladies and Gentlemen, the 44th President of the United States

So this was the candidate that several million people propelled to victory, seeing him as a man of values.

(I think the "one finger salute" is the only salute Bush knows).
In other words, nothing has changed. Mr. Bush's victory onTuesday was not based on his demonstrated competence inoffice or on a litany of perceived successes. For all thetalk about values that we're hearing, the president ran acampaign that appealed above all to voters' fears andprejudices. He didn't say he'd made life better for theaverage American over the past four years. He didn't say hehad transformed the schools, or made college more care to the sick and vulnerable.
-Bob Herbert

Well, first of all, I will admit to my Election Day predictions being wrong. I think this is too bad.

Secondly, I will admit that I was quite depressed by Bush's reelection, and I still am disappointed in it, realizing all that it may portend, but I will say this: none of us know what is going to happen in the next four years.

Unlike some, who logically figure that it is in Bush's best interest to reach out to a divided electorate and an alienated group of international allies, I believe he will not even try, as he has never shown any interest in doing so in the past. He lost the popular vote (and likely the electoral vote) in the 2000 election and proceeded to act as if he had a mandate; in this election he won with a slight majority of the vote. He even declared, as a someone of his pettiness would, "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style." This is not the voice of a man who seeks to unite a fractured world, as Senator Kerry gracefully urged him to. This is the voice of a man determined to get his way.

When I think of the great leaders of our country, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, I realize that they all united our country in times of upheaval and crisis. Of course, there were still struggles, nothing is perfect, we cannot imagine a utopia of national unity, but as we try to figure out the 2004 election in its aftermath, it is clear that the victories came at the expense of national unity. We have one political party that is determined to use prejudice and base fear to drive people to the polls and ultimately vote for economic and foreign policies against their interest.

As for what to do now, I am not going to leave the U.S. (unless for some reason circumstances take me abroad) once I get back there in December. More than 55 million people came out to vote for John Kerry, lots of races where Democrats, often challengers, ran against Republicans in "Red" states, came very close, and the Democrats have just begun to mobilize and coordinate our activist groups and so on. Plus, more of the country agrees with us on the issues. We cannot abandon a country with core values as the ones that the Constitution was founded upon, and we cannot let a group of fear-baiters defile the Constitution (or perhaps, at least motivate people to vote for defiling the Constitution--I think the Republicans are more interested in passing their economic agenda than their social agenda).

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Alright, just a short word about the election. My prediction is that Kerry will win. Now, to analyze my prediction objectively, I will say that I have read mostly material that is favorable towards Kerry and I do try to tune out positive indicators for Bush. However, it seems that the Democrats have done great job with voter turnout, I have been told pollsters do not call cell phones--a voting demographic that is supposedly Democratic, and that undecideds tend to favor the challenger 3 to 1. However, everything is up in the air. I think Americans really do want a positive change, and I think Kerry has done an effective job in the last few weeks with associating himself with this ideal. I do hope there are no severe voting problems, but one positive to all of this talk about there being voting issues: I think there have always been problems with voting, but the fortuitous aspect of the 2000 election (and there are very few of these!) is that it really attuned our country to monitoring our votes. It seems like people are already much more prepared for everything from mundane technical difficulties to outright denial of voting rights than they have been in awhile. Cheers to that!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Two Horses of the Apocalypse: My Strange Dreams and What in the Hell they Might Mean

A few things about my sleep patterns here in Paris, for anyone who is curious, and I know that that one person lurks somewhere out there.

Typically, I have a profuse amount of incredibly vivid dreams before and after waking up somewhere around 4 or 5 in the morning and laying in bed awake for an hour. Sometimes I dream about certain aspects of my day. One night for instance, after taking the Paris Metro home late and voyeuristically eyeing a young couple bidding their prolonged adieus, I dreamt about said couple and their domestic life. I do not remember the details of this dream to well, except a picture of the two of them standing in a kitchen.

I have a couple recurring dreams as well. One involves me somehow landing on the Metro railroad tracks. I used to have this dream back in Chicago too, although the tracks in those dreams were often elevated to frightening heights, since Chicago's CTA is an elevated system. Well, in my Metro-related dreams, I usually land on the tracks not by falling unintentionally but by some sort of intentional and logical process. I never get run over or even see a train either. The Chicago railroad track dreams have been more perilous: one time I was hanging on to a pole for dear life as the wind nearly blew me off the platform.

The other recurring dream is framed around me returning to Chicago after my stay in Paris. Since I have had this dream since relatively early into my stay here, my time in Paris has always seemed short. I had the dream again last night and marvelled at how the abroad stay flew by.

A last dream, also from last night, involved me as a passenger in a speeding car on Lake Shore Drive, following behind two horse and buggy rides--the kind that one sees chauffering tourists around Michigan Avenue and surroundings--, in neighboring lanes, speeding down the Drive.

My "Semi-charmed Life," to Lamely Quote Third Eye Blind

Tonight's plan has been to lock myself in my room with the intention of researching away for my health policy project. When I'm at Northwestern, and when I'm here as well, my night feels empty if the only plan is to study. In the U.S., if I have a club meeting, plans for going out somewhere, or selling tickets at our school's cinema and watching the subsequent movie, well, I feel much more motivated work around these plans, even if I end up putting the work off in the end since I'm not one for late nights by the books (must get eight hours of sleep).

Unfortunately, living with a French host family offers no distractions. Snacking is out, because, well there are no snacks (plain bread, anyone?), I have given up on television for lack of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and also because I feel sort of guilty watching some channel that I'm not really interested in when I should be working, and, I have no internet to distract me, as I have no constant internet connection, rather I must sneak into my host brother's room and use it, so I feel like I shouldn't be doing that either. Though I do.

Don't feel too bad for me though. The reason I have planned to work so industriously tonight is because I went to a concert last night (great time) and have a wine tasting tomorrow plus, I leave for a weekend trip to Austria on Thursday. Yes, I've seen worse days.

Friday, October 22, 2004

...We're elated to see the Cards victorious tonight. Now we won't have to endure a final week of campaign coverage that's chock-full of annoying Massachusetts-vs.-Texas baseball metaphors. The best metaphorical part being, of course, that Team Bush has already lost.

I didn't even consider this horrible possibility!!

Monday, October 18, 2004

What's it all about Alfie?

So, I really want to see the remake of the film Alfie. Jude Law plays the title character, originally played by Michael Caine. Maybe it's the idea of Jude Law as a womanizer that piques my interest. Herein also lies the problem with many females: the idea of an attractive, male womanizer is as much a turn-on as it is a turn-off for us, I will argue. The attractiveness of the womanizer is similar to the attractiveness of the latest trend: everyone wants it, because everyone else wants it. When was it first wanted? Well, in Jude Law's case, probably when he hit puberty, but in the case of Kate Spade bags, probably when some marketing executive figured out that it's not that hard to sell bland purses to yuppies and rich high school girls for a pretty penny, as long as the name remains "exclusive" and the price high.

