Thursday, July 28, 2005


Yesterday my fellow intern and I walked over to Cereality, a "cereal bar and cafe" on 100 S. Wacker, basically on the intersection of Monroe and the Chicago River. Cereality kind of treats cereal as ice cream, as it offers a wide variety of toppings to complement your cereal choices. Like newer ice cream franchises (Coldstone, Marble Slab), Cereality offers a few of their own creations such as the PB+B Crunch with Cap'n Crunch cereal, Peanut Butter Bumpers, raisins, bananas, and lots of chocolate. You can also make your own treat: I mixed Rice Chex, Peanut Butter Bumpers (which I had never heard of, but hey) and malted milk balls (chopped up). It was pretty delectable.

One warning I will give about Cereality: it is not the best stop for lunch unless you are big on sweets. After we left, we had to get a small protein packed snack to balance out all of that sugar! If anything, Cereality is a good dessert stop.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Best looking candidate since Obama

I didn't realize that Paul Hackett, Democrat running for U.S. Representative in Ohio was this cute.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Jon Stewart's Interview with Rick Santorum

Jon Stewart said that his interview with Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was "illuminating." Stewart and even Santorum deserve credit for daring to be out of their element for the interview. Stewart, unlike a Fox News anchor appeared to truly be interested in why someone who disagrees with him believes what he does and in trying to probe the reason for their differences. The interview was civil, but, for the amount of time Stewart had, I believe he challenged Santorum enough.

Given this collegial and inquisitive atmosphere, Santorum should have brought more to the table. His declarations about the importance of "character," "virtue," and "family," came without any suggestion of how these priorities are to be achieved. Santorum had very little to offer in this regard (and I wish Stewart had grilled him more rather than just focusing on Santorum's anti-gay sentiments). In my opinion, character and virtue are built upon the ethical theory of conduct to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," and building character and virtue should thus be advanced with this goal in mind. Santorum seemed only to find worth in pointing fingers at groups who he believes lack these things. The best way to realize one's beliefs is to act, and as a representative of the people, it would be great if Santorum would act by supporting such things as family planning programs to encourage potential parents to be prepared to have children and to foster a loving environment. (Santorum is against family planning, for the record).

Train Etiquette

Every summer that I have commuted to downtown Chicago for work, I have become consumed with the particularities of train decorum. Almost every day, I diagnose a new violation of proper etiquette--from taking up two seats to talking too loud on one's cell phone to having one's iPod or discman cranked up high enough for other commuters to hear.

Today was no exception: two people a few seats behind me were having a conversation. This in and of itself is not a violation of train etiquette: people should be allowed to talk on the train. However, the woman invovled in the conversation had an abnormally loud voice. Usually I can drown out conversations by concentrating on what I'm reading. If the conversation is interesting enough that I can't concentrate on my book, I just listen to it (I'll admit it). However, this conversation was neither easy to drown out nor interesting. The female party was just loud, and like most loud people, was completely unaware that her voice is essentially a noise pollutant. Someone behind her even made a subtle shushing sound, but that sort of polite measure does not register with an ignorant.

So my question is, what does one do when a clear violation of train etiquette is committed? (A violations encompasses, in my opinion, an act that disrupts one's fellow passengers or makes them uncomfortable). Should the frustrated party speak up, or should he or she just try to avoid a possible confrontation? I'm at a loss as far as a solution goes, except for moving seats if possible.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Another site devoted to bringing back the couch. After finally seeing an episode of "The Daily Show,"I will say the new set is a little too Charlie Rose for me.

Joe Trippi makes an interesting point...

...about US Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.
The most important thing I try to impart to people is how Washington really works -- it isn't a left vs right place so much as it is an insider vs outsider place. And that is why John Roberts' likely confirmation is so confusing to the progressive grassroots. The man is an emblem of the Washington establishment -- with too many friends on both sides of Washington's elite party circuit to be opposed. Washington is a place people go to be part of the club -- John Roberts is a card carrying member and that is why he will be confirmed regardless of the risk to a women's right to choose and other important constitutional issues. Bush's pick was smart -- not because of the small paper trail on this guy -- but because Bush and company understood that the country club of Washington would rally around one of their own.

The best case against this guy is that he has been inside Washington for too long -- he is too far removed from the daily plight of an unwed mother, a minority trying to find employment, a woman trying to get paid what she is worth.

In the end John Roberts will be confirmed for the very reason he should be turned away -- decent or not -- right wing or not -- he's too far removed from average Americans to rule over their rights and liberties for decades to come.

Cell Phone Culture

I couldn't agree more with "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer's commentary:
I realized a long time ago that cell phones are not to communicate. They are the new cigarette, something to grab when we're nervous, but I have come to believe they are something more, a magic carpet that takes us from reality to a different place like a child who reads "Harry Potter" or the drunk who believes he is invincible, as in, 'It's OK, honey. They'll never see us over here.'

Cell phone users are transported to a place where they no longer see or hear the world around them. Unfortunately, in the world around them, where the rest of us are, we hear them.
Unfortuantely, I can't say I'm totally innocent of talking on my phone in public, but I usually at least try not to make calls:
I wish Republicans would just admit that Bush has basically got to defend Rove out of loyalty rather than trying to smear and dance their way around "Plamegate." On the loyalty thing:
Few presidents have had closer advisers than Rove inside the White House. And few counselors have been as responsible for a president's political success.

Those who have watched the Rove-Bush relationship from its Texas days say it's inconceivable that the president would throw his trusted adviser overboard if no law has been violated.

"Loyalty is numero uno with George Bush," said Royal Masset, a Republican consultant in Austin. "He would be disloyal to Rove if he fired him over something where he felt Rove was acting in his interest."

Why Toyota chose Canada over the U.S.

My boss at NTDO clued me in on Paul Krugman's commentary about Toyota's decision to choose to establish one of its plants in Toronto in Canada rather than in the U.S. The article suggests that a country with stronger social programs, a country that invests more in education and health care for its citizens like Canada may in fact be a more desirable environment for a business division to locate. This goes against the belief that the less taxes that are spent on social programs, the better because not getting taxed will allow innovative businessfolk to create jobs (well that theory has been discredited but anyway). As Krugman says:
What made Toyota so sensitive to labor quality issues? Maybe we should discount remarks from the president of the Toronto-based Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, who claimed that the educational level in the Southern United States was so low that trainers for Japanese plants in Alabama had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech equipment.

But there are other reports, some coming from state officials, that confirm his basic point: Japanese auto companies opening plants in the Southern U.S. have been unfavorably surprised by the work force's poor level of training.

There's some bitter irony here for Alabama's governor. Just two years ago voters overwhelmingly rejected his plea for an increase in the state's rock-bottom taxes on the affluent, so that he could afford to improve the state's low-quality education system. Opponents of the tax hike convinced voters that it would cost the state jobs.

...But education is only one reason Toyota chose Ontario. Canada's other big selling point is its national health insurance system, which saves auto manufacturers large sums in benefit payments compared with their costs in the United States.

...Funny, isn't it? Pundits tell us that the welfare state is doomed by globalization, that programs like national health insurance have become unsustainable. But Canada's universal health insurance system is handling international competition just fine. It's our own system, which penalizes companies that treat their workers well, that's in trouble.

Even liberal guys can dismay me

At least those of them that seem to take such issue with Roe v. Wade. I say this because some of the guys who post on a progressive site that I contribute to as well seem to think Roe is screwing up the Democratic party. First of all, Roe still is broadly supported. According to polls such as this one, it is supported by a majority--two-thirds--of Americans. This has been a consistent finding.

So to progressive men against Roe: it's not Roe that's keeping Democrats out of office what's keeping us out of office is not having the cajones--pardon my French..err Spanish--to stand up for what we believe, on workers rights, on health care, on foreign policy, on education. We don't talk about what we believe, and that's what's getting us. Roe is the least of our worries in this regard.

