Monday, October 31, 2005

Supreme Court Under the Dictates of the Right-Wing

Last week, Harriet Miers, Bush's first nominee to fulfill Sandra Day O'Connor's spot on the U.S. Supreme Court, withdrew her nomination after relentless criticism for her lack of conservative credentials on the part of people who hold very right-wing views. Bush today nominated ultra-right winger Samuel Alito in her place and at the behest of this contingent of his party.

This unpopular president, whose White House is under investigation, with one big time former administration member (Libby) already indicted, who clearly lied about going to a war that is accruing billions of dollars tothe American deficit and has taken thousands of lives in the process, is nominating someone supported by the only section of the country that truly still supports him. The rest of us want to know how soon this disastrous administration can end.

To have a president refer to an extreme political contingent of his party for his Supreme Court nominations, rather than all elements of both political parties, at a time when this president is unpopular--most especially because of the radical policies he supports and the corruption of those who have advanced these policies--is unacceptable. Alito must be forced to withdraw, and if that doesn't work, he must be filibustered. Believe me, this country will not only regret having him on the court when the decisions of a strong conservative majority start coming down, it will be irretrievably damaged by such a court. Look to a return to the radical Lochner court of the early 20th Century.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Designers at Chains

Last year (or the year before?) marked the introduction of an Isaac Mizrahi line at Target and a special Karl Lagerfeld line at H&M. Now the Swedish-based chain is releasing a Stella McCartney line, a preview of which can be found here. A clued in friend made the point to me that H&M has started a new trend--with Target tagging right along--in releasing such designer lines at non-designer prices.

Nice work shirt from Isaac Mizrahi for Target

Great looking purse, also Mizrahi

So far, I think Target's integration of Mizrahi has had the most appeal. The shoes, clothing, and accessories sold at Target are by and large incredibly wearable and reasonably-priced. The Mizrahi line has proven that a fashion designer can be brought down to earth. It has both upped Target's fashion quotient and given the otherwise frivolous designer fashion world a purpose (any industry whose client is the top .00005 percent of the population, in my opinion, is frivolous). The biggest con of the Mizrahi line, in my opinion, is that it lacks some in creativity but it balances that flaw out by featuring classic pieces.

Largerfeld's line at H&M, from what I remember, did not impress me. It seemed none to different from typical H&M wear, perhaps with the expectation that the shopper would consider Karl's contribution to affordable fashion reason enough to buy his line.

Stella McCartney's line is more creative, but it is often not wearable! She keeps to one pant style, an odd-looking skinny, ankle-length pant with ties around the ankle which is guaranteed to look good on an H&M mannequin but little else. Some of the pairings are very nice--a rich, silk blouse under a blazer is a great look for the winter. Stella succeeds best when she uses classic shapes like that tailored blazer. Her chiffon dress on the other hand is the sort of shapeless thing that would be worn on a shapeless model down a runway in New York or Paris. Ditto her oversized trench coat and her "Satin all-in-one." Great fabrics, pretty colors--terrible fit! These items are about as practical as most of the wears at a haute couture fashion show. I guess we'll see if the general public agrees come fall or winter when the collection is released in stores.

Tres Bizarre

I finally read the full text of the letter that Lewis Libby wrote to Judy Miller giving her a personal waiver to testify in front of the grand jury (as she seemed to require). The letter is the most bizarre text ever, by the way:
"As noted above, my lawyer confirmed my waiver to other reporters in just the way he did with your lawyer. Why? Because as I am sure will not be news to you, the public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me, or knew about her before our call....

"You went to jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover -- Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats, bird flu and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work—-and life. Until then, you will remain in my thoughts and prayers.

"With admiration, Scooter Libby."
These two were either having an affair, communicating in code, or just gone crazy from too many years doing what they've been doing.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Sports Overkill

With the White Sox World Series win and the Northwestern versus Michigan homecoming game tonight, sports is in the air. In fact, not only is it in the air, but it is asphyxiating all. I mean I thought I liked cheering for sports as much as the next guy, but I think I was wrong, because the next guy likes to talk about sports all day, talk about our team's rank and how much the other team "sucks" and talk about sports some more. Yesterday during Patrick Fitzgerald's press conference about the Libby indictment, all of the major stations had the stupid White Sox parade on. I have to say, I am beginning to like having losing teams rather than winners because at least people talk about other things when their team isn't doing so well (And isn't it weird how we have teams based on where we live or what school we go to? I mean, if everyone on the NU football team was a jerk, and everyone on U. of Michigan was a nice guy, I think I'd have to go for Michigan, personally). We live in a country that's obsessed with sports, and it's gotten a little out of hand. It's fun to go to a game, (unless it's football, which is a damn dull sport) cheer for a team, enjoy the ambiance, and have a nice night, but geez, there is much more to life than your local sports team. Are our lives so boring that we can't talk about anything but that?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Looking a Little Closer at the Economic "Growth"

Today it was announcd that the economy grew 3.8% in the 3rd quarter of 2005. That being an aggregate number, it is important to look at the details. Spending's going up, but wages and disposable income are not.
The increases in spending came even as disposable personal income growth slowed to 2.8 percent from 4.9 percent. Adjusted for inflation, disposable income fell 0.9 percent after increasing 1.5 percent in the second quarter. Some of the drop was attributable to lost rental and business income on the Gulf Coast after Katrina and Rita lashed the region.

In another report released today, the Labor Department said the employment cost index, which is comprised of wages, salaries and benefits, rose 0.8 percent in the third quarter from the second quarter. But adjusted for inflation, the index was down 1.5 percent from September 2004, with the wages and salary portion dropping by 2.3 percent.