I digress. As I said above, I understand how a Jude Law could be a womanizer, but it's also true that there has been many a homely man who can get away with womanizers. I will propose two reasons for this: (1) The women are equally as homely or (2) The said womanizer is incredibly confident, to the point of being cocky. (Also, I apologize for my tone regarding "homely" people, which could be interpreted as insensitive; in fact, I will only defend myself by saying that the culture of womanization is a culture concerened with superficialities. I know, this is a weak excuse. I guess I'm just insensitive). When does it come to Paris, I would like to know?? I mean the character of Alfie could just as credibly be French, so I think it will do pretty well in a country where adultery is almost an institution. (Not that this deadly sin eludes other peoples!).

Classic womanizer (what d-bags they are!)

Also, hopefully the film's theme song, "Alfie," by Burt Bacharach will be featured in the 2004 remake. Sure, it dates the film, but if you want to touch a 1970s film, you gotta live its song--and there's always a song in '70s films!
So on that note, here's a little reflection on thefundamental shortcoming of the Alfie Male, courtesty of the brilliant Bacharach:
And if only fools are kind, Alfie,then I guess it's wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie, what will you lend on an old golden rule?
...I believe in love, Alfie.Without true love we just exist, Alfie.
Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Just have to include this quote, because I find it pretty funny:

Bush, presiding over a deeply divided country, mired in a disastrous war that he misled us into, offers only a bad Reagan imitation. Which could, in fact, describe his entire presidency.

October for Bush has been a slippery slide

I have to admit, I am quite surprised at where the U.S. finds itself today--not so much in regards to the high unemployment rate or the escalating violence and terrorism that the Iraq war has precipitated; here, unfortunately I think myself and many other Americans have become accustomed to the constant bad news--rather, I am surprised to find that the presidential candidate who is saying the smarter things about how to resolve these problems is gaining headway.

Indeed, in all three debates, it appears that Americans have overwhelmingly favored John Kerry. As a candidate, I find that Kerry has come into his own through these discourses. As for Bush, no longer can he ride high on the coattails of his predecessor's legacy of economic growth as he did in 2000. Back then, he enjoyed the luxury of an American public that was in the midst of a strong economy and relatively tranquil foreign policy situation and unending media barrages about the Clinton "scandal," using it to suggest that America was facing a crisis in moral leadership that would be resolved if he were in office. Many of us not realizing how great we had it in the 90s, especially the Ken Starrs and Newt Gingriches who earned a nice wage by conducting a witchhunt against our President, gave Bush a reasoned hearing and found what he said appealing.

Now Bush is without these luxuries, and he must to face a referendum on his leadership. He had a much easier time attacking Clinton and Gore's leadership than he has defending his own, thus he resorts to Republican epithets that only a young, neo-con could love. I wonder if others find it as off-putting as I do when Bush calls Kerry a "tax and spend liberal." Kerry's simple yet pointed response to this tired line in the second debate was to say that such labels don't mean anything. It would be much more useful if Bush would respond with why he disagrees with his opponent, but maybe he doesn't have a good reason, or maybe he thinks the U.S. public should just be targeted with stylized talking points.

In 2000, George W. Bush promised he would be a new kind of Republican, a "compassionate convservative," " a uniter, not a divider." These campaign themes implicitly acknowledged that the Republian party's image needed changing: the rabidly anti-Clinton, anti-social justice mentality that characterized the Gingrichian Republicans of the 1990s needed to be shed if a Republican were to win the White House. George Bush and Karl Rove knew this in 2000, but they seem to have forgotten it in 2004, probably because Bush was never a compassionate conservative and never intended on being one, nor was he a uniter. Now that we have concrete proof of this, well, Bush's defenses are meager, and Kerry's criticisms are resounding widely with Americans.

For more information on instances in the debates when the arguments that Bush has asserted have been wrong, visit For example, check out the truth behind the false claim that Kerry has voted to raise taxes 98 times.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Stage Three: Increasing Irritation Stage

When the study abroad office held a big meeting last quarter to prepare all of the students going abroad for the following year, I remember sort of admiring them for making a potentially very dull meeting only somewhat dull. What most piqued my interest during this meeting however was not the provisions on how to get requirements for your abroad classes back at Northwestern, nor was it the speech made by the girl who used her abroad experience to get a fellowship (yawwwn), rather, it was this chart that they presented entitled "The Common Stages of Cultural Adjustment."

The introduction on the Common Stages of Cultural Adjustment starts, "studies have shown that when people move to a foreign country, they generally experience a series of emotional stages that fall into a well documented pattern." Then it lists six stages: 1. Pre-departure stage, 2. Honeymoon/Spectator Stage, 3. Increasing Irritation Stage-"Culture Shock!" (cute, eh?) 4. Adaptation Stage 5. Return Anxiety Stage 6. Biculturalism Stage. I found these psychological stages and their subsequent descriptions pretty interesting and sort of humorous. When I got to Paris this fall, I recalled the Common Stages of Cultural Adjustment when I started to miss something about the states and wondered whether my knowledge of these stages would make them a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anyway, I think I am beginning to see the viability of this chart. For instance, right now I have been experiencing symptoms of Stage Three, the "Culture Shock!" stage: disenchantment, hostility, irriation. Just like the hypothetical events that accompany this stage suggest, "lots of things seem to be going wrong."

For instance, today I went to the library to try to check out a couple of books for my research paper. I left less one book than I had come with. How does this happen when one goes in with the intention of borrowing two additional books? Well, apparently, I had a book overdue, because books at the Sciences Po library are only allowed to be checked out for one week (thus, my book was six days overdue). My habit of checking out books for three weeks and then three weeks more seemed positively luxurious in comparison. I don't think I have a library fine, but the librarian informed me that he would (a) have to take back my book (b) that I can't check it out for a week or until Friday (I don't know which!) and (c) the use of my library card is suspended for another week. Now if that isn't a by the book example of the "Events" aspect to Stage 3, I don't know what is!

Hmm, let's look at emotional responses now, since I am on a roll: "discouragement"--well I would say this library thing was pretty discouraging, but also, today I had all sorts of time after my trip to the library. My plan was actually to go to the American Library in Paris to see if I could find my books there, until I remember that it's closed on Mondays, thus, discouragement. I toyed with the idea of going to a new park or some other site like the Statue of Liberty, which always cheers me up; nah, I thought, it's too cold, and do I really feel like seeing another site?

And then there's behavioral responses. I'm doing pretty well with the "searching for security in familar activities." For instance, today I decided that I want to start making my lunch before school so I don't have to buy it everday from the cafeteria. I looked specifically for turkey, wonderful turkey. Why hadn't the French caught on to this heart healthy, and I would say tastier alternative to ham? Why is everything jambon, or saucisson, or pate? Sure, all of those are nice, on occasion, but everyday? I also got wheat bread made by a brand called "Harry's" which advertises it's "American bread." In all fairness to myself though, I did buy chocolate covered biscuits, and as I looked up and down the cookie aisle, I thought to myself, wow, the French do have better cookies than we do.