Furthermore, Roe is not a blatantly bad legal decision or even a mediocre one, as some allege, at least not its fundamental holding. The argument often made against Roe is that there is no fundamental right to abortion, and that the matter should be sent back to states for legislating. However, opponents of Roe seem to avoid or take little issue with the point that any law made against abortion (or against anything for that matter) must pass a burden of Constitutionality, i.e. not violating fundamental rights. Thus, even if a law is popular, it can be unconstitutional, and there should be a valid state interest behind the law.

Roe holds that a right to privacy is protected under the Constitution. Justice Blackmun in the 1973 opinion explains it thusly,
This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.
And cites precedent:
The Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy. In a line of decisions, however, going back perhaps as far as Union Pacific R. Co. v. Botsford, 141 U.S. 250, 251 (1891), the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution. In varying contexts, the Court or individual Justices have, indeed, found at least the roots of that right [lists amendments].
These decisions make it clear that only personal rights that can be deemed "fundamental" or "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty," Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 325 (1937), are included in this guarantee of personal privacy. They also make it clear that the right has some extension to activities relating to marriage, Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967); procreation, Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541-542 (1942); contraception, Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. at 453-454; id. at 460, 463-465 [p153] (WHITE, J., concurring in result); family relationships, Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 166 (1944); and childrearing and education, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 535 (1925), Meyer v. Nebraska, supra.
Despite acknowledging the possible presence of a state interest in Roe, the opinion goes on to explain why, this interest is outweighed by the personal interest of a woman considering an abortion:
The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.
Let's remember, we live in a country where laws--which are in essence restrictions on rights--cannot just be made for the heck of it. There must be a reason, and that reason must be good enough to withstand the test of whether the law impinges on Constitutionally protected rights.

Therefore, the idea of making laws against abortion or other reproductive rights may not seem grave to some. However, the decision of Roe brings up the importance of a need to weigh state interest against individual rights, and, in my opinion, sufficiently explains the importance in this case of protecting the right. This is where a personal appeal comes in: if it is you, your sister, girlfriend, or so forth who one day may have to face an unintended pregnancy, or a pregnancy that is causing health problems, that individual's interest is much greater than the state's, don't you think?

Sunday, July 24, 2005


Believe it or not, I hadn't even heard about Arnold Schwarzenegger's pothole escapades until tonight, from watching a tape of one of last week's episodes of "The Daily Show." Between that and the dietary supplements scandal, along with his generally disappointing policy choices, I think Californians got more than they bargained for from the Governator. Bring back Dave Greyvis!


From the Onion
Bush Awaits Orders From Rove On Handling Of Rove Scandal

"White Family Moves to Town"

Glencoe, a suburb not too far north of me is featured in the Onion. Pretty funny and unfortunately kind of appropriate article,
GLENCOE, IL—Shock, outrage and fear were just some of the emotions that failed to sweep through this affluent Chicago suburb Monday, when word got out among residents that a white family had moved to town over the weekend.

...Area investment banker Harold Boyce agreed: "I've got nothing against whites. Some of my best friends are white," Boyce said. "Actually, I guess they all are."

"We here in Glencoe are very open about including all different types in our community," said Fred Schukal, a dentist and Bill Hanson's new golf partner. "To be honest, it really doesn't matter to us what part of Europe you're originally from. As the Hansons' experience here shows, there's room in Glencoe for every shade of Caucasian in God's white rainbow."
The picture that the Onion features would have been a perfect representation of a Northshore family if only it were 1992.

Dr. T!

Found on my new favorite resource for all things hilarious, the Blue States (Soon to be) Unofficial Secession Movement, this bizarre public service announcement of sorts from Mr. T. Please watch it if you have any interest in laughing your head off. How the video is described:
The muscleman dons a stethoscope and teaches the kids how to recoup from an absoludicrous situation. Why that requires a doctor's outfit, we'll never know.
(1 min 23 sec)

The Former 'Daily Show' Couch

Just found out about a website dedicated exclusively to the absence of the old couch from the new set of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." It is pretty hilarious, though I can't say I have such strong feelings either way about the couch and the rest of the new "Daily Show" set. (Admittedly I haven't seen it yet. My family doesn't believe in purchasing cable TV, so we have to rely on our kind neighbor to tape "Daily Show" episodes for us. Waiting for a new batch of tapes is agony).

The Music of Orrin Hatch

My friend Chris just clued me in on Utah Senator Orrin Hatch's other job: recording music. I dare you to listen to the cheesiness for more than a minute. Hatch makes Kenny G. look like Keith Richards.

Sunday Morning Talk Show Roundup

I'll mainly just focus on that at least a couple of our representatives still seem like they can do their jobs, as exhibited on this morning's Sunday morning political talk show circuit. In spite of my expressed disenchantment towards our nation's political state, seeing Senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) on the Sunday morning shows (which I finally got up the nerve to watch after about a year or so of a personal viewing moratorium) was comforting. Both expressed that they want to know what informs John Roberts' legal judgment and Leahy pointed out that information presented in the hearing is crucial in his decision on whether to confirm Roberts, thus information should be thorough.

I believe one of them also pointed out that conservative groups seem to be gaga over Roberts, a marked contrast to their knee-jerk antipathy towards the prospective nomination of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. So whomever pointed that out (Durbin or Leahy, that is) said, what do these conservative groups know about Roberts that I don't know? What do they like about him? Durbin pointed out that Clinton had flat out asked Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) who would have a smooth enough time getting confirmed in the Senate around the time that he nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the court, something Bush didn't do for his nomination. Durbin said he had offered a suggestion on a nominee, though he joked that the fact that the suggestion came from him probably ended up limiting that person's chances. (I can only wonder whether his suggested nominee was the judge for whom I'm interning, as he did mention her as a good candidate for the court, along with one of her colleagues!)

Anyway, if nothing else, it is encouraging to see that these two senators want to carry out a thorough confirmation hearing. One humorous thing: when George Stephanopoulous pointed out on his show "This Week" that Roberts is affable and seems to be a good family man, Leahy quipped something to the effect that "I'm sure he loves his kids" and "he probably played sandlot baseball." The point being that whether or not he is a nice enough guy in his personal life, that's not really what we're examining regarding his appointment to the court.


In my phone conversation with John this morning, we were both musing that our country's political scene has become simply absurd. Since I take politics pretty seriously, it's kind of liberating for me to acknowledge the utter absurdity of our system right now, as at least I have something to laugh about.

What do we find absurd? Well, seeing that Karl Rove is coming back swinging with his "I'm a source, not a target" button is comforting in a way: Rove, as he always has, is fiercly defending an action he would surely come out against if it was committed by a political opponent. In a way it's kind of comforting to know where he's coming from though: if he's a target--well, he shouldn't be a target, as he says.

As this article points out,
WHEN IT FIRST happened 10 days ago, I just glanced over the story and shrugged at a classic example of how political parties distort policymaking to the point that no one in Washington seems capable of simply doing the right and reasonable thing for the good of the country.
and this,

But if the unsuccessful Democratic initiative in the U.S. Senate on the 14th was tainted by partisan interest, it still didn’t smell as bad as the Republican response.

Majority Leader Bill Frist put forth an amendment to strip Minority Leader Harry M. Reid and Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of their security clearances. There was no serious attempt to pretend that this was anything but naked retaliation. It was so bad that 20 of his fellow Republicans joined Democratic senators in rejecting it, 64 to 33. (The vote on the “get Rove” proposal was along party lines, 53-44.)

Oy, I mean that Frist bill is just nuts! He's using the Senate as a floor for pure, unadulterated political retaliation. Is this what we've come to? Does anyone else feel, based on the political system, at least, that our society is going nuts?