Some economists saw the income and wage data as another indication that many American workers are falling behind even as the economy grows.

...The G.D.P. price index, a measure of inflation, rose 3.1 percent, up from 2.6 percent in the second quarter.

The personal saving rate fell into negative territory, minus 1.1 percent, from 0.1 percent. That indicates that people were paying for their increased spending by borrowing more money.

Libby Indicted on 5 Counts

Lewis Libby, Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, has resigned after being indicted today:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 - I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and one of the most powerful figures in the Bush administration, was formally accused today of lying and obstruction of justice during an inquiry into the unmasking of a covert C.I.A. officer.

A federal grand jury indicted Mr. Libby on one count of obstruction, two counts of perjury and two of making false statements in the course of an investigation that raised questions about the administration's rationale for going to war against Iraq, how it treats critics and political opponents and whether high White House officials shaded the truth.

...Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, was not charged today, but will remain under investigation, people briefed officially about the case said. As a result, they said, the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, was likely to extend the term of the federal grand jury beyond its scheduled expiration today.

Remember the Ethical White House

Bill Clinton was probably the most investigated president in the history of the office. Contrast the tight-lipped Patrick Fitzgerald to Mr. Reporters in His Office Kenneth Starr. And after all of that:
The plain fact is that after a seven year non-stop investigato-rama, no senior Clinton White House official was ever even charged with wrongdoing. Much less indicted. Much less convicted. In fact, the highest-ranking Clinton official to be convicted of wrongdoing in connection with his public duties was the chief of staff to the Agriculture Secretary. Betcha five bucks you can't even name the Clinton Agriculture Secretary in question, much less his chief of staff. Unlike Nixon (whose Watergate crimes were manifest), unlike Reagan (whose White House was corrupted by the Iran-Contra crimes), unlike Bush 41 (who pardoned White House aides and Cabinet officers before they could testify against him), Bill Clinton presided over the most ethical White House staff in decades.

I miss those days, and I think the reason people are anticipating the indictments is because we want a return to days when ethics mattered. We want to see those who, as James Moore says, "see the law as only marginally instructive" and act thusly brought to justice. It's sad to see our country back in the same place it was with Watergate, Iran-Contra, but not surprising. The lying about going to war in Iraq has worse consequences than Watergate ever had, as in 2,000 deaths and thousands more wounded for life. Billions of dollars.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Be Careful What You Wish For...

...Because you just might get it, as Smokey Robinson crooned in The Temptations movie, a television event remembered to this day only by me, my siblings, and an old friend from high school. Anyhow, I wished for more time, and this mono gave it to me. Seems I have all the time in the world besides the few hours I spend in class, and the truth is, not being busy makes one feel...kinda lonely.

I don't have a lot of memories from early childhood, but one that stands out is sitting on the kitchen counter biting back tears as I held a small Hershey bar in my hand. I had gotten sick, and my dad was trying to calm me down a little because I had to miss some fun outing with my Grandma. I don't remember the outing that I was so sad to miss back then, so although it seems my illness is keeping me from enjoying a pretty fun weekend and week ahead--what with homecoming (school football team is actually doing well) and Halloween--I may look back at this time and forget what I missed.

Anyway, in truth, this isn't the end of the world. I'm actually lucky that my case of mono was not as severe as some, so if this is my one experience with mono, I consider myself fortunate. And I'm up on all of the "Fitzmas" rumors.

I even spent one of my weekend evenings reacearching the English Teaching Assistant position in France through the French embassy. Reading peoples' comments on extensive web forum, for some reason conjured up a bad feeling in me. Maybe because it only reminded me of the stressful aspects of being abroad. Also, the abundance of unknowns that come with this position is discouraging: location (you choose an "Academie," which covers a whole region of Paris, so for instance choosing the Paris Academie could place you anywhere from the Marais to St Denis, a not so savory banlieu or suburb of Paris)--which you don't find out until pretty soon before you leave (meaning you have to find an apartment when in France--not an easy process!), type of job (one can have English teaching duties or act as a true assistant), etc. So I don't know, I will probably still apply, but right now getting a job in D.C. or on a campaign is looking better. Especially because we Democrats need to make it our goal to win back a substantial number of seats in 2006. If we don't during a time when the Republican party corruption is public (rather than just private, as it usually is) we will have proven we have a losing strategy (though I think the Dem strategy should be revamped as it is).

Also, a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my wonderful mom! And to the late Theodore Roosevelt.

I love a good sale on a quality item

Eddie Bauer is having a sale on a great sweater. It's a cotton-cashmere blend, and it comes in three different styles: hooded, v-neck, and split-neck. I already purchased the hooded sweater in heather pink, so I decided to give the other two styles a try in different colors. I whole-heartedly endorse the cotton-cashmere blend, which is very comfortable, less expensive, and more easily washable than 100% cashmere.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Why I Don't Like Hipsterism

As one who appreciates both irony and good new music, I don't want my post to come off as a screed against the taste of the typical hipster, because I too like corny board games and the Fiery Furnaces. It is the principle that underlies the hipster or "hipsterism," as I have called it in my title, that bothers me. This principle is: "I know something you don't know." It can be illustrated by this anecdote. I was telling a music hipster that Sufjan Stevens was becoming really big in Chicago because of his "Feel the Illinoise" album. "My mom knows who Sufjan Stevens is," he responded, as if to say, yeah, he's passe. This example illustrates the essence of the Hipster as one who gets off on the fact that he has a more refined taste than the rest of us, the masses.