I have to point out one more amusing thing from the description of Stage Three. Their example of the verbal response includes this: "This place sucks! I hate it here. This place and these people are stupid. To make matters worse, my friends at home say the Northwestern football team is doing great and the weather in Evanston is amazing" [emphasis added]. While I think the first part is a bit exaggerated, the second part is true!! It is true! This year, NU has beat both Ohio State and Indiana University, and the weather has supposedly been sunny and in the 70s and 60s for awhile. (Here it's been mostly cloudy and in the low 50s, though I can never find an accurate weather report online). So even though I've never been that into football, so I can't say that would be my first homesick sentiment, I still find it funny that the example has proven true.

Hopefully Stage 4, the Adaptation Stage, is on its way...

Not even one mistake?

When Bush was asked to name three mistakes that he had made in the second, town hall-style debate, it seemed to present him with a chance to invoke his humble, folksy guy routine. However, Bush couldn't even name one mistake, not one. I like this:

One last thought on that "three mistakes" question that Bush ducked.
This is a really basic, standard-issue job interview question that every job-hunting college graduate learns to deal with.

...I was honestly surprised Bush was so obviously unprepared for the question.

...Then I thought about it and realized, gee, George W. Bush is a man who never in his life had to prepare for a real job interview -- one that actually would determine whether he could pay his bills. Maybe he had interviews, but you've got to figure the family name and the pedigree opened the door and sealed the deal. The interview would always have been a formality.

This is a good point as well:
In the course of his answer President Bush said: “Now, you asked what mistakes. I made some mistakes in appointing people, but I'm not going to name them. I don't want to hurt their feelings on national TV.”
I don’t think anybody familiar with this president or this White House can have much doubt about the people he was talking about there.

...In the Bush world you never admit mistakes. The only mistakes the president can think of are the times he appointed people who do admitted mistakes --- who put reality above loyalty to the president.

If I needed to be reminded why Bush needs to be voted out of office in November, his answer to the mistakes question, lacking the most basic element of humility, did the job for me.

The Intelligence That Wasn't: 'Cooking the Books' in the White House

Some of George W. Bush's reasoning, at face value, seems to make sense. He has accused John Kerry of not living up to his original vote to approve the use of force in Iraq if Saddam Hussein didn't comply with weapons inspections when Kerry voted against an 87 billion supplementary. This accusation makes sense at perhaps the most superficial of glances, but falls apart at any deeper questioning. First, just to look at the argument logically: if a congressman simply votes against extra spending, one of Bush's favorite things to demonize, this isn't necessarily a flight from his original position but can be a disagreement with how the money will be spent. This is pretty basic. Furthermore, Kerry's vote in Iraq has conformed to his position towards it in the past, which is that it has been necessary to wave the use of force as a possibility so Saddam will comply with WMD inspections, but it has not been necessary to make use of force the policy of first resort that the Bush administration ended up taking.

Furthermore, when Bush accused Kerry of seeing the same intelligence that Bush had, again, this seems to make sense at face value. In fact, it has been unrelentingly revealed since the Bush administration tried to invade Iraq on the grounds of the intelligence that Colin Powell presented to the UN and that Tony Blair presented in a televised address and the intelligence that Bush alluded to in his 2003 State of the Union Address that much of this intelligence was either doctored or patently wrong. A good, short article about this in Salon.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Is it normal for people from Paris--or people anywhere with television, for that matter--to take their cable box over to their friend's house every night? Because this is what Gregoire does: cable box and remote are detached from the TV and presumably hooked up to a TV at his friend's house.

Friday, October 01, 2004

I think as hard as people try, it won't be easy to spin Bush's performance in last night's debate, as was done in 2000. Score 1 for John Kerry.

Initial Impression of Last Night's Debate

I am currently watching the first debate between Kerry and Bush on NY Times online, and I find, just from the most superficial viewing, that John Kerry has been incredibly cool, while, interestingly, Bush has lost his cool more than a few times. Kerry didn't go over his time limit and he looked very composed and confident. Of course, this is a surface reading of the debate, one worthy of the mainstream media, soI think it's even more important to point out that Bush is using some propoganda points repeatedly as well, especially his insistence that saying Iraq is the "wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place" is conceding defeat ( to play a drinking game to the frequency that Bush uttered this line last night would leave someone falling over by the end of the debate!). Of course, this is a line I expect that the campaign will try to use against Kerry because they think it is a good talking point: takes the offense but has no substantive value to its assertion.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

I have just found The Best Blog Ever

Vanity Fair Critic James Wolcott has a new blog, featuring perceptive comments that are not said often enough, particularly about the anti-Democratic reporting in the media (yes, the American media is no more liberal than Paris Hilton is classy), but also about abounding evidence that Wolf Blitzer is not real and updates on Star Jones' not so humble announcements about her upcoming wedding, which are hilarious! So read this blog at once!

A particular favorite clip from one of Wolcott's entries:

The last thing the country needs is a president who thinks he's too good for the job and doesn't want to get his cuffs dirty.
I don't think Kerry is that man. I don't see any Stevensonian trace of Fonda in him. You don't earn the medals he did in Vietnam by playing Hamlet in the clutch. The people around him--that's a different story. Unlike Bush, Kerry can't delegate his aggression to Cheney, Fox News, and a yapping band of attack poodles; the Democratic party doesn't have that same threshing infrastructure. He has to go it almost alone and run the risk of being too forceful and coming across as "unlikeable" in the eyes of gardening clubs like The Capital Gang. Pundits prefer their Democrats soft and emasculated, it makes them so much
easier to filet.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The following led an article entitled, "Schwarzenegger Governing Like A Democrat":

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger thrilled delegates at the Republican National Convention last month with a thundering affirmation of the party's conservative principles. Back home, though, he has governed more like a Democrat on such issues as gay rights, guns and the environment.

In his first round of bill signings since the end of the legislative session in August, he approved a law requiring health insurance companies to extend to gay partners the same benefits they offer to unmarried heterosexual couples. He allowed the sale of clean needles to slow the spread of AIDS, and he approved an expansion of the state's hate-crimes law to protect transvestites.

To me it sounds like the man is governing like a human being (and sadly, it is generally not a Republican party principle to govern in such a way). Ideally, both parties would share this principle though.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Great Article...

...And I'm not just saying this because the article in question is written by my brother. Read this though, it's hilarious!

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Paris against Province?