The fact that Republicans have rallied around Rove is consistent with their tendency to be fiercly loyal, especially in recent years. That Senate Republicans voted down that amendment that would deny security clearance to an official who releases classified information (basically what Rove is accused of doing) is just the latest example of partisanship taking precedence over security concerns. I take comfort though in the fact that this party loyalty is nothing new. It is consistent with the state of our country's politics today. What is truth anymore? Facts? Ethics? Seems these things have all been occluded by the fierce partisanship. I can be relilably sure that, if nothing else, our country's political state is escalating towards absurdity, and when one briefly forgets the consequences of this, it's all kind of humorous. We're living the strange fiction that I once thought could only be conjured up by a mid-twentieth century playwright the likes of Samuel Beckett.

Loyalty of Utmost Importance

Rove's button says "I'm a source, not a target" according to Crooks and Liars. Well, the man is coming out swinging. (Also, he's with columnist Robert Novak, his partner in the Plame crime. Nice that they're still friends).

I was just talking to John who made a good point that, if one thinks about this from Bush's view, firing Rove, who has been the most loyal of people to Bush and probably instrumental to Bush's political success would be a personal disaster. Though ethically I think firing Rove or revoking his security clearance is pretty much imperative, I can see how Rove would feel he was being stabbed in the back by the person he has helped most and how it would be totally against Bush's personal interest to demote the guy in any way. I guess this is the problem with investing in a ruthless campaign apparatus as Bush has: if that apparatus gets into trouble, you have to stand by it or risk having one of your own become one of your rivals.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Whither Ohio GOP?

The state of Ohio may be edging toward a cataclysmic color shift: from red to blue.

The long-dominant Republican Party in Ohio today is beset by chaos, scandal, ethical breaches and shoddy performance at all levels.

Gov. Bob Taft’s approval rating dangles well below 50 percent, and he has recently retained a criminal lawyer to defend against charges of fund-raising irregularities.

...But now, with no incumbent and the GOP in disarray, this race is much different. The most striking difference is in the candidates, who met in a debate last Thursday night in an old gym on the rural campus of tiny Chatfield College in St. Martin, a village in Brown County.

Jean Schmidt, the Republican nominee, who was the only female in a 10-person primary race, is a slight, chic, low-key, 100 percent Bush backer from Loveland, and the head of an anti-abortion group in Cincinnati.

Her opponent, Paul Hackett, is a charismatic, impressive lawyer from Indian Hill, who recently returned from a seven-month tour of duty in Iraq as a Marine major, where he served on the front lines in battered Fallujah, an insurgent stronghold. If elected, he will be, incredibly, the only member of Congress to have served in Iraq.

"Hackett a standout in 2nd District race"

Illinoisans are lucky... be represented by the two best Senators in the U.S. Senate, Dick Durbin and Barack Obama. One reason I am a big fan of Obama is that I always get very encouraging response letters from him. I sent him an e-mail to encourage the Senate to conduct a scrupulous hearing on John Roberts, nominee for the Supreme Court.

Obama wrote this in part of his response:
Judge Roberts' advocates point to his sterling academic and professional credentials as justification for his confirmation. My standard is to assure that any Supreme Court nominee will respect the constitutionally protected rights of individuals and resist the temptation to substitute personal ideology for legal reasoning in court rulings.

The Senate should not, however, allow an impressive resume and admirable personal story to supersede those fundamental considerations.

I'm glad that Obama, who has a good resume himself, realizes that's not the end-all be-all of a nominee.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Does anyone else know the song "Tenderness" by General Public? It's kind of 80s New Wavey. iTunes of course doesn't have it, so I have no use for then right now.
A letter-writer to Salon makes the same point that I did a few posts back.

Brian C. Anderson, senior editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, is quoted as stating that Judge Roberts "would be a justice in the mold of Clarence Thomas and will not read into the Constitution things that aren't there -- gay marriage, a right to partial-birth abortion, etc."

This is the exact opposite of the concept of constitutional liberty, as clearly intended by Jefferson and the Founding Fathers of our country -- the point is that what is not directly proscribed is fully within our rights as Americans, as long as it does not break the law. Are driving laws unconstitutional because there is no right to drive in the document?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

He's no David Souter

Salon on Roberts:

From where we sit, it sure seems hard to make the case that John Roberts is some kind of "stealth" candidate for the Supreme Court. Even putting aside the anti-civil rights, pro-prosecution decisions he has reached in his short tenure as a federal appellate judge, it's not exactly a secret that Roberts has spent much of his adult life in the service of Republican presidents or that he has argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court or that he advanced hard-right, Roe-reversing arguments along the way.

Maybe Roberts was "just a lawyer" advocating zealously for his clients as the lawyers code of ethics requires him to do. Every lawyer we've ever known has had to make, at one point or another, an argument for a client that he might not want to make for himself. But when you make a career out of advancing a particular line of ideological argument -- when you work, again and again and again, for clients who you know are going to want you to make such arguments -- well, it's fair to conclude that you're one of two things: a true believer or a sellout.

Salon brings up that if Bush gets to ask Roberts about how he feels on abortion, so should the Senate. Scott McLellan wasn't saying whether Bush has asked that though
Yes, but, reporters said, didn't Bush ask Roberts about his views on abortion when he interviewed him for the Supreme Court job on Friday? McClellan never gave a straight answer. McClellan said that the president doesn't apply a "litmus test" to his judicial nominees. He said that that's not the way the president operates. But when asked, flat out, whether Bush -- or Karl Rove or Dick Cheney or anyone else at the White House -- had asked Roberts about his views about abortion rights or other hot-button issues, McClellan dodged and weaved and eventually punted, saying he hadn't sat in on every conversation that every White House official may have had with the nominee.
Okay, John Roberts for reals. (And this is Elaine again). I don't have much time, but I will say this. I think that vaunting Roberts because he was first in his class at Harvard is kind of elitist. Of course, Republicans, who usually have only disparaging remarks about Ivies will now probably have only good things to say about the fact that Roberts went to Harvard, as the big thing is that Roberts has a "great resume." I'd rather have a judge who has a proven understanding of the weight his appointment has on the people upon whose cases he will review and decide.

John Roberts

Well here is what I have to say about John Roberts --wait, we interrupt this little blog thingie to talk about how good of a person Elaine is, and how that thing that parents did when we were little where they would drop us off and wait to make sure we get inside was a very funny thinhg. Some parents did it, some didn't.

First of all, Elaine is sitting next to me, and with a smile on her face (a "rye grin" if you will) said to me, "Yes, I remember."

This is why she is awesome. See, to get Elaine, you have to break her down. 95% Awesome. 64% amazing. 832% great. And 2.3% metal.

She do things others don't.
She will when others won't.
She my older sistah,
I'm talkin' 'bout Elaine (,bitch).
--A "different" person

Y'all do da damn thing. Respect Elaine! She is the nicest, coolest, kind-heartedest person I know, and I mean it like I'm green-it.

If If Roe v. Wade is overturned, everyone should worry, not just pro-choice supporters

Lately it has become almost in vogue to disparage Roe v. Wade as a legal opinion. Its main holding though, the "right to privacy" is sound, and if Roe is overturned on those grounds (which I think it would have to be), then all of us, and not just those of us concerned with women's reproductive rights, should fear.

Strict constructionists like Antonin Scalia have made it seem as if the U.S. Constitution enumerates individual rights. Scalia's opinion is that a right to abortion cannot be found in the constitution, therefore there is none. He says so a couple of times in his dissent in Stenberg v. Carhart, and he has said it before:
It has been arrived at by precisely the process Casey promised–a democratic vote by nine lawyers, not on the question whether the text of the Constitution has anything to say about this subject (it obviously does not)
If only for the sake of its own preservation, the Court should return this matter to the people–where the Constitution, by its silence on the subject,
However, what Scalia doesn't acknowledge is that the Constitution does not enumerate all rights of American citizens; it defines limits on government. If the Constitution were to enumerate all of our rights, that would be scary: it would be like saying these rights written here and these rights alone are your rights. It would be a model for a fascist mandate. Even if the federal government had the best intentions, many rights wouldn't be covered. For instance, a state or locality that had some grudge against, say chewing gum, could make a law against it with no federal repercussions. How could there be if the Constitution hasn't enumerated a right to chew gum?