I was thinking about this because I am currently reading a lot on the French conception of American culture in the 1920s for my thesis. One of the big critiques on the part of the French, was that America's was a culture of the masses. An oft-repeated belief was that that American literature was recognized not by its quality but by its sales. America's culture was thus held hostage by the masses and their money. This at a time when distinguished writers like Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser, and Thornton Wilder were big names of the day.

I believe Hipsterism subscribes to the same assessment of American culture, so to define themselves against it. Hipsterism deems itself a high culture, believing it has unearthed a band/store/book that uncool people are not capable of finding. The problem with the Hipster though is that anything that suddenly comes into knowledge of the masses is no longer hip. The total discredit of popular opinion is Hipsterism's biggest problem. First, some of the best works of art have been popular successes. Alfred Hitchcock comes to mind. Second, when a once lesser-known artist is put on the map, for instance F. Scott Fitzgerald's critical renaissance in the 1940s, this should be considered a positive thing. Isn't it good when underappreciated works are finally translating to more people?

It seems Hipsterism wants a mass culture that it can look upon as inferior, just as the French critics of the 1920s often discredited the U.S. culture as one drowned by the country's newfound (and short-lived) prosperity. Of course bestsellers are not inherently good, but they are not inherently bad either, and taste should not be built around numbers either way. A pattern of insularity and elitism foreshadows for the Hipster culture an incomprehensibility to those outside of it. One day, the layers of irony, the bands that just make noises, the unpalatable films, will be indecipherable to the masses. Until then, I invite the hipsters to share the wealth.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Why More Dems Need to be Like Howard Dean

[Howard] Dean was asked Sunday by ABC "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos: "If [Fitzgerald] finishes his investigation without bringing indictments and without issuing a final report, will you accept that as the end of the matter?"

"No," Dean shot back. "Because I fundamentally don't think these are honest people running the government."


And you know what, if there aren't any indictments, I will be suspicious, because we already know that Libby perjured his testimony in front of the grand jury to cover for Dick Cheney. And why might it be worse for him to admit that he found out about Plame through Cheney than through a reporter, one might ask? If Cheney, et al, were seeking to find out everything they could to launch a smear campaign on Joe Wilson, that's why. As Howard Dean said, "I fundamentally don't think these are honest people running the government." I hope that Democrats continue to say that throughout 2006.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Cheney Told Libby About Plame

The New York Times says today that Lewis Libby learned that Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame was a CIA Agent from Dick Cheney, who learned about it from CIA Chief George Tenet. As the Times says:
Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.
So not only did "Scooter" Libby perjure his testimony, which despite new Republican definitions otherwise, is much more than a technicality, it appears he and Cheney were out to get information on Wilson. Just as Nixon assembled information on his critics or "enemies," so to does the current administration, though they are allowed to talk amongst themselves about CIA members, it appears.

I will be completely mystified(and suspicious) if there are no indictments from Patrick Fitzgerald by the end of the week.

Did Souter Really 'Go Souter'?

The Daily Kos has a link to an article that somewhat punctures the idea that David Souter was poised to be a reliable conservative vote when he was nominated to the Supreme Court by George H.W. Bush but that he changed sides once on the Court. What has come out of this is that George H.W., by choosing someone he did not personally know, made a mistake.

However, one of Souter's closest friends, former New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman, maintains that what America saw in 1990, when Souter was nominated and went through hearings, is what we got:
"I've never figured that one out," says Rudman, now a partner in the D.C. office of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. "Anyone who ever listened to his testimony would know that he was a judge in the model of [John Marshall] Harlan or [Felix] Frankfurter. He certainly wasn't in the mold of a real conservative."
Furthermore, he wasn't remebered as a doctrinaire conservative in his confirmation hearing:
Still, if Souter's White House vetting was problematic, his confirmation hearings were revealing. Mark Gitenstein, former chief counsel to then Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., says he remembers Biden quizzing Souter about how he would determine fundamental rights under the 14th Amendment. "The answer is, we cannot, as a matter of definition at the beginning of our inquiry, narrow the acceptable evidence to the most narrow evidence possible," Souter said.

That broad standard, and Souter's expansive statements about unenumerated rights, reassured the Delaware Democrat. Says Gitenstein, "I remember talking to Biden and Biden said, 'I have to vote for him as a result of that answer.'"

And in his opinions:

It wasn't just at the hearings that Souter made clear his centrist thinking. His 200 or so opinions, written during a 12-year stint on the Superior Court of New Hampshire and the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and during his months as a judge on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, also made that evident.

"Conservatives have been saying, 'No more Souters, no more Souters,'" notes University of Chicago law professor David Strauss, who was a special counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee during Souter's confirmation hearings.

"But I read all of Souter's lower court decisions, and I predicted at the time of the hearings, in an internal memo, that Souter wouldn't vote to overturn Roe," says Strauss, who was then working for Biden. "If you read his opinions and ask yourself, how does this guy approach judging? Souter doesn't just say he'll go by precedent -- precedent orients his legal universe."

So in a sense, Souter is a conservative. He does not like to overturn precedent which, agree or disagree with it as a principle, is a very conservative inclination. Furthermore, Souter was only a judge in the federal courts for a few months before he was nominated to the Supreme Court. There was not a lot of information out there either way that indicated his views on Constitutional questions. From what I have read about his many years as a judge in New Hampshire, he was a pretty standard law and order-oriented jurist, which may have given people like Sununu the idea that he would be the next Bork, but in hindsight, it seems like people gave Souter a pretty superficial read in 1990. So, in sum, maybe David Souter didn't "go Souter" maybe he just stayed Souter.