Today I went to the Palais Elysee, the residence of the President of France (currently Jacques Chirac). The Palais Elysee is only open once a year, for two days. What is special about these two days? They are when the Journee du patrimoine (Day of Inheritance) occurs. On this weekend, government buildings, monuments, and museums of the countries of Europe are open for the public, all for free vieweing. In Paris, this is a particularly exciting day because government bulidings like the Palais Elysee, the Senat, and the Grand Assemblie are not normally open to the public. The Palais Elysee may be the largest draw of the day. Today I waited about three and a half hours to see selected rooms of its interior. The Epcot Center's Test Track ride at Disney World may be the only thing I've waited for equally as long. Of course, the residence of the president of France is pretty different in nature from a Disney World ride.

Anywhow, the line went quite fast for the most part, mainly because I passed my time by text messaging people and then striking up a conversation with a French man who was originally from outside Paris. As most French people have asked me so far, he posed the question of what I thought of Paris. I told him that I thought that it was a great city (I probably said something silly like "j'adore Paris"), that there was so much living history, so much to see, etc. I said that the history, the style of the grand boulevards, the churces, and so forth, is what makes Paris so different from any city in the United States. This Frenchman then said that he didn't love Paris: that it was crowded, that commutes were too long, and that it was expensive. This is all true (well, my commute is relatively short, but whatever), and to judge how liveable a city like Paris is is an entirely different task then assessing it as a city worth visiting.

Now I should say that I am thoroughly glad to be in Paris right now; the experience here is a welcome change from a pretty predictable life at Northwestern. It is pretty nice not to study at a university that places almost an equal level of importance on extra curricular activities without allowing one an equal amount of time to complete one's exra curricular responsibilities competently, where getting drunk is often a focal point for an evening with friends, and where I'm not out in the 'burbs, even with Evanston being a nicer suburb than most.

There are many things I miss about the U.S., but the above aren't any of them. I hope it doesn't seem as if I'm taking my life in the States for granted, because being abroad is cause for appreciating life at home more than anything else: the many conveniences we are afforded from being Americans--not the least of which is that our language is the second language for most people who learn a language at school--are most realized when one is out of the country and gains a certain perspective on this. When theFrenchman in line with me for the Palais Elysee told me he would rather live somewhere like Nantes, that he could do without the Paris life, it cemented the truth of that matter, which is that like any other city, Paris is a place that is home to thousands upon thousands of people who have to get to work or school everyday, who have to eat and sleep in this grande ville. There is a historical rift between the city of Paris and the rest of the country, the "Province," of which we are learning about in EU class. Places like the Palais Elysee and Hotel Deville are home to just one family; everyone else lives in their more normally-sized apartments, and maybe some of them would like to leave the hustle and bustle of city life for greener pastures.

Friday, September 17, 2004

The best stories from Paris aren't the sights, or the cafes...

They all have to do with my crazy "host brother." Some choice phrases from him that are currently out of context for my audience here,

"Je me couche."
"I want to brush my teeth."
"Neelyoong." [Neil Young]
The toaster oven in the salon instance.
"...est exceptionelle!"

Alright, I love this source of stories. If you ever want me to put any of this nonsense into the proper context, ask me. Mme B. at one point said he was going through "delayed adolesence." Oh Gregoire. Let's pray that none of my French acquaintances, especially my host family, ever reads my blog.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Free Martha!

Man, this is just depressing. If Martha has to serve, why aren't Ken Lay or Andrew Fastow doing their hard time?

Stewart asks to serve sentence soon
By Erin McClam
Sept. 15, 2004 New York --
Millionaire executive Martha Stewart announced Wednesday that she had decided to begin her prison sentence for lying about a stock trade as soon as possible. "I must reclaim my good life," she said, adding she hoped to be home in time to plant a spring garden.

Let Martha grow her garden!

Monday, September 13, 2004

Oversimplification of the Day...

...From a member of the international press:

The attractive, witty and affluent elite who support John Kerry cannot bear the idea that the overweight, dull and impecunious commoners of Middle America will give Bush a second term.

Now I'm not saying as a Kerry supporter that I am offended at being classified as "attractive, witty and affluent," (of course me as an elite is pretty milk-streaming-out-of-your-nose laughable, so I won't even include that word in the quote) if the tone wasn't so snide and if the article wasn't so totally unresearched. I cite it to point out that this is the sort of article that is sadly characteristic of what passes for political analysis these days in our ever softer world of the "soft science" of politics.

Why London is the Most Entertaining Political Capitol

This is self-explanatory. There's nothing more I need say, except to clip excerpts from this article:

LONDON - A campaigner dressed as Batman, from the fathers' rights group that pelted Prime Minister Tony Blair with flour-filled condoms, caused a major security breach on Monday as he scaled the front of Buckingham Palace.
The campaign group Fathers 4 Justice said police had threatened to shoot a would-be accomplice who was dressed as comic hero Batman's sidekick Robin.
"Police threatened to shoot Robin unless he got down from the fence -- which we think is unacceptable because this is a peaceful, non-violent protest. But Batman was able to continue."

Read all about it.

I hope something like this happens this weekend when the residence of the president of France--among many other civic buildings--is open for the public for two days, but only if it is as harmless as flourless condoms. There, that is my way of tying this fun in with my stay in Paris.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

In today's New York Times, journalist John Broder glorifies dirty campaigning saying

It just seems that the Republicans are, today at least, more adept at the black art of attack politics, according to historians and flummoxed Democratic partisans.

Broder wastes too much vocabulary when it would simply be more accurate and more expedient to say that the Republicans are just bigger assholes.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


Yes, I went to one here in Paris, and I would like to repent. Still, I think the fact that it is cheap is one point in the fast food chain's favor. The fact that the fries here are worse than the fries in the States is one point against. The special "frites" sauce is another point for McDo, as they call it. If the restaurant were not frequented by Europeans, it would not be here, though I know the American tourists do like McDo as well. That is my sorry defense. Also, I had pangs of homesickness that could only be cured by McDonalds fries. Now I'm ready for more pain au jambon et fromage and crepes au confiture.

Oh, and I will wait at least one month to go to Starbucks; after all, I do really like the French Cafe Creme.

Unnecessary Animosity Towards the French

I was doing an interesting search today, the details of which I will not get into, but I found this incredibly vapid commentary that basically characterizes the French (and seemingly many other foreigners) as removed to the point that they would exploit the events of September 11. The writer suggests that the book Windows on the World by Frédéric Beigbeder exemplifies the attitude of all of France towards the attacks--

The disdain this man - and most of his countrymen - must have for Americans is beyond the grasp of my imagination. Is it jealousy that would make someone take such an event in history and saturate it with sex stories?

Of course, the way he deduces that "the disdain of this man" (regardless of whether Beigbeder really has disdain towards the U.S.--I haven't read the book) must mean the disdain of every person in the country towards the U.S. is quite baseless.