The Ninth Amendment is rarely mentioned, but its provision that "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people" supports the idea that the Constitution is not a document that enumerates specific rights.

Take another example. The state of Illinois passes a law that says people can only sleep for seven hours a night. Guess what? There's no right in the Constitution on sleep. (Well of course not, because the Constitution defines government limits, not individual rights). Still, under the Scalia interpretation, a sleep law is constitutional because there is no right to choose one's own sleeping schedule defined in the Constitution, just as there is no right to abortion because there is no right to privacy in the Constitution.

Book time

I recently finished a book called My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King by Reymundo Sanchez (a pseudonym). The book is an autobiography of the author's early life and on into when he joins a Chicago street gang. The events take place in the 1980s, which was a crime-ridden period in the history of many cities. The author's gang made their territory in Humboldt Park, which is not far from the recently gentrified Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods.

I recommend the book highly, although it is not for the faint of heart. The author has an insightful perspective on his years as a gang member and a very genuine and straight-forward tone. He often acknowledges the false comradeship that exists in the gang and the way rich drug lords who are at the top of the gang structure basically use the kids who get involved in the gang to do their hits and dealing for them, resulting in often fatal consequences. He points out that gang retaliations, which take place often, only result in mass chaos and death. He underscores the effect drugs and alcohol have on decisions that he makes, often driving him with greater ease towards committing violent acts.

In one review of the book, the reviewer laid the blame for gangs on television. However, I think one thing Sanchez makes clear is that television's biggest role regarding gangs has been to glamorize that lifestyle to people who know nothing about gangs. At one point, Sanchez dates a girl from a suburb who finds some short-lived excitement in dating a gangbanger, being herself far removed from the poverty and crime surrounding that lifestyle. It's all fun and games for kids who throw around words like "bling" and speed around with rap blaring (not that I don't like rap, but as Chris Rock said, the recent rap with its lyrics is hard to defend!).

Sanchez himself was abused at a very young age and quite often, and his mother sends him to Chicago at age 13 to live with his drug-dealing step-brother. He describes the often racist and violent encounters that people in his neighborhood including himself have with the police. He seems to be affected by the one time when policemen actually encourage him to get out of gang life and offer a little help rather than violence.

Sanchez is also manipulated by many people, from rival gang members and their girlfriends to his friends and yet he manipulates his share of people too: fellow gang members, women (actually teenage girls) who he has brief relationships with, but no matter. The point one gets out of this book shouldn't be to assign blame but to realize that crime and gang life constitutes a vicious cycle. To prevent it, it should be a general interest to invest enough in communities and children that being in a gang seems the dead-end that it is portrayed as in this book and not the most appealing option, as it was for Sanchez.

Pet Peeve

This evening as I was walking from the train station to my house, I heard a loud noise and I thought, oh no, a motorcycle. I hate motorcycles, because they are obscenely loud. With all of the necessary noise that most of us have to endure everyday--noise from ambulances, trains and buses, loud people talking on cell phones--a totally unnecessary noisemaking vehicle like a motorcycle should be banned.

However, the loud noises I encountered on my walk home were coming from three identical Suburus driven by several teenagers. Having gone to a high school where you were probably in the minority if you didn't have a car at age 16, my other pet peeve is loud, obnoxious teenagers driving cars. In an age when we have technology to make driving a pleasant, relatively quiet experience, why must people drive obnoxious vehicles?

"It feels like it's raining in here"

Earlier this afternoon the sky began to get very dark and rain seemed to be looming. The establishment where I was eating lunch today was windowless (it was on a large ground floor of a highrise). It reminded me of a comment someone made a week ago when I was also in a windowless room (I hang out in some depressing places, I guess), and that person said, "Is it raining outside, because it feels like it's raining outside in here." I knew exaclty what she meant...the feeling when it seems darker, even if there are no windows around to bring the darkness to your visual attention.

Southerners liked France?

I'm reading a book called Illusion and Reality in Franco-American Diplomacy by Henry Blumenthal, kind of for fun and kind of as a loose introduction into what I might be dealing with regarding my thesis. Anyway, I found this quote early on in the book very humorous:
Also, [the French's] savoir vivre, courteous manners, stimulating salons, and gastronomical distinction appealed to the finer instincts of people in all parts of the world. Those Americans who tried to hold on to traditional mores and values naturally objected to too much looseness in French morals and the restlessnes of their culture. But on the whole, Americans, particularly southerners, looked upon France as a cultural trailblazer. (7)

For obvious reasons, this quote made me laugh.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Take Bush at his word

This article makes a good point. I don't know much about John Roberts, Bush's nominee for U.S. Supreme Court, but I do know, as Bruce Ackerman points out, that Bush did say he would look to nominate someone in the Scalia or Thomas mold to the court. Even though it is often hard to do, Ackerman recommends that senators take Bush at his word when it comes to his nominee:

The president has repeatedly promised us justices like Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia, and I propose to take him at his word. If we simply take the trouble to read their opinions, it becomes evident that a Court dominated by Thomases and Scalias would launch a constitutional revolution on a scale unknown since the New Deal.

The Senate should also take the president seriously. Bush has already told us the kind of justices he wants, and if he has had a last-minute change of heart, it should be up to individual nominees to convince us that they are not in the Thomas-Scalia mold.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Go fug yourself!

Alright, this website, Go Fug Yoursef is soo snarky but so funny! It basically tears apart celebrity fashion choices. Here's an excerpt from an article on Dominique Swain, for instance:
It doesn't help that Dunst-lite has paired her crinkle-cut sky-blue cami with two things that flatter it as little as possible: a dusty rose cropped blazer, and a skirt that looks like hot-dog condiments. (I am not fretting about the incongruous shoe choice, mostly because my retinas have imploded.) So while Ms. Swain deserves credit for not being all decked out for shuffleboard on the west lanai -- a fashion choice preferred by her better-known clone -- I do feel that maybe a little more coordination and a little less Crayola-chic would help her.

Rove case emblematic of Bush White House

"Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer on the Rove case (Windows Media Player video) and here in transcript form:

Instead this White House did what it usually does when challenged: it went into attack mode, called charges that the White House had leaked the name ridiculous and allowed controversy to boil until the Special Prosecutor had to be appointed. Now two years and millions of tax dollars later, the president's trusted friend and strategist Karl Rove has emerged as the top suspect, and we're left to wonder, can anything said from the White House podium be taken at face value, or does the White House just deny automatically anything that reflects badly on them?

That about summarizes what's wrong with the Bush Administration as concisely as possible.

Spin Zone

Wow this is spin. Ken Mehlman, Chair of the Republican National Committee was on "Meet the Press" yesterday defending Karl Rove. As host Tim Russert points out, classified information, even if it is provided to a public official for confirmation, is not supposed to be verified. Ken Mehlman totally evades what Russert has just told him with his reply.

TIM RUSSERT: So by confirming a story for Robert Novak or sharing information with Matt Cooper--no matter where it came from--if in fact it was classified information, without seeking to determine whether it was declassified, it is an unauthorized disclosure.

KEN MEHLMAN: Well you're making an assumption that it's classifeid information. In fact what the story on Friday you pointed out shows and what earlier stories have shown is that this information at least came to Mr. Rove from journalists, not from a classified source. Again, here we are speculating...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

One city at a time: economic growth=combatting greenhouse gas emissions

Conservatives often assail our side for resorting to the courts to enforce our will rather than taking it to our state legislatures. While I have problems with this contention for several reasons, I do think it is worth working on local legislative channels, since the federal government isn't doing anything for us right now.