What's the deal with...

Seems everyone is running a marathon this Fall. I guess it's a way to prove to yourself you're at the apex of good health, but it seems to me that a feat that makes your nipples bleed and causes incontinence can't be that good for you. What happened to moderation? Everything has to be extreme now. And people actually travel to run marathons. People should travel to Boston to see the Freedom Trail, not run a marathon.

Ok, I'm done being Jerry Seinfeld for the time being.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Another Entry in the Republican Lexicon

technicality [tkn-kl-t]
1. an insignificant detail, namely an act that is committed deliberately while under oath and is a criminal offense
syn perjury

Feel free to submit more entries.
It's about time that someone is forced to detail the "private assurances" given to leaders of cultural Republican interest groups on judicial nominees. James Dobson, head of the sanctimonious Focus on the Family, will probably be required by the Senate Judiciary Committee to
explain the private assurances he says he received from the White House about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, the committee's chairman said yesterday.
I think this sort of thing should become more common. The practice of nominating stealth candidates simply because they have such a short paper trail lacks the sort of integrity that should surround the selection process, and that Bush should give a wink and a nod to people like Dobson about Miers' stand on Roe while in the meantime revealing as little as possible about his nominee to everyone else is ridiculous. Americans deserve to know what sorts of principles and what kinds of sympathies the next Supreme Court justice will possess. Assurances from the White House that someone has "a good heart" will not be accepted, especially from this White House.

New Template

I decided to look for a new template and found this one, which I like pretty well. I miss having a picture where the blog heading is, but I like the colors of this template better than the pink of my old one. Hopefully one day, I will be able to create a template myself.

Friday, October 21, 2005

It's Sick Time

This year has been a bad year for my immune system. It seems like throat infections and colds have become pretty frequent, though they usually don't last very long if I take it easy. I think I especially get sick when the weather changes, and thus I am reminded of the cold that came upon me about a year ago after returning back to 40-degree Paris from a vacation weekend in low-80 degree Nice. When I got back from school the Tuesday after, my French "host mother" advised me to go to the nearby pharmacy and get some sort of pain-reliever tablet with Vitamin C. Ah yes, I remembered, the French supposedly have a pharmaceutical answer to every ailment. This contradicted my intuitive sensibility, which has always been that colds can't be cured, they just have to run their course.

Sitting at home about a year later, just recently diagnosed with mononucleosis, I can look back on that day and understand how, even if the product I purchased in France wasn't a cure for the common cold (because nothing is), it was still important that I took the time out of my day to go buy it. To be honest, I'm not completely sure that I have mono, because my school's health center has been known to make some diagnostic mistakes, and I am not drastically fatigued the way a typical mono patient is. Even so, I have a bad sore throat, and I am made to wonder why it always takes the discomfort of cold symptoms to give us pause and cut our schedules back. And then there are the energetic (or crazy) people aren't even deterred by cold symptoms.

Getting sick a lot at college has made me especially attuned to the risks people take with their health (while still continuing to make the mistake of taking these same risks), some as second nature as taking a sip from a friend's glass or eating snacks out of the same bowl that many others have eaten from. Then there is the busy schedule. One of my friends just did a photo project for a class on a student whose day runs from 5 AM until 2AM. That of course is extreme, but the idea of packing as much into a day as possible, of constantly running around, of being over-committed, is as second nature to a lot of people as is breathing. I'm both lucky and unlucky that my body gets rundown relatively easily: it prevents me from over-committing in activities or staying up all night to write a paper. I tend to plan ahead because I fear the cold that I will get from pulling an all nighter or having a day where things are back-to-back. Yet, I still can't avoid it. I often get to Friday thinking, next week will be calmer. Next week I'll have time to collect my thoughts.

Now that I am forced by this mono to plan around my cold instead of my committments, I am also forced to revalue the importance of taking time for my health. I have to say though, I am a little frustrated with the lifestyle that is perpetuated that you have to be as busy as possible. I wish I lived in a culture that valued more balance, that didn't make chossing between one's health and one's committment such a difficult choice. Then again, to a certain extent, it is a choice that is up to the individual.

'A Year in Food' blog

Somehow I wandered upon a blog written by a guy who is chronicling his dining experiences for a year. He begins in New York, goes to Costa Rica, Europe, and will eventually wind up in California, where I think he is moving. I'm still trying to figure out what his job is, becauses he doesn't claim to be rich, but he seems to be eating out every day for 365-days. Anyway, it's a fun blog, and I really liked his account of eating in Paris. Makes me want to go back to find the creperie that he goes to in Montparnasse (I had a harder time than expected finding an "authentic" crepe shop there, even though that is supposed to be THE neighborhood for authentic crepes de Bretagne). Anyway, read up, and eat up.
This is pretty funny and of course, hypocritical and fake. Make sure you read the end of the blog entry.

THE PRESIDENT: I signed that law. But Senator Kerry was part of an out-of-the-mainstream minority that voted against the ban. In the course of this campaign, he said the heart and soul of America can be found in Hollywood.


THE PRESIDENT: No, most American families do not look to Hollywood as a source of values. The heart and soul of America is found in places like Alamogordo, New Mexico. (Applause.)

- October 24, 2004
THE PRESIDENT: And at one time in his campaign, he said the heart and soul of America can be found in Hollywood.


THE PRESIDENT: Most of our families don't look to Hollywood as a source of values. The heart and soul of America is found in communities like Orlando, Florida. (Applause.)