Although I have only been in France for a bit more than a week and am hardly an expert on the French viewpoint (which of course is as diverse amongst the countrymen as are such viewpoints in any country), it seems that this article represents the wistful thinking of the author, who wants to cast the U.S. as a victim of an inconsiderate world ignorant of terrorism (hardly the case, when one consider that in terms of airport security, for instance, European countries like France were much better prepared and defended in the event of an attempted attack than the U.S.). I don't know why a group of Americans likes to believe that the French hate them, but it seems a worthless exercise to me and one founded in little more than baseless logic.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Paris Metro...

Best train station name: Chatelet
Worst train station name: Gare du Nord (so boring guys, come on!!)

Russian-Germans are Sexy

Remember when Grace Kelly became Princess Grace of Monacco (okay, I honestly don't) or when, say, you met someone at school who was of some really exciting, exotic ethnic background, say half Senalgalese and half Chilean (i don't know!)?

I've always wanted to be one of those people who gets oohed and ahhed at over their ethnicity, and I've always found it sort of interesting the way some ethnicities are romanticized and others, well...aren't.

For instance, there is a student in my program here at the Sciences Po ecole in Paris who is French-Brazillian. When people found that out, they were impressed. Part of the reason I was lured to this crazy city was my romanticization of the French people--beautiful language, style--a romantic ethnicity.

Unfortunately, I can't show-off with my own descent. Wouldn't it be great if my Russian-German ethnicity was the kind that was exciting and mysterious to people? In fact, wouldn't that be funny? Yes, I think that would be very funny if my exotic Russian-German background was one day a hot commodity in the ethnicity department. For now, I will just have to hope I can marry the Prince of Monaaco.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Only Modern Art

Here is a little report from gay Pah-ree:
Today I went to the Centre de Georges Pompidou, which houses a modern art museum on the top floors. While the museum had a solid early-20th century collections, including some of my favorites, Picasso, Matisse, and Dali, they're late 20th century collection was pretty non-stimulating to me, except for one video piece. On one side of the room, a projector showed a film in English about racial problems and on the other side of the room, an image of a guy in a bear costume trouncing through the forest was being narrated in German. It was bizarre and strangely realxing at the same time.

Liberal Media? Nah.

Sometimes the best way to put today's political press coverage in perspective is to contrast it with how an identical event was covered in the very near past. Take the New York Times' coverage of the Republican and Democratic conventions. The morning after the Democratic Convention concluded, the Times published two Page One stories: a straight news piece about Sen. John Kerry's address, and a separate analysis of the themes of the speech. Today, following the Republican Convention, the Times does the same: a news piece on President Bush's address, as well as an analysis. But for the Republicans, there's a bonus dispatch, a valentine of a report ("Buoyed G.O.P. Says It Has Framed Agenda for Fall") on how "confident" and "optimistic" Republican strategists were celebrating their convention, convinced they had "framed the debate for the fall" and "had succeeded in raising significant doubts" about their opponent...
The full article.

Friday, September 03, 2004

I am in Paris now, so unfortunately I cannot read as much about American politics as before, but I found this article about John Kerry's new, well-timed counteroffensive on Bush-Cheney interesting. I recommend this article, especially for the anxious Democrat!

Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is nothing more than another example of Rove's tactic of using surrogates to do his candidate's dirty work and there is a clear, bright line running from the current headlines back to Texas.

Here's the article.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Looks like the anger over the Bush campaign's ad trumpeting the Iraq Olympic soccer team as a triumph of their Iraq war has not died down.

"Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign," [Iraq soccer player Salih] Sadir told through a translator, speaking calmly and directly. "He can find another way to advertise himself."

Now the U.S. Olympic Committee has asked the Bush campaign to stop what seems to be an incredibly arrogant and presumptuous ad. I have to wonder if the campaign innocently and delusionally created this ad or whether they knew that the Iraq olympians, Afghan olympians, UOC and IOC would get angry and just figured they would keep the ad up as long as they could.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Who Are These Undecided Voters Anyway?

Arianna Huffington has a good point about the fruitlessness of trying to persuade so-called undecided voters. According to her, the Kerry campaign will become hung up on the details that supposedly affect the votes of the undecideds over its larger messages if it focuses too much on trying to prove one of the smear vehicles, say Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (aka Lies), wrong over everything else.

The Kerry campaign cannot allow it to devolve into a debate over whether John Kerry bled enough to warrant a Purple Heart.

And since no one can doubt that more scurrilous attacks are coming Kerry's way, it is imperative that in the future the right answers to all wrong questions are offered immediately and without, for one moment, relinquishing the Kerry campaign's attack on the president's failures at home and abroad or clouding its alternative moral vision of what America can be with George Bush safely back in Crawford.

Surely there have always been people who were unsure of who to vote for through the duration of the election, but I do find it curious that this constituency has received so much media attention in recent years. Rather than talk up this group of people, the media could (a) do a better job trying to inform the undecideds by focusing less on fiascoes such as the charges of Swift Boat Veterans for Lies and (2) report on substantive matters rather than on campaign style and strategy, in which the journalist or other media appendage finds it necessary to adapt a cynical tone to all things political. Thus we have programs a la cable news, which of course only feed the frenzy over voters who have not made up their minds.

Viva la revolution de l'undecided voter!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Aug. 19, 2004 WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee heard this morning from one of its own about some of the problems with airline "no fly" watch lists. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., says he had a close encounter with the lists when trying to take the U.S. Airways shuttle out of Washington to Boston.

Coincidence? That is the question.

A person is pretty screwed if they're wrongly on the "no fly" watch list and can't get a direct line to Tom Ridge.

I Will Resist Inventing a 'No Child Left Behind' Pun, But Regardless...

Yesterday's Chicago Tribune reported that several of the schools hit by the No Child Left Behind "sanctions," are some of the Chicagoland area's better-regarded schools:

Just days before the beginning of school, the Illinois State Board of Education on Tuesday released a preliminary list of 694 schools around the state that will have to offer students the choice to move to better performing schools, and in some cases, receive tutoring and other services.

The list also features schools more accustomed to accolades, including Hinsdale South High School, Evanston Township High School, Lyons Township High School North Campus and Highland Park High School.

Supporters of this No Child Left Behind provision might argue that these four high schools are a small percentage of the schools throughout the state of Illinois that have received sanctions, while a much larger percentage had been classified as "failing." Still, the whole idea of taking money away from a school because it's doing poorly rather than re-investing in the school is incredibly counter-intuitive, and for schools such as Highland Park and Evanston that are some of the best public high schools in the state, the sanctions would have a palpable effect if students started leaving.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Republican Attempt to Claim the Mantle of Security Only Reflects Their Own Insecurity

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin has said a few words about Dick Cheney that are long overdue:

It just outrages me that someone who got five deferments during Vietnam and said he had 'other priorities' at that time would say that.

When I hear [attacks on John Kerry] coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil. He'll be tough, but he'll be tough with someone else's kid's blood.