The good news is, that's what's happening as many localities are working with full force when it comes to the environment. According to Salon

This year, at the urging of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, more than 170 mayors nationwide have pledged to adopt Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The New Cities project, launched by Madison, Wis., Mayor Dave Cieslewicz (D), has a network of mayors working to implement on the local level the energy-independence proposals of the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of labor, environmental, and other groups that aims to spur eco-friendly economic growth.
Despite our federal government's unwillingness to move towards conservationist measures on greenhouse gas and other emissions, localities are proving that economic growth is possible and in fact often fostered by controls on emissions.

Here's more:

The Nation recently chronicled these and other progressive city-level campaigns in its cover story "Urban Archipelago," arguing that cities are the spots to watch for innovative, positive change. And last week, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof praised Portland, Ore., for having slashed its greenhouse-gas emissions below 1990 levels, even as it's been booming economically, proving wrong President Bush's recent claim that "Kyoto would have wrecked our economy."

This kind of economic optimism was a recurring theme during the Sundance Summit. Executives from the British-based consultancy The Climate Group impressed many in the audience when describing how 17 major U.S. cities had already reduced their emissions below 1990 levels and saved a total of $600 million through efficiency measures.
Finally, three cheers to Robert Redford for spear-heading the Sundance Summitt, a meeting for the country's mayors about this issue. As many of you know, I am a huge Redford fan (and have been since before I knew of his politics!).

Robert Redford, who makes me wish I was born 40 years earlier

Blog with health care system analyses

I found a really excellent website that touches on health care issues while debating my friend on the issue (European v. American health care). It's written by a guy named Ezra Klein, and it takes me back to my wonderful Health Policy program in Paris where I was immersed in this stuff.

America's health system is bad. It's no more complicated than that. We pay more for services, we pay more for drugs, we don't cover all our citizens, we have sky-high administrative costs, we have massive disparities in care, and we can't control costs. Restructuring health care isn't about -- at least not solely -- covering the uninsured, it's about creating a more sensible, logical, manageable, affordable, and usable health system.

What kind of society do we want

While catching up on e-mail, I read through Barack Obama's commencement address at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Obama makes the important point that the economic individualist idea ignores what has made our country successful and stable. A very good excerpt here:

Like so much of the American story, once again, we face a choice. Once again, there are those who believe that there isn’t much we can do about this as a nation. That the best idea is to give everyone one big refund on their government—divvy it up by individual portions, in the form of tax breaks, hand it out, and encourage everyone to use their share to go buy their own health care, their own retirement plan, their own child care, their own education, and so on. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society.

But in our past there has been another term for it—Social Darwinism—every man or woman for him or herself. It’s a tempting idea, because it doesn’t require much thought or ingenuity. It allows us to say that those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford—tough luck. It allows us to say to the Maytag workers who have lost their job—life isn’t fair. It let’s us say to the child who was born into poverty—pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And it is especially tempting because each of us believes we will always be the winner in life’s lottery, that we’re the one who will be the next Donald Trump, or at least we won’t be the chump who Donald Trump says: “You’re fired!”

But there is a problem. It won’t work. It ignores our history. It ignores the fact that it’s been government research and investment that made the railways possible and the internet possible. It’s been the creation of a massive middle class, through decent wages and benefits and public schools that allowed us all to prosper. Our economic dependence depended on individual initiative. It depended on a belief in the free market; but it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, the idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we’re all in it together and everybody’s got a shot at opportunity. That’s what’s produced our unrivaled political stability.
And on social responsibility:
There is no community service requirement in the real world; no one is forcing you to care. You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and go chasing after the big house, and the nice suits, and all the other things that our money culture says that you should want, that you should aspire to, that you can buy.

But I hope you don’t walk away from the challenge. Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. You need to take up the challenges that we face as a nation and make them your own.

Great quote

As a commuter and as a human being, I can only say that the following is one of the most brilliant statements I've ever read:

"The most common of all antagonisms arises from a man's taking a seat beside you on the train, a seat to which he is completely entitled."
-Robert Benchley

How true, how true! I love it!

1970s Redux: CIA leak again leads to the top

Not only has Bush's top political aide, Karl Rove, been revealed as a source for the Valerie Plame leak, but Dick Cheney's top aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been named as well. On "Meet the Press" Time Magazine's Matt Cooper revealed that he talked to Libby as well as Rove about Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame:
According to Cooper, Libby and Rove were among the government officials referred to in Cooper's subsequent Time story that said Wilson's wife was a CIA official and that she was involved in sending her husband on a trip to Africa.
This whole thing reminds me of Watergate in the sense that Richard Nixon, after the hotel burglary became news, took great pains to eliminate any trace of connection between himself and the crime, hoping to portray those involved as low-level hacks who committed a "third-rate burglary." However, because Nixon himself set a tone of no holds barred dirty campaigning, it would be no surprise (to some) in the end when it was revealed that he was likely connected with the Watergate burglary and especially with the subsequent obstruction of its investigation. It is unsurprising in the same way that the most high-ranking officials and not an out-of-control young staffer of the Bush White House can be traced to the Plame leak because the Bush establishment has such a similar history of dirty campaigning as Nixon.

Worst movie ever

I've been asked before what I would choose as the worst movie ever made, and I must confess, it is a harder question to answer than one would think. I feel like I have forgotten about a lot of the really awful movies that I have seen. Usually I settle on either Jack (1996) starring Robin Williams and Jennifer Lopez or Big Daddy (1999) starring Adam Sandler (in fact, at least half of all Adam Sandler movies could easily be called the worst movie ever made).

However, last night as I was flipping channels after putting the kids I was baby-sitting for to bed, I stopped on VH1 which was featuring an edited version of the 1995 movie Showgirls starring Elizabeth Berkely of Saved by the Bell semi-fame. Showgirls gives Jack and Big Daddy a run for their money. The script, plot, and acting are far beyond mediocre: they are just out and out awful. As some reviewers on IMDB point out, it is also just dull. I started drifting off while watching it. It was controversial when it came out because of nudity and perhaps the depravity of the characters, but that must have just been a publicity gimick to distract from its dullness.

If I were a guy, even the promise of modestly dressed to nude women could not keep me awake through Showgirls. Also, for anyone who likes to see independent, smart women portrayed on screen, the movie is a complete mockery, though one should beware of taking creator Joe Eszterhas seriously when he says Showgirls is about women's empowerment. As one reviewer aptly points out on IMDB Showgirl's creator, Joe Eszterhas "must have different ideas about women's empowerment because his idea seems to be to portray women as hookers, strippers, killers and raging lesbian predators (anything outside those four categories and they're fishfood)".

Oddly enough though, some IMDB reviewers really like it. To me it seems like these people have the contrarian impluse to like this movie because it is known for being so bad.

Anyway, I had exactly the same experience as this reviewer:
This could easily have been one of the worst movies that I was ever unable to turn away from. When I finally watched this movie it was edited on VH1. Still it sucked me in like it was some kind of black hole full of very poor acting and the most predictable storyline the history of film.

At least I can now name with more ease the worst movie ever.

Strange dream

Last night I dreamt that I met Karl Rove at work. He was fashionably dressed, and I was very polite to him. Weird...

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Without him, my blog would have no title

A belated tribute to Admiral James Stockdale, who died a few weeks ago at 81. Stockdale was famous as Ross Perot's running mate in 1992 who had a reputation for being a bit out of it.

It is also Stockdale who I credit for the title of my blog, "Who am I? Why am I here?" Here's what Stockdale had to say about that famous line from the '92 campaign in an interview with Jim Lehrer:

JIM LEHRER: That line, "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?" of course, got great publicity. Was that something that you just said spontaneously, or had you thought about it before the thing began?