- October 30, 2004

THE PRESIDENT: You got some big differences in this campaign. One of them is that my opponent thinks you can find the heart and soul in Hollywood; I think you find it right here in Traverse City, Michigan. (Applause.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Creation of a Grey Zone Around the CIA Leak Investigation

Think Progress has a nice fact sheet which debunks the myths that many in the right-wing have tried to advance ever since it was revealed that high-level advisers, particularly Karl Rove and Lewis Libby, were connected to the leak of the identity of an undercover CIA Agent. These myths are as far-fetched as the one advanced by right-wing publication The Weekly Standard that leaking classified information isn't a big deal. Phrases like "criminalization of politics" have been pulled out of the air, care of neo-con pundits like William Kristol. For Kristol, the leaking of the idenitity of a CIA Agent in retaliation for an assessment her husband gave that delegitimatized a foundation for going into war (the Niger connection) is simply politics as usual.

I find this the most troubling defense of the CIA leak, because it legitimizes Rove's brand of "politics," which amounts to unleashing a barrage of baseless smears that is bound to tread in illegal waters. If John Kerry was a movie star, and the National Enquirer had printed an article featuring the slanderous accusations of the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" (Truth=Lies), he probably would have sued the publication for libel. That these characterizations were against a politician, however, made them merely political and thus acceptable even if patently untrue. Slanderous campaigns, the hallmark of Rove's career, should have been outlawed long ago. If we accept it as politics as usual, our country can only look forward to the deterioration of our democratic political system.

Finally, we often hear about how Washington is so partisan. Democrats and Republicans, it seems, are at an impasse, and it is everyone's fault. I disagree. I think the partisan impasse can be laid at the feet of Republican politicians like Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, Bill Frist, and George W. Bush and his White House. The fact that some of these people saw it fit to impeach President Clinton for perjury and are now suggesting that it's not an indictable offense (From Think Progress: CLAIM – PERJURY AND OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE ARE “TECHNICALITIES”: “Don`t you sort of feel a little bad that your side is winning on essentially what is a technicality?” [Tucker Carlson, MSNBC, 10/7/05]), is the ultimate sign of partisanship. For years, Republican defenses for their wrongdoings have been thinly-veiled defenses for the idea that when they committ a crime or break a rule, it's alright. The defense of one's own side, sans principles, is the height of partisanship, and it is what is ruining Washington.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

George Clooney, The Daily Show, O'Reilly off the Deep End

George Clooney was on "Charlie Rose" and comes off as much brighter than Rose and not just because Rose is a flake and kind of a moron (Here's the video courtesy of Crooks and Liars). In his characteristic manner, Charlie asks Clooney a question, interrupts Clooney, and launches into a tract about how some people rely on "The Daily Show" for news, which is kind of strange considering "The Daily Show" (1) does provide truthful information and (2) the bigger worry should be that a lot of people rely on Fox and CNN as their only source of news. Furthermore, a lot of "The Daily Show" would not be as easy to understand were people not consulting other sources that have to do with the subjects the show covers, like the Valerie Plame leak and the Iraq War. Many of the most well-informed people I know are loyal viewers of "The Daily Show," so it seems Rose's feigned concern is both far-fetched and misplaced. If there's a message that "The Daily Show" conveys, it's that this humorous news show is more useful and informative than almost any other TV news program on air right now, with Jon Stewart often poking fun at the frivolity of the TV news coverage. Clooney also made the good point that humor has always been a conduit of news and politics in our history. Clooney's new movie Good Night and Good Luck kind of depicts a fork in the road point for television news, when it was either to become a source of information serving the public good or come be another tool for corporate profits (so that not offending advertisers became a bigger priority than presenting the truth). 50 years later, we can say that the latter direction was the direction it took.

Also, Charlie brings up Bill O'Reilly's ongoing challenge to debate George on Bill's show. George has understandably said he will only debate O'Reilly on netural grounds, and can you blame him? O'Reilly without his show is nothing, as proven by tonight's "Daily Show." O'Reilly was interviewed by Stewart, and, not in the comfort of his own studio, O'Reilly can only resort to insulting the French and yelling at the audience. As Stewart asked him, "Why so angry?"

Anyway, can George Clooney please run for office. Not only is he attractive (which shouldn't matter, I know), but he is well-spoken, smart, already quite politically active, and charismatic. I know he probably has skeletons in his closet, but geez, so did Ah-nold and Ronald Reagan. Then again, in a world where only Republicans can get away with moral fallibility, Clooney might have trouble. Oh well, George for Pres.

Who's accountable for Bush's poor decision making? Anybody but Bush

The New York Times has an article today about new criticism heaped on Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Seems Card hasn't been doing a good job managing Bush:

The confluence of crises, all running through Mr. Card's suite just steps from the Oval Office, has some critics asking whether he needs to clean house or assert himself more forcefully - or at least consider a course correction before Mr. Bush is downgraded permanently to lame duck status.

"The lesson of both Katrina and Miers is that the system of decision making in the White House no longer meets the needs of the president," said David Frum, a former speechwriter for Mr. Bush who has been critical of the Miers choice.

I realize the Chief of Staff has a big responsibility, and Card certainly is not my favorite person, but shouldn't the President have judgement enough to know when his Chief of Staff is not advising him correctly? It's not as if the Chief of Staff controls the President: the President is the CoS's boss. It's strange how George W. Bush elicits from conservatives a defensive mode that prevents them from assigning him any personal responsibility for his failures. Card, however, is free to go, or maybe will be forced to go.

