Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Ok, Tom Cruise is a lover of butt smoke and most everyone would agree, but the latest news out of L.A. just blew my nuts off. Apparently, he's giving a series of four lectures (starting in October) on the superiority of Scientology and its ability to heal "mental health problems". Cruise hissing about mental health doesn't surprise me. But my God, man, who in the hell came up with your impossible titles?
His four lectures:
- "How Psychiatry Invented Schizophrenia, and What Scientologists Can Do About It".
- "Handling Sexual Dis-Orientation: Out of the Closet and Into the Auditing Room"
- "Diagnosis and Treatment of So-Called Clinical Depression with the Hubbard Mark Super VII Quantum Electropsychometer"
- "Neuroanatomical Changes Resulting from Chronic Methamphetamine Abuse: Can Narconon's Sauna and Niacin Treatment Program Help?"
- Karl Marx, 27.93%
- David Hume, 12.67%
- Ludwig Wittgenstein, 6.80%
- Friedrich Nietzsche, 6.49%
- Plato, 5.65%
- Immanuel Kant, 5.61%
- St. Thomas, 4.83%
- Socrates, 4.82%
- Aristotle, 4.52%
- Karl Popper, 4.20%
--- Judge Learned Hand,
Little did I know when I was accepted to law school that I would be going back to 9th grade algebra, but here I am. The above equation has become known as "The Hand Formula," and it originated with a case coming out of World War II, in which a negligent tugboat owner tried to pull a negligently managed barge out of New York Harbor, and in the process sank the barge, which happened to contain some much needed supplies for the Greatest Generation fighting in Europe.
Since its relatively obscure beginnings, the Hand Formula has been used in many tort litigation cases involving small people butting up against large companies. Hand breaks it down like this: Multiply the probability that an accident will occur by the magnitude of the injury at bar; if that figure (or idea or image) comes out less than the cost of the burden to the corporate entity to take precautions to prevent such an injury, there is no liability on