ADMIRAL JAMES STOCKDALE: I had thought about it a little bit, and I thought it would come to me in a way that I could explain the idea of building a prison civilization. You remember, I really remembered Mark Van Doran's quote. He said, "An intelligent person is one who should a catastrophe strike, say doomsday... he could refound his own civilization," and I said, that's what I'm here to do. And we had our own laws. I mean, I wrote them. And we had our own customs, and traditions, and proprieties.

I believe he was talking about civilizations like those of when he was in a war prison in Vietnam.

Actually, Stockdale did do some amazing things in Vietnam:

During his 7 and half-year imprisonment, he was tortured numerous times, forced to wear vise-like heavy leg irons for two years and spent four years in solitary confinement. While imprisoned, he organized the prisoner culture in defiance of regulations forbidding prisoner communication and improvised a cohesive set of rules governing prisoner behavior.

All I really did was take his quote.

Please comment if you wish!

One thing I've learned since adding the counter last week is that people actually read my blog. So now I invite those people, any of them, to comment, comment, comment! Maybe the reason I am so comment-needy is because I feel the need to comment on so many blogs that I read. Plus comments make it seem like people are reading. Maybe I'm just not worth commenting on. Well comment about that. Just comment. Comment comment comment comment...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Paul Krugman on Karl Rove's contribution to politics

Following up on my point about why no one that I know is jealous of Karl Rove, as Republicans have accused Democrats of being, Paul Krugman outlines Rove's big "contribution" to politics better than I could. Basically, in a world where the media challenged politicians on lies, Rove would be a nut, endorsing things patently untrue:

A less insightful political strategist might have hesitated right after 9/11 before using it to cast the Democrats as weak on national security. After all, there were no facts to support that accusation.

But Mr. Rove understood that the facts were irrelevant. For one thing, he knew he could count on the administration's supporters to obediently accept a changing story line. Read the before-and-after columns by pro-administration pundits about Iraq: before the war they castigated the C.I.A. for understating the threat posed by Saddam's W.M.D.; after the war they castigated the C.I.A. for exaggerating the very same threat.


Mr. Rove also understands, better than anyone else in American politics, the power of smear tactics. Attacks on someone who contradicts the official line don't have to be true, or even plausible, to undermine that person's effectiveness. All they have to do is get a lot of media play, and they'll create the sense that there must be something wrong with the guy.

But what we're getting, instead, is yet another impressive demonstration that these days, truth is political. One after another, prominent Republicans and conservative pundits have declared their allegiance to the party line.

Because flip flops were on the front page of the paper today

Even though the story I'm referencing, the one in today's Chicago Tribune about flip flops being worn to the White House, was actually in the print media and not TV, TV news is just as bad, if not worse in what they cover. (Why not just put that story in the Tempo section?)

Take a look at Be a Witness which is gathering petition signees to submit to TV networks asking them to cover newsworthy issues, namely genocide taking place in Darfur rather than focusing so much attention on things like runaway brides, Tom Cruise, and the Michael Jackson trial.

So even though, if you're like me, you probably sign ten petitions a day and you wonder what the hell they do anyway, I think we all have an interest in encouraging the media to be a helpful and useful organ for the public. And truth be told, petitions and call-ins work better than a lot of us think.

My 300th Post! Worktime musings

In honor of my 300th post, I will submit the most unstructured blog entry ever!

I am almost released since it is approximately 4:45 on Friday. This week has been quiet at work though very productive. Since the Patterson trial had pretty dry witness testimony yesterday, I decided to just skip viewing today and work, work, work. Provided below is my stream of consciousness at various points in the day: e-mails, who could they be from? Oh political cause, something else political, something else computers+reading=eyes buzzing...Lunch time

Now I’ll interrupt myself to say that a LOVELY place to eat lunch is the garden just south of our city’s beloved Art Institute (where a great Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit which I saw in D.C. is currently featured). It’s a quiet respite from the city (urban noises are drowned out by fountains) and you don’t have to sit too close to anyone, thus avoiding annoying cell phone conversations.

Okay, now back to this afternoon:
Should I get a Diet Coke?, I’m more in the mood for water...should I go downstairs to Patterson? No....suddenly office pandemonium! Exciting b/c it’s been quiet all day...quiet again...4:30 take break, go article about the idiot defense attorney Demetrius Evans, I guess she didn’t walk out of court she says...need Diet Coke..go down hall, open D.C. back in cold and good!
And here I am at 10 until 5

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Just let me be superficial for a moment and say...

Every time I see photos of him, Bill Clinton looks great.

Photos from the Campus Progress convention that just took place in D.C.

Depends what the definition of 'leak' is...

The waters are murky on the question of whether Karl Rove revealed the name of a CIA Agent, at least according to this article from my favorite newspaper, the New York Times. Seriously though, according to the Times, an anonymous witness of some sort has come forward to let Patrick Fitzgerald know that Rove was told by Robert Novak that Novak knew who Plame was, and Rove confirmed that.

So that bolsters Rove's defense, but
The person who provided the information about Mr. Rove's conversation with Mr. Novak declined to be identified, citing requests by Mr. Fitzgerald that no one discuss the case. The person discussed the matter in the belief that Mr. Rove was truthful in saying he did not disclose Ms. Wilson's identity.

Well, this could be anyone. This could be George W. Bush, or Karl Rove's attorney Robert Luskin. Seriously though, an anonymous informant is basically agreeing with Rove's version of the facts, with no indication of how this person was privy to such information.

Finally, even if Rove's side of the story is true, and it hasn't been confirmed either way, the Times mentions that
White House officials may argue that Mr. Rove's conversation with Mr. Novak did not amount to leaking the name of the agent. But to critics of Mr. Bush - including the Democrats who have called for Mr. Rove's resignation - that is splitting hairs, and Mr. Rove in effect confirmed her identity, even if he did not name her.

Let's not forget, Rove is also vulnerable of perjury charges for his statements to a grand jury about not leaking Plame's name. I won't comment about the zealousness from those who wanted Clinton charged for perjury because I'm sure they are equally adamant that Rove, if guilty of leaking Plame's name, should face the same grave charges Clinton faced. Right guys?

Finally, I just want to make a point to those of you who will jump down my throat or the throats of those who have a similar perspective on this case, calling us partisan and simply out to get Rove because he has been such a powerful force behind Bush's success.

(1) The law's the law. If Rove is supsected of treason, he should be investigated. It's a grave act independent of who did it.
(2) Democrats, or at least not this Democrat, do not envy Rove. Rove to me is a bitter, angry man who has made it his life's work to smear his opponents in whatever creative way he can think of. Rove for instance gained access to the Democratic headquarters of Alan Dixon, took some official stationary, and handed out invitations to homeless people for a Democratic function to try and embarass Dixon. (It doesn't need to be said how depraved and disrespectful of everyone involved such a tactic is). I'm not surprised that no-holds barred Republicans may think Democrats jealous of Rove because they themselves have no moral qualms with his malicious campaigning.
(3) The ONLY ARGUMENT Republicans ever make when they're accused of something, be it Tom Delay, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, ad infinitum, is that they are victims of a partisan attack. Little to no effort is made to clear up any controversy that may exist; no, Republicans, majority party in essentially all three branches of government, are the victims.

Needless to say, I'm pessimistic about Rove's chances of being indicted. For all of Fitzgerald's supposed independence, Bush WH seems to have him in their pocket:
Robert D. Luskin, Mr. Rove's lawyer, said Thursday, "Any pertinent information has been provided to the prosecutor." Mr. Luskin has previously said that prosecutors have advised Mr. Rove that he is not a target in the case, which means he is not likely to be charged with a crime.
About Aaron Patterson's former attorney:

Outside the presence of the jury, defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed that the continued involvement of Patterson's former attorney, Demitrus Evans, is detrimental to the trial.