Random Update

I remember during summer I would write in my blog every day, sometimes multiple times per day. School has made it harder, because unfortunately, it is just as busy as I remembered it. Right now I feel like I have a ping-pong ball in my throat and am just kind of run down. I had a guest in town over the weekend and felt like I was running around a lot. So after this busy weekend, I just want to sit down and reflect via blog.

I am happy the White Sox made it into the World Series. For one, it will bring some attention to Chicago, and second, the Sox played some good baseball this year, and they deserve it. Plus, it's nice that there are no East Coast teams in this year. No Red Sox-Yankees rivlary to grab all the attention is a good thing. Plus, Red Sox fans need to calm down.

I don't watch a lot of television, but I have recently made a point of watching "The Apprentice: Martha" along with my usual dose of "The Daily Show." I have to say, I think Martha Stewart has done a great job selling her lifestyle to Americans, because it is so unattainable. Her TV show only cements this fact: a couple of the projects that her teams have had to work were designing a luxury hotel suite and creating a wedding cake. Martha is an extremely rich woman who lives in Westport, Connecticut and yet she has managed to convince enough people to believe that her lifestyle is attainable. I'm sure her magazine and TV show and cook books (etc.) offer an occaisonal realistic project, but I just can't believe people buy into everything Martha. In any case, I still think it's kind of ridiculous that her insider trading case was pursued so devotedly while people like Kenneth Lay still aren't in jail. Not that she shouldn't be held responsible for insider trading (though she in fact got convicted of obstruction rather than the actual deed), but anyway.

My thesis is going pretty well. Sometimes I feel like I'm not doing enough research, because there is so much to read. My adviser had me read an interesting book called L'enemie Americaine (sorry, I'm to lazy to put in the accents) or The American Enemy. It makes the U.S.-France relationship out to be more hostile than I had previously thought, though it does make a point of saying how it focuses on the French critics of America. A lot of it seems to correspond to the rift created by post-World War I debt payments, and I wonder whether the French related toHemingway more than Fitzgerald because of Hemingway's focus on WWI and disillusioned vets. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald's concern was the American upper-class that the French saw as consumerist. One French reviewer even made the mistake of thinking that Fitzgerald was glorifiying people like Tom and Daisy. As you can see, this is a hodge-podge of speculation and research, so we'll see where this takes me.

Finally, can we just put to an end the Harriet Miers nomination? Some people are choosing to ignore her lack of qualification with the wistful hope that she will in fact turn out to be a moderate. From what I've read, she seems like one of the many sanctimonious religious people that George W. Bush with whom George W. surrounds himself. If he nominates someone more openly conservative than Miers, we should try to defeat that person too. George W. Bush's conservative agenda is not looking good right now as far as approval ratings are concerned. There are amazingly a few Republican Senators that wouldn't vote for a vocal arch-conservative, so that strategy is shot. The problem is if Bush nominates another Roberts and gullible Democrats and moderate Republicans go for it again. That's probably what he will do if Miers isn't confirmed.

Sorry for the choppy structure of this post.

The Colbert Report

Last night I tuned into the first episode of "The Colbert Report" (both Colbert and Report have silent "T"s), and I enjoyed it. It is different from "The Daily Show" in that where Stewart plays himself, openly mocking TV news and its personalities, Colbert becomes one of those personalities to satirize TV news. Last night, he assumed a Bill O'Reilly persona, mocking "elitist" tools like dictionaries and reference books. There were less visuals than in Stewart's show, and though Colbert was quite funny, there's only so much one man can say for 15-minutes. The second part of the show was great. Stone Phillips of Datline NBC, who Colbert seems to have modeled his style after, was interviewed in the second half of the show which was very funny. In Colbert's moment of tough journalism (when he wasn't talking about his tie), he asked Phillips which three nights of the week neither "Dateline" nor "Law and Order" are on NBC. While I still enjoy "The Daily Show" more, "The Colbert Report" does a good job poking fun at the self-important TV news profession.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Bill Bennett got into trouble recently for citing the book Freakonomics by Steven J. Levitt and Stephen D. Dubner in his assertion that crime rates would decrease if African American mothers aborted their children.

We are reading the chapter that addresses abortion's correspondence with the crime rate right now in class, and it is an interesting and lively explanation of why crime went down in the 90s (after a huge increase from the 1960s to the 1980s). Levitt and Dubner affirm some of the conventional explanations and reject others. The ones they believe contributed to the crime rate decline are:
  • Hiring of more police
  • More prisons and tougher sentencing
They reject other reasons, including
  • Innovative policing
  • Aging population
  • Improved economy
In fact, they suggest that the praise of Rudolph Giuliani for the decrease in New York's crime rate in the 90s was not necessarily deserved. Giuliani became mayor in 1994, four years after the crime rate had begun a steady decline under Mayor David Dinkins, who had begun the practice of increased police hiring. (Giuliani, angry that Police Chief William Bratton, was getting all of the attention for the decline of the crime rate, pushed him out two years after he hired Bratton--after Bratton, not Giuliani, was featured on the cover of Time).

Anyhow, the final reason Levitt and Dubner cite for the decrease in crime is the legalization of abortion in the early 1970s. They compare this to the strict ban of abortion that occurred at roughly the same time (1966) under Romania's Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu, and that led to a rise in the crime rate there:
Before Roe v. Wade, it was predominantly daughters of middle and upper-class families who could arrange and afford a safe, illegal abortion. Now, instead of an illegal procedure that might cost $500, any woman could easily obtain an abortion, often for less than $100.