Also, as has been pointed out by observers, Dick Cheney's seemingly out-there attacks on John Kerry's well-thought statement that we need to conduct a "more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history," may be a deliberate strategy to convey "gay-bashing code" and, I might add women-bashing code. Perhaps the Bush cadre took a cue from Arnold Schwarzenegger's "girlie men" comment when they were strategizing on how to attack Senator Kerry.

Comments like this, in my opinion, point to a man fundamentally insecure with his masculinity trying to appeal to other men of a similar condition. Here is an interesting article that examines the new Republican attack strategy of the 2004 trend. As the article puts it,

One of the most troubling political tactics of late is coming from the right end of the spectrum. Apparently taking their cues from the schoolyard, some Republicans' latest motto seems to be: When you're feeling inadequate, call someone else a sissy.

Of course, attacks like reveal much more about the attacker than the person who is being attacked.
The article continues,

As Matt Drudge (widely rumored to be gay himself, but a confirmed Republican) so charmingly observed on his Web site, "The Drudge Report," after the Democratic presidential nominee chose his running mate, "John Kerry and John Edwards can't keep their hands off each other!" Accompanied by photos of the two senators speaking with their heads close together, or clasping each other's hands, or walking with their arms interlaced, we suppose this is meant to point to something unnatural, something sinister, something ... well, almost homosexual about the relationship these two men have! The subtext is so clear it is practically audible: Men, especially politicians, expressing affection for each other in public? What is this country coming to?

2004 is already turning into a monumental year for gay rights issues, and the Republicans are certainly aware of this. They apparently feel they must capitalize on the progress that has been made with regards to gay marriage--though precarious progress at this point, among other things, to evoke divisive anti-gay and anti-woman themes. Once again, this strategy is fundamentally a sign of incredible insecurity on their part.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Julia Child

I just want to belatedly acknowledge Julia Child in light of her recent passing. Salon wrote an informative and fascinating article on Child a few years back. Here it is.

And an excerpt.

"You must have the courage of your convictions," trills a black-and-white Child as she pan-flips a large potato pancake. Losing half of the contents onto the electric range cooktop, she scrapes up the errant potatoes with her spatula and puts them back in the pan, assuring me, her momentary confidant, that it's OK to make a mistake -- no one sees us alone in the kitchen anyway. As an adult, I find this reassuring. I, like Child, am not a natural born cook.

Pre-Emeril, pre-Fat Ladies, long before the rise of Alice Waters, Jeremiah Tower and Wolfgang Puck and without the magic of editing, Julia Child was re-outfitting the American kitchen and re-educating the American palate. In the process she became the most important culinary figure this country has produced, as well as one of the century's most admirable women. As befits a woman who stands 6-foot-2, Child has done everything in a very big way.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Now I know lately Alan Keyes has been fodder for almost all of my blog posts, and I can only say that I do it because I can't resist: the man just gets more entertaining by the day. Today I was talking with someone who humorously though aptly said, "Not only is Alan Keyes from another state, he's from another planet." I think we need look no further than his expressed support for banning popular elections of U.S. Senators to see how true this is. This guy is a nut.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Alan Keyes a hazard to the national Republican party?

Interesting theory from Sidney Blumenthal, former assistant and senior advisor in the Clinton Administration, that Alan Keyes might not only have an adverse effect on the appeal of the state Republican party but on the appeal of the Republican party in neighboring states as well.

"A screeching religious right fanatic, Keyes, who has worn a lapel pin featuring the feet of a fetus, is Jerry Falwell as played by Little Richard. Obama is beating him 67 to 28 percent, and that undoubtedly represents Keyes' peak. Keyes opened his campaign by saying Obama's stance in favor of legal choice for women on abortion is 'the slaveholder's position.' Their debates, to be broadcast throughout the Middle West, may turn votes against the Republicans in every state bordering Illinois."

According to former Illinois Governor James Thompson "There are no liberal Republicans anymore." Thompson is referring to Alan Keyes in particular, but he could be referring to almost any Republican in federal office the way it stands nowadays. Indeed.
In my opinion, election polls cannot be trusted. It is such a ridiculous "science," or lack of. Trying to predict human voting behavior would be hard enough if pollsters had the opinions of every single registered American voter; it's pretty much impossible with the limited number of people that are surveyed for a poll. I cannot totally renounce their worth, because I just do not know enough about the precision of the random sampling and other methods that are used to try and make polling accurate, but it still seems absurd that political polls should be reported in the news more than the issues that people are being polled about (e.g. healthcare, economy, foreign policy). As a result, I can only greet this recent poll that Kerry is ahead in several swing states warily. Still, this news is better than the other possiblity.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Hypocritical Tort Reformers

The Bush Administration has predictably tried to attack Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards for being a personal injury lawyer. They accuse the profession of being the source of frivolous lawsuits. Perhaps they got that idea as a result of their own forays into the legal arena. Although there are many suits that have rightly restored the cost of injury to the injured party (and unfortunately, many injuries are not contested at all via an attorney, meaning the injured party must reap all of the cost), George W. Bush's lawsuit against Enterprise Rent-a-Car, for example, is not one of these suits.

Thomas has supplied us with a nice, comprehensive list of all of the tort reform Republicans who have brought forward incredibly frivolous lawsuits of their own.

When they or family members are hurt and need compensation for their own injuries, often minor ones, these same individuals do not hesitate to use the courts to obtain compensation, to right a wrong, to hold a wrongdoer accountable or to obtain justice.

In 1999, [George W.] Bush sued Enterprise Rent-A-Car over a minor fender-bender involving one of his daughters in which no one was hurt. Although his insurance would have covered the repair costs, making a lawsuit unnecessary, Bush sought additional money from Enterprise, which had rented a car to someone with a suspended license. In this case, Bush seemed to understand one of the most important functions of civil lawsuits -- to deter further wrongdoing. The case settled for $2,000 to $2,500.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Alan Keyes is Making No Sense

Alan Keyes has officially declared his nomination as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois, and no doubt our state's newest resident is preparing to pick up where Jack Ryan left off in trying to attack Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee who is enjoying incredible and well-deserved popularity in the state and in the country since his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

Keyes is a Maryland resident who will be making the big move to Illinois to run for the senate here, and while I make no promises, I suspect we should all be on our toes for some blatant hypocricies on the part of Keyes. Conveniently, in fact, one has already been found. As the People for the American Way point out, Keyes is on record as expressing his most principled disagreement with Hillary Clinton's decision to run for the U.S. Senate in New York in 2000:

“And I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton’s willingness to go into a state she doesn’t even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn’t imitate it.” Fox News, “Special Report with Brit Hume,” March 17, 2000

Well, now that Alan Keyes is running for Senate here in Illinois, let the destruction of federalism begin!