Evans was removed as Patterson's attorney Friday after storming out of court, and prosecutors moved for her dismissal.

Brewer, a former FBI agent, told U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer that he believes Evans is undermining his relationship with Patterson by telling t
he defendant that he is still working for the government. Evans denied that in an interview.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

This article pretty much sums up how I feel about the Judith Miller affair: about Miller herself, what her case represents as a legal issue, and what I think about the media.
That elephant, of course, was Miller herself, and the notorious role she played during the Bush administration's buildup to the war in Iraq. I myself wrote an article last December suggesting that Miller and her newspaper, having been thoroughly hustled by Ahmed Chalabi (possibly at taxpayer expense), bore more responsibility for the Iraq misadventure than anyone this side of George W. Bush.

On one hand, many members of the public -- especially liberals who ought to be staunch defenders of the Bill of Rights -- seem unable or unwilling to grasp the idea that a matter of fundamental principle might be at stake, even in the murky and seemingly bottomless waters of the Miller-Plame-Rove affair. No reporter can be expected to check out the legality or ethics or motivations of all sources in advance. All sorts of surprising people talk to reporters when they probably shouldn't, for all sorts of personal and political and psychological reasons. If journalists can only receive confidential information from the saintly and the pure of heart, the entire enterprise might as well become "The View."

...But the public's baleful view of the press is not totally without merit. Media insiders have become so obsessed by their own internal debates and so mesmerized by their own pseudo-professional codes of conduct that they've failed to notice how badly they've lost the public trust.
The problem is that the journalistic establishment has no way of dealing with someone like Miller, who screwed up massively [on WMD reporting], but did so within the rules the profession has set for itself.
A constant tide of right-wing complaints about the media's alleged liberal bias has also taken its toll on mainstream institutions like the Times, CNN and CBS News, which have tried to triangulate toward some ever-receding middle point in the political discourse. Like so much that the media does, this intellectually empty strategy is based on a misreading of public intelligence; Americans may be increasingly cynical, and not well-informed as a whole, but they're also not dumb. The right will of course continue to discern traces of "cultural elite" snobbery in mainstream media coverage, while the left will feel that the press has abandoned critical thinking and capitulated to mindless nationalism. For once, both sides will be right.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Yellow Lawn? Good Samaritan!

I like this article by Eric Zorn about how Chicago's record dry spell has made his lawn a beacon of self-sacrifice amidst desperate-sprinkler users trying to combat yellow grass. And good for Governor Blagojevich for standing by his word!

On July 3, Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a statement telling state agencies to be conservative when watering lawns and washing state vehicles.

Can do!

I'm not a state agency, but count me in as a loyal citizen volunteer. Pin the tumbleweed cluster on my breast and praise my khaki-colored turf. My lawn is now semi-living proof of my selfless responsibility, my willingness to set aside shallow considerations of appearance to help this region overcome an insidious natural disaster.

The average lawn needs less than an inch of water a month to remain alive, said Kris Bachtell, director of collections and grounds at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle; it takes an inch a week to keep it green.

The governor is an inch-a-month guy. I took a walk by his house Monday morning--he lives less than 2 miles from us--and saw that portions of his lawn have also turned to straw and that, like us, he has a patch of new grass that has received water during the drought lest it fail to take root.

Patterson Trial Begins with Exciting Opening Arguments

The government and the defense in the case of USA v. Patterson finally gave their opening statements today, after two weeks of delay because of courtroom outbursts from the co-defendant Aaron Patterson and later his reluctant attorney, Demetrius Evans. On Friday, Evans burst out that she didn't want to be a part of the trial and packed up and left the courtroom. Tommy Brewer has replaced Evans. It's been a strange case and has connections to George Ryan and Northwestern University's famous investigative journalism class that has led to commutations of many death sentecnes in Illinois. Here's a bit more information:

Patterson served 17 years in state prison, 13 on death row, for a double murder. As one of Ryan's last acts before leaving office in 2003, he pardoned Patterson and three other death row inmates while commuting the sentences of 160 other condemned prisoners to life without parole.

Ryan, who said he was acting out of concern over a system that sent 13 wrongly convicted prisoners to death row, declared that none of the evidence against Patterson was credible.

Patterson left prison vowing to devote his life to exposing police misconduct.

"He emerged from prison a changed man, a man with a mission," who was intent on exposing police corruption, defense attorney Paul Camarena told jurors in his opening statement.

...Last week, Patterson sent word that he wanted to return to court and U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer scheduled an 8:30 a.m. Tuesday meeting to see if he would behave himself. But he boycotted that meeting and did not use a closed-circuit TV installed so that he could watch from behind bars.

I think everyone in the Dirksen building has now heard about this trial, because the line was the first one I've really seen for a trial where people had to be turned away. I was lucky enough to get to sit in though. (Hint: Get there early!)

Patterson's old attorney, Evans, was actually in the courtroom watching opening statements. I suppose she came because Judge Pallmeyer said she can still advise Patterson though she is not his main counsel.

Everyone had seemingly good open arguments; the prosecution made Patterson look like a conscientious drug conspirator with assurance they could prove he did what he is accused of doing did when they say he did it; the defense made Patterson look like a man out to prove that the government has some sneaky ways of roping criminals. We'll see where this leads.

Update on my CTA delay correspondence

Well, I did get a prompt response from CTA Customer Service regarding my complaint for lack of an announcement about yesterday's delay:
Thank you for your complaint. Without knowing the actual time you were waiting at Adams & Wabash, we have no way of knowing what information might have been available at that time. The delay turned out to be caused by a person aboard a Red Line train near Morse Avenue who contacted the train operator on the intercom and claimed to have a bomb. This required an interruption in service--including on the Purple Line that runs next to the Red Line on that section of the route--that delayed your train from getting to the Loop until police could arrive and arrest the offender. There should have been announcements on the platforms as soon as we understood that a significant delay would be unavoidable, but we would need your time frame to know if the information was available when you needed it. If you will advise us on that issue, we will use your complaint in any way it might help us do better in the future. In the meantime, we apologize for the delay.
--CTA Customer Service

So I wrote back:
Dear Customer Service,
Thank you for your response. Of course, that is an understandable reason for a delay, but an announcement is always appreciated. I got at the station at 5:10 AM and the train came at approximately 5:40 AM.
Thanks for your quick response.

The saga continues...

I Actually Won Something

But I kind of think it was because it was a slow week. Still, check out Campus Progress Blogathon and enter yourself to win post of the week!

Monday, July 11, 2005

CTA Delays

Yes, they happen. No, riders shouldn't be left stranded with no announcement while waiting 30+ minutes for a train to come. I decided to actually write (well e-mail) a letter to the CTA about the dealy I endured tonight.

To Whom it May Concern:

I was disappointed after having to wait 30-35 minutes at the Adams and Wabash station for a purple line train, with no announcement at the station as to why the train was late. I could have taken the brown line to the red line and gotten home much faster had someone made an announcement. I understand that delays are inevitable, but please be frank with your customers and let us know when and why one is occurring so we can modify our plans.

Thanks for your time,

Another blog by me

I've decided to try my hand at an info blog about how to have a good style on a budget. Check it out here, and I'll of course link it on my sidebar.

Rove's lawyer...

...who has been making statements for Rove on the Valerie Plame case really fits the unfortunate (though in this case true) stereotype of the sleazy lawyer.
Luskin got paid more than $500,000 of his attorney's fees in gold bars from his client who was trying to appeal his conviction on charges that he laundered drug money through precious metals dealers. Who woulda thought that was drug money?

Yet another reminder of media insufficiency

A new ad about how the television media has put reporting on genocide in Darfur on the backburner in favor of Tom Cruise, the runaway bride, and the Michael Jackson trial. It succinctly makes a good point.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Fashion! blog!