What sort of woman was most likely to take advantage of Roe v. Wade? Very often, she was unmarried or in her teens or poor, and sometimes all three. What sort of future might her child have had? One study has shown that the typical child who went unborn in the earliest years of legalized abortion would have been 50 percent more likely than average to live in poverty; he also would have been 60 percent more likely to grow up with just one parent. These two factors--childhood poverty and a single-parent household--are among the strongest predictors that a child will have a criminal future.

Citing the above, albeit with racial overtones, is what got Bill Bennett in trouble.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Great Gatsby

So far a lot of my thesis research has consisted of looking up initial reviews of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Now I am moving into later reviews and criticism of Fitzgerald-- pieces written during and after Fitzgerald's American literary canonization. At this point in a book's critical reputation, it can be the tendency of the critic, from what I am finding, to see what he/she wants in the author's themes. (Often, I am finding, the initial reviews don't do an adequate job exploring a book's themes, in favor of focusing on the biography of the author).

I too am guilty of reading my own beliefs into a work like Gatsby by virtue of a reason for my researching this subject: my sense that Gatsby reveals the most disconcerting aspect of the American Dream, which is its unattainability--for even when one realizes its material promises, one is still not satisfied--and my curiosity as to whether the concept translates into an intriguing subject to other nations. What makes Jay Gatsby both sympathetic and even likeable while at the same time naive and frustrating is the fact that he conflates material success with emotional satisfaction--and in fact it becomes questionable whether his coveting of blue-blood flapper Daisy Buchanan for emotional satisfaction is just another part of his materialistic vision of success. Yet, in the scheme of things, Daisy and her husband Tom are worse, for, being born wealthy, they have neither been forced to climb the ladder to success, nor, most importantly, do they appreciate their status for what it is: luck.

For me this story is a truly American story, especially in our current times. The Great Gatsby is not an opitimistic story, which is why I am puzzled by an article I found while researching, wherein the writer says:
The thirst for money is a crucial motive in Gatsby, as in Fitzgerald's other novels, and yet none of his major characters are materialists, for money is never their final goal. ("Scott Fitzgerald's Fable of East and West" by Robert Ornstein, p. 140. College English. Volume 18, Number 3).
I think this writer misses the point, which is that the selfish and ultimately fatal carelessness exercised by major characters Tom, Daisy, and Jordan in Gatsby stems from the fact that "money is never their final goal"--because they already have it! Sure, they don't need to covet wealth for this reason, but that hardly means they aren't materialistic. (Just look at the valuation given to the automobile in Gatsby).

This whole conversation--or soliliquy, probably--can be brought back to the fact that we see in the open-ended aspects of a piece of literature what we want to see, and we have a reason for wanting to promote our interpretation--because our worldview feels a little more validated. Whether it says what we want to believe about wealth, about the American Dream, about the 1920s, etc., this is why we care about a novel, and why a book like Gatsby, with its sophisticated rendering of the American Dream (or Myth) endures.

I'm a sucker for these brainless quizzes...ah well

Your Blog Should Be Green

Your blog is smart and thoughtful - not a lot of fluff.
You enjoy a good discussion, especially if it involves picking apart ideas.
However, you tend to get easily annoyed by any thoughtless comments in your blog.

Anyone else see the resemblance?

A friend of mine pointed out semi-recently the resemblance between comedian Larry David and legal scholar and jurist Richard Posner. I thought of this again because we are covering the Chicago School of Law (economic principles integrated into legal theory, basically) in my Crime and Deviance course. I suspect some of you won't see the physical similarities, but I do.

Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame

Richard Posner of Court of Appeals fame

Friday, October 07, 2005

Harriet Miers: It's the loyalty, stupid

Right now my honest to God view on why this unimpressive person is being nominated to the U.S. High Court (when there are numerous other women who have worked with Constitutional issues on courts across the country, not to mention law firms, the government, and universities), is that Bush is anticipating a time when he and his administration will be sued for release of documents. In that case, having someone on the court who is a personal friend and basically owes her career to him will be advantageous. George W. Bush is a second term President, meaning he does not have to worry about pleasing a religious right base for votes anymore. Though Miers also seems sufficiently conservative (yet another problem with her), Bush's main reason for nominating her is the loyalty factor. The reason he is so concerned about loyalty on the court (and not necessary loyalty to an ideology like "strict constructionism,"--though let's not get too surprised when Miers makes exceedingly business-friendly decisions) is because his administration did some bad things, and those will likely be reflected by documents he would like to remain forever classified. He couldn't find a person more sympathetic to defending "executive privilege" (or at least his executive privilege--this may be one of those things that only applies to Bush, as Bush v. Gore did, if a President Hillary Clinton is in the White House and facing a similar suit) than Harriet Miers.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Socializing: worth the effort?

There was a time, not so long ago, when I thought socializing was a virtue. One was not making the most of one's time in college, I thought, if he or she wasn't getting out enough, having a little fun, and spending time with friends. As friends of mine graduated or began to live further away from me (which sadly sometimes meant merely a block further), I began to socialize less. In fact, it has come to the point where I cringe at the thought of going out to meet new people and have to make something of an effort to make plans with old friends. Big group activities are not for me, so things such as sorority-fraternity tailgates and off-campus parties are not my cup of tea. I suppose I have gotten complacent with my current social situation, deciding there is no one else worth the effort to get to know, or at least not through the channels we have on campus, and thrown in the towel.

It's not that I don't enjoy a good conversation, on the contrary, I love settings like my thesis seminar where we get to talk about all sorts of interesting things. I guess I've just become tired of the old, boring, college student small-talk of "where do you live," "what are you doing after college" (ha!) and that's the good small talk! The worst is inter-mingling with underclassmen who enjoy talking about things like beer pong and fraternity parties (In all fairness, I know many cool underclassmen who have more to talk about than that, but for some reason my version of "cool" is different than others at this school).