Beatles: Pop group, pop psychology

My pop psychology item of the day:

Everyone has a favorite Beatles song, and such a favorite is indicative of one's deepest values. I love making up this crap! See below,

  • If you like "Golden Slumbers", you no longer believe there is "a way to get back home," that is, to get in touch with the way things used to be, and you figure that you might as well let the "golden slumbers fill your eyes" so you can forget there is no longer a way back to the beginning. You are very mature in the unsentimentality of this realization, but you also care to be blissfully ignorant. (You are the anti-thesis of the person whose favorite song is "In My Life").
  • If your favorite song is "Eleanor Rigby" you see "all the lonely people" shrouded by the title of a minister or a married wife. You are very perceptive and also somewhat despairing and probably one of the most sophisticated and mature of all Beatles' fans.
  • If your favorite song is "A Day in the Life," you appreciate the irony of life (evidenced by your love of the lyric "although the news was rather sad, i just had to laugh") and you are morbidly fascinated with the horrors of which you are always an observer, and of which, when they happen, you "just had to look." You are very desensitized, yes, but also frickin' brilliant. Unfortunately, your life is still very ordinary.
  • If you favorite song is "In My Life," you are a painfully remniscent person, first of all for the places and people who have "changed, some forever, not for better," and since you are slightly disillusioned with these developments you cling to the one love of your life who you feel will always stay the same. Perhaps you should branch out. (Your polar opposite is the person who favors "Golden Slumbers").
  • If you like "Martha My Dear," you are obsessed with a woman named Martha or with Paul McCartney's dog, or you are just incredibly confused whether you want a woman or a dog, as you like the name of the dog but the substance of the woman. My advice to you, my friend: "When you find yourself in the thick of it, help yourself to a bit of what is all around you!"

My Bible, or I Love F. Scott Fitzgerald

When I was younger, I was pretty consumed with proving that there was no such thing as a God, and that it was foolish that the Bible was interpreted as the text of God's will. Why, I wondered, can't we deign the complete works of, say William Shakespeare as a work of God. After all, Shakespeare's works express the human condition brilliantly, better than the Bible, one could argue; why can't we just assume that God "wrote" Shakesepare if we assume he "wrote" the Bible.

Anyway, I have since ended my preoccupation with proving the existence or non-existence of a God, but after my recent post comparing F. Scott Fitzgerald to Barack Obama, I realized that The Great Gatsby may be as close to a holy text as any individual will ever come to producing. I know, I just made a statement worthy of the James Lipton Award for Exaggerated and Profuse Praise, but I stick to it nonetheless. The following quotes will indicate to all why Gatsby is indeed as close to the Bible as a text may ever come.

The intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions.
  • This needs little explanation except to say that even when one shares his life's burdens, fears, etc. with another, those private thoughts are often colored by the vocabulary of cliche when expressed aloud, or they are simply twisted by the "young men" for self-affirmation. Furthermore, so often even the talks of "intimate revelations" occur out of a need for the individual to assert his complexity and to indicate his great skills at introspection. That is, it's as much a social convention at a later stage in a relationship as shaking hands is at the earliest stage.

Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues.

  • This quote sums up perfectly the deluded faith that man has in his own morals. We all know a person or two in particular so sure that the moral code that he lives by--or lack thereof--is quite ideal, when in fact this person doesn't even understand the "cardinal virtue" that he claims to adhere to. Oh well, such is the complexity of the human being, and such is F. Scott's brilliance for pointing this out with one of the most concisely lucid sentences that I have ever read. (Again, I channel James Lipton).

One of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax.

  • I love the diction with "savors" and "anti-climax." I think this line is both easily relateable for the reader but also set apart from the reader. Somehow I feel that the men that Fitzgerald and narrator Nick Carraway knew to have anti-climaxed are much more exciting to watch fizzle than the men that you and I know who have anti-climaxed. (What a great word, by the way).

Friday, August 06, 2004

What is an alderman, really?

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Bush slips up; reveals his true thoughts?

This man may be the "chief executive officer" (as he's referred to it) of our country, but I'm proud to say I didn't vote for him (and would not have even if I was 18 in 2000!).

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush offered up a new entry for his catalog of 'Bushisms' on Thursday, declaring that his administration will 'never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people.'"

Bush misspeaks during signing cermeony

If we are to believe Bush, wouldn't every, single, last American be voting against their own self-interest in voting for GWB? I mean forget it if you make 5 billion and you're getting a nice tax cut, you're still voting for someone who wants to harm you and your country. Everyone's screwed!
As a member of the blogging community, or whatever the hell we call it, I feel an obligation to my readership (of two, haha) to post this article:
Funny shit.

Barack Obama as a modern-day but optimistic F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reading over the transcript of U.S. Senate candiate Barack Obama's keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, I noticed one particular line that seemed remniscent of one of the main themes of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic--and in my opinion quite possibly the best novel ever written--The Great Gatsby. Here is the excerpt from Obama's speech:

Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.

Now here is an excerpt from the ending of The Great Gatsby (I have emphasized the parts of this excerpt most relevant to my point here in bold, although the entire passage is brilliant and must be included for full understanding and effect):

And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes — a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further…And on fine morning --So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Obama in his keynote speech entertains and subscribes to an idea, "the audacity of hope," that the beauty of what we call the American Dream is that it is not unrealistic to plan for a better day because this day can be achieved.

Barack Obama
Fitzgerald's narrator Nick Carraway somberly resigns himself to the belief that the American Dream is audacious and nothing else, that it survives on a myth, that it is built on an history of elusive progress. For Nick (and persumably for Fitzgerald), the tragedy of Jay Gatsby is proof that the dream of a better future, a theme that has persisted through the history of this country, died the moment it was born, or perhaps it never even materialized in the first place.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Who is right about the American Dream? I think both views can actually be reconciled. Obama also says in his keynote address,

But [people] sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all.

He acknowledges that the opportunities are not being provided for people who want to realize the American Dream. Nick Carraway expresses too that the dream has been denied of those who have tried to achieve it, represented in Gatsby by Jay Gatsby.

To Nick and Fitzgerald, the American Dream is untenable because of the carelessness of those who occupy the image of the dream realized:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…

In fact, Tom and Daisy have not achieved, they have merely been born into. Permit me to compare Tom and Daisy and their like with the current leaders of our nation, people who inflict their vast carelessness on the rest of the country and deny us of opportunities as a result. For Barack Obama's vision of a nation where individuals can achieve what they dream, the careless people of this world must be displaced. For Nick Carraway and F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, such a wish is futile; hopefully for Obama it will not be.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Why you probably will not find out too much of use to your life in the coming election from the mainstream media...

...And it's not for lack of trying on the part of the candidates! (At least, not some of the candidates!) It is for lack of trying on the part of the news media though.

I have had many people tell me that they "don't know anything about John Kerry" and that they're not "really interested in politics anyway." Americans are affected by politics in every possible realm of our lives, but the way the mainstream media portrays it--especially the television media--one would think that Capitol Hill and the White House are soundstages where entertainment is produced, not civic bulidings where policy is made.