I am liking this blog I stumbled upon about fashion. I have to confess when it comes to blogs about style topics, I am like a child: the more pictures the better. Well this site overall has good words to compliment a balanced amount of pictures. Plus, the blog writer explores Zara and Mango, two of my favorite European chain clothing stores (she compares Zara to Express, however, which I don't find entirely apt--the Zara woman is more put together, IMHO). Anyway, check it out, it's called Fashionologie.

View into the Dark Ages of the Internet

In honor of Amazon's ten-year anniversary, they have linked to the first appearance ever of their homepage, way back in 1995, when the Internet was but a little seedling. Seeing this fossil of an image reminds me of an instance several years ago when my brother and I put in a tape from the early 1990s and were floored by the primitive-looking fonts. However, it also reminds me that Amazon's current site is a juggernaut of a webpage, a circus that has lost all semblance of naviagability. Maybe Jeff Bezos (is he still there?) and co. should take a good look at the old page in all of its glorious simplicity.

Radio Review: Chicago's New 104.3

I wanted to not like "Jack FM" the station that has taken the place of Chicago's beloved Oldies 104.3 WJMK.

For one, I grew up on Oldies 104.3, listening to "Breakfast with the Beatles" during the Sunday morning car ride to Sunday School and the Dick Biondi evening show on weeknights. After 98.7, Chicago's classical music station, Oldies 104.3 played the oldest collection of songs on FM radio (admittedly 98.7's music is a wee bit older). Now the only station where any "golden oldies" can be found on Chicago radio is 97.1 The Drive, but that station focuses more on classic rock than anything else.

Furthermore, the slogan of Jack FM is smug and, well kind of autocratic: "Playing what we want." Listening to Jack FM is like listening to an iPod on shuffle--not your iPod though, Jack's.

I must say though, whoever Jack is, he has a great collection and a nice variety. He listens to everything from Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" to Billy Idol's "Eyes without a Face" to the Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like an Eagle." Speaking of Marvin Gaye, today I heard a medley of "Mercy Me" and "I Want You," (sung by someone else) and then Black Box's "Everybody, Everybody" (a catchy, early-1990s sounding dance song that I hadn't heard in ages). Nearly every time I flip to Jack FM (why is it called that, by the way?), I hear something I like. Plus, other then the annoying voice that brags that there is "no talk," there really is no talk.

So I give Jack FM high marks in a world where good radio stations are few and far between, but I wish it hadn't replaced another one of those stations. Plus the station is not perfect. Sometimes the iPod shuffle lands on a song that is better skipped, that song still on the iPod for no better reason than that Jack hasn't gotten around to deleting it. Case in point: as I write this, Alanis Morisette's "Hand in My Pocket" is playing.

Great jacket

This is totally irrelevant to anything, but I want Judith Miller's jacket, seen in this picture

A better photo that I am not posting on because it is too large can be found here which is incidentally the Newsweek story about Rove being Cooper's alleged source for the Valerie Plame leak.

Click on the Ads! Pleeease!

I'll click on your ads if you click on mine. I make a little money, and come on, who can resist Baskin Robbins ad coupons?

Beyond Balderdash: The Zenith of Board Game Experiences

Tonight I had the most enjoyable board game experience ever, and that is saying a lot! I played Beyond Balderdash with family and friends. In the game, there are cards that list several categories: people, initials, movies, dates, and words, all esoteric and strange.

Each player makes up a plausible definition or description to fit the person/date/movie/word/initials in question, and once through, all of the made-up definitions along with one real one (unknown to players) are read, and each person tries to guess which is right.

We had some pretty funny descriptions in our game, and since I am still reeling with laughter from the whole thing, I will provide a few.

In the person category

Towanik Makutin (correct answer was: "Arabian math whiz who invented the zero symbol")
  • "the first secretary general of the United Nations"
  • "founder of the Freestyle Felons, the pioneering Makutin is often referred to as the godfather of gangster rap by hip-hop aficionados"
  • "Belgian sharecropper credited with the idea of a bicycle's front wheel being equal in size to the back wheel"
Doris von Kappelhoff (correct answer was: "Doris Day's real name")
  • "first woman ever to sing a non-love song"
  • "New York homemaker who became the first person to claim a UFO sitting"
  • "...took a 'Das Boot' to your face"
Timothy Hoare (correct answer was: "Believe-it-or-not, he owned a goose named Pinkie that did card tricks while blindfolded")
  • "founder of the United Kingdom Soccer Alliance"
  • "white man punched in the kidney for defending Rosa Parks in the Montgomery bus incident"
  • "won second place to that Little Japanese guy in the National Hot Dog Eating Contest"
  • "serial killer famous for using household objects as weapons" (that was my rather creepy one; I'm going to have nightmares now)
  • and the most depressing one ever: "Child actor who appeared in one feature-length film in 1967 before descending into a crippling heroin addiction"
J.W. Dobereiner (correct answer was: "the inventor of the first cigarette lighter")
  • "German man who holds the world record for amount of bratwursts eaten at one sitting"
  • "the ex-German sausage tycoon who retired to breed the first miniature dogs"
  • "devoured 14 live seagulls without but a fart" (that of course, was my brother's)
August 26, 1920 (correct answer was "American women were given the right to vote")
  • "On this balmy day in Chicago, Miranda Schoppenstein became the first flagpole sitter to be photographed, beginning the national craze"
February 29, 1984 (correct answer was "Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, resigned")
  • "the day Anheuser-Busch introduced Natural Light to the beer market"
  • "'She's a Maniac' first appeared on the Billboard Top Ten"
  • "the last time cocaine was ever snorted"
  • "the date an obituary writer caused an unparalleled panic when he announced that Mr. T had died"
December 15, 1939 (correct answer was: "Gone with the Wind had its gala opening")
  • "Actor Tyrone Power publicly declares he will enlist in the war effort, as the first ever film star to do so"
  • "Christmas is cancelled. Jesus has risen and judged the world to be unfit. Santa will fight Jesus to the death or face a holy apocalypse"
  • "Frank Alvarez's personal llama sets a world record for length"
The Girl Downstairs (correct answer was: "Cinderella-style story about a wealthy European playboy who chooses his maid over his mistress")
  • "A romantic comedy about two tenants in a NY apartment, one of which is a young girl and the other a ghost"
Do You Like Women? (correct answer was: "rival gangs of women eaters do battle in Paris, France")
  • "A hot-to-trot gang of lawyers must decide between their careers and plus-sized swimsuit models"
  • "As thoughtful as it is provocative, this film was the first pornographic feature to place at the Berlin Film Festival"
Dirty Laundry (correct answer was HILARIOUS: "a bumbling schnook gets screwed up with gangsters when his laundry is mixed up with a million bucks in drug money")
  • "a romantic thriller about two college students who attempt to rob the same all-night Laundromat and simultaneously find themselves falling for each other and their other schemes"
  • "Harvy Keitel is a detective hired to pose as a gay cyclist in this 1983 slapstick"
The Last Laugh (correct answer was: "a hotel doorman is demoted to washroom attendant, but gets even when he comes into a lot of money"-I've actually seen this movie!)
  • "Sweet, sweet revenge. Guy gets girl, other guy steals girl, first guy wins in a spectacular cage match to the death"
  • "After the attack of the aliens in the War of the Worlds Tom Cruise is still not satisfied with survival only. He will have revenge on the aliens and most definitely get the LAST LAUGH!"
  • "Emilio Estevez is a vaudeville star forced to retire because of his inability to remember his partner's name"
BBFU (correct answer was: "Beach Boys Freaks United")
  • "Barry Bostwick Fan Union"
  • "Backyard Barbecuing Fathers United"
  • "Boston Baked Funnel Union"
  • "Blind Boat-farers Union"
  • "The Bold, Bald, Flatulating Underdogs"