I realized my recent tendency to try and avoid new people and small-talk conversations especially after reading this article from today's Daily Northwestern that deals with unwanted encounters for the socially lazy:
One of the most awkward parts of the quarter is running into people you know only marginally — a friend of a former roommate, the girl you talked to twice in your freshman seminar, your best friend’s two-week fling from last year.
Rather than making the effort to get to know those acquaintances, I, like this writer, usually try and avoid them in any which way possible.

Plus, on most nights, sitting in front of my computer reading the news, watching a movie or an episode of "The Daily Show," and going to bed relatively early seems a lot more appealing than going to Bar Louie where I have to spend money and talk over noise. Is this just an "I'm-done-with-the college-social-scene, time to move on" phase, or am I just indulging anti-social habits? Who knows, but I have to say, I'm done with the college social scene. Onward and hopefully upward. (Though as a misanthrope, I'm not sure if that will ever really be possible ;-) ).

James Carville at Northwestern

Political strategist James Carville, most famous for his work on the Clinton campaign of 1992 and as a consultant during Clinton's time in the White House, was the Northwestern College Democrats' Fall 2005 speaker. They chose the right person at the right time. Carville came out and said a truism of recent years: Republicans have bad policies, Democrats have bad campaigns. As he pointed out, Al Gore may well be the most prescient and most "right" politician Washington has seen in our time, but he barely won an election on a pretty bad campaign.

Why do Democrats lose despite the fact that people are not crazy about Republicans or the Bush administration, Carville asked? His answer: they don't present a narrative, they present a litany. He furthermore pointed out that with all of the indictments and evidence of corruption surrounding the Republican party today--from House Majority Leader, to Senate Majority Leader, to White House on down--Democrats have not stepped forward with any sort of plan for reform of government or any sort of large scale denouncement of Republican corruption. As Carville pointed out, people aren't intent on electing a party to defend the country that can't even defend itself.

One of the things I liked best about Carville though was his genuine nature and his eagerness and candidness. He didn't seem to have somewhere to rush off to, as he fielded many questions. He was very modest and accessible in what he had to say.

Back in 1990s, he had the ear of ostensibly the most powerful man in the world and the most powerful Democrat in the country; I wish he had the ear of a few Democrats in Washington right now.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Facebook under more scrutiny

Tonight at a meeting, it was brought up that the webiste has been in the news as of late. Schools such as UC-Santa Barbara, Boston University, and even in Chicago's CBS affiliate's nightly news have had stories about it in the last couple of days. Some of the news coverage spotlights the risk of publishing personal information online based upon privacy concerns, other aspects highlight dangers of being charged with a violation or denied a job because of what's in one's profile.

I could easily see people my age objecting to such a possibility under the mantle of free speech and expression. Free speech though does not mean freedom to offend, or at least, if someone speaks or expresses themself freely and offensively, that person should not be surprised if repercussions are in order. In all honesty, I don't know why people want to join Facebook clubs with titles like "Yes, I'm Drunk in my Facebook Picture" and "Accidentally Missed Class because I was Hungover on a Weekday...Again." Whatever happened to keeping some information--particularly the most unflattering, tacky stuff--private? Or is being what could be considered an alcoholic a good thing? I don't know anymore, but I feel like my generation is under the impression that there is no holds barred in terms of doing tacky, stupid, things and advertising it to all of the world. If an employer or school adminstrator should notice this too, maybe it's not such a bad thing.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Future or L'Avenir?

Senior year of college is an interesting time. It is similar to senior year in high school because there are several things to think about and none that can be given the full attention that they deserve. Some people are dealing with preparing for LSATs, GREs, or MCATs along with applications to law school, graduate school, or medical school. This is similar to high school, where we were dealing with the process of applying to college without giving it our full attention, because, well, we had activities and classwork to worry about. I know tons of people taking the LSAT because they don't know what else to do after college. Law school, then, looks like the best option to them.

As interesting as law seems to me, I'm still not sure if it is the direction I want to go right after college. Thus, my solution to this indecision is to try and get a job. The idea of having a year or two to not have to take my work home with me sounds good. Some people say they want to go to school right after college because they fear they will never be able to drag themselves back to school if they start working now. From my experience of taking a year off to work, I can say with certainty that working gave me every desire to get back in school as soon as possible. Unless you absolutely love your job, you will probably want to go back to school at some point, and if you love your job, hey, more power to you.

The other advantage to getting a job, as I see it, is getting a sense of what I like to do. After a couple of years in an entry-level position in that field, I figure I will go back to school to get more specialized training and in turn get a more optimal job when I am done.

Of course, this is all hypothetical. One thing people my age have trouble believing is that as much as we think we need to plan things out, life cannot go exactly as planned. Sure, I feel kind of directionless when I tell people that I don't know what type of graduate school I may want to attend after college, but I figure that I am lucky to be in the position where I even have the option of getting more education.

For the time being then, I am looking at either working in a public interest firm or think tank or teaching English in France. Teaching English in France is parttime (12 hours a week), and thus not lucrative. However, I found out that due to the low income of an English teaching assistant (the formal job title), one's apartment can be subsidized by the French government. Between the great, inexpensive health care I have heard of foreigners getting while in France and this rent subsidy, I can only further admire the French system. (I may be singing a different tune if I choose to take the plunge and look for an apartment in France. We'll see).