While our country is facing a 445 billion deficit by the end of September, an escalating occupation in Iraq that has called up an increasing number of armed forces men and women into active duty, and state budget crises that threaten to cripple government operations, the mainstream media is still idly reporting on space suits and Teresa Heinz Kerry's exchanges with reporters (reasonable when one considers that the reporter in question is quite biased, I might add, but the media doesn't tell us this!).

The New York Times' Paul Krugman just wrote a great article about this unhelpful journalism. Here are a few useful excerpts:

Under the headline "Voters Want Specifics From Kerry," The Washington Post recently quoted a voter demanding that John Kerry and John Edwards talk about "what they plan on doing about health care for middle-income or lower-income people...Mr. Kerry proposes spending $650 billion extending health insurance to lower- and middle-income families. Whether you approve or not, you can't say he hasn't addressed the issue. Why hasn't this voter heard about it?
On the other hand, everyone knows that Teresa Heinz Kerry told someone to "shove it," though even there, the context was missing. Except for a brief reference on MSNBC, none of the transcripts I've read mention that the target of her ire works for Richard Mellon Scaife, a billionaire who financed smear campaigns against the Clintons - including accusations of murder. (CNN did mention Mr. Scaife on its Web site, but described him only as a donor to "conservative causes.") And viewers learned nothing about Mr. Scaife's long vendetta against Mrs. Heinz Kerry herself.


Somewhere along the line, TV news stopped reporting on candidates' policies, and turned instead to trivia that supposedly reveal their personalities. We hear about Mr. Kerry's haircuts, not his health care proposals. We hear about George Bush's brush-cutting, not his environmental policies.

Even on its own terms, such reporting often gets it wrong, because journalists aren't especially good at judging character. ("He is, above all, a moralist," wrote George Will about Jack Ryan, the Illinois Senate candidate who dropped out after embarrassing sex-club questions.)


A Columbia Journalism Review Web site called, says its analysis "reveals a press prone to needlessly introduce Senators Kerry and Edwards and Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, as millionaires or billionaires, without similar labels for President Bush or Vice President Cheney."

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Um, this is hilarious...

Quoted from Salon (again) about Lou DiNatale, a Democratic political analyst on the New England Cable News network about how enthralled he was with Barack Obama's speech on Tuesday evening:

"DiNatale had been less than thrilled by Howard Dean's oratory minutes before, and proceeded to marvel at the disparity of the Dems' trotting out the lackluster Dean only to turn around and 'crank out this guy Osama.' Not since 'maybe Cuomo in the '80s'" DiNatale continued to gush in his thick Boston twang, had he seen a speaker so compelling as 'this guy Osama.'"
The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states; red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats, but I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and have gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
--Barack Obama, July 27, Democratic National Convention Keynote Speech

What a great way to put it.
Dick Cheney has been reaping more harm than good for the Bush Administration lately--that is even more harm than usual.

Last month he told Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy to "go f--k yourself" on the Senate floor.  Despite the incredible inappropriateness of the comment, not to mention the ridiculousness that Cheney would harbor so much hostility towards Leahy, one of the most easy-going and apparently friendly of senators, the Vermont Democratic party has managed to turn the incident into fodder for its voters.  According to, they have created a campaign t-shirt where on the front it says "Annoy Dick Cheney, Vote Pat Leahy 2004," and on the back it has a cartoon known as the Young Republican:

The right-wing owned-Washington Times had an interesting way of reporting the Dick Cheney comment, paraphrasing that Cheney told Leahy "to perform an anatomical sexual impossibility." If only those had been Cheney's exact words.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Alright, final thing about "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (for this week, at least)

I just wanted to post a link about the unintended benefits of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" in exonerating a wrongfully convicted man from death row before I delete the link from my instant messenger profile.

Video footage of a "Curb" episode that was filmed at a Los Angeles Dodgers game included frames of the incarcerated Juan Catalan, who had been accused of murdering a 16-year old, Martha Puebla, though he had defended his innocence with the alibi that he was at the baseball game with his daughter.  Before Catalan's lawyer, Todd Melnik found out that HBO had footage from the episode, he had pored unsuccessfully through Dodger Vision and Fox Sports tapes without finding a distinct image of Catalan.  Indeed, the frames on the "Curb" footage proved the truth of Catalan's alibi, as the time codes on the film indicated that the time that Catalan was at the game made it impossible for him to have been present at the time of the murder of Martha Puebla.

Larry David said of the exonerating footage, “I tell people that I’ve now done one decent thing in my life, albeit inadvertently.”  I love this man.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

What better person to speak about how George W. Bush has taken advantage of the goodwill that the international community (by and large) expressed towards the U.S. after the September 11 attacks than Jimmy Carter.  Carter himself has enlisted in many ambitious endeavors that bring goodwill to the world, especially through his organization, the Carter Center, which helps to oversee elections around the world to make sure they run smoothly.  Recently, for instance, the center completed a round of oversight in Indonesia.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter gives a thoughtful speech about America's troubled international situation.

Well, with people as accomplished and distinguished as Carter, I sometimes like to imagine them in incredibly profane, normal situations; so this evening, after the convention, I thought to myself, do you think Jimmy Carter has ever eaten Doritos?  I think the answer to this question must be yes.  Given all of the social functions tht Carter has been to where there has been food available and he has been hungry, Doritos must have been an option at a few.  Still, he probably doesn't eat them regularly; I would be almost certain he doesn't buy them.  Even so, Jimmy Carter has to have eaten Doritos at a few points here and there.  He took on the oil crisis of the 1970s, he helped negotiate peace between Egypt and Israel, he oversees elections in nascent democracies throughout the world, and yes, I am willing to bet he has eaten a few small bags of Doritos.

Doritos, which I would bet former President Carter has eaten, perhaps for lack of a better option or perhaps to indulge on a rare occasion when the snack is available at a social function.

Also, may I just point out how cohesive the Democratic party is right now?  As someone observed earlier this week, the only thing George W. Bush repaired in his promise to be a "uniter not a divider" was the fracticiousness of the Democratic Party.  Tonight, Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton, and Bill Clinton spoke as the headliners (Carter was noticeably absent from the convention of 1996 where Clinton was nominated for his second term); when the only progressive/moderate/conservative Democrat who is dissenting from the ranks is Zell Miller of Georgia, this party is doing pretty well.  Still, unlike the Republican National Party's current belief that to be united, a party must think and vote in lockstep (see for instance, the vote master himself, House Majority Leader and incredibly right-leaning Tom Delay), the Democratic party has a history of productive (and yes, sometimes unproductive) debate that has helped to continuously improve the party and its responsiveness to voters.  Still, being united against beating Bush is truly the most practical option right now if any wing of the party wants to achieve its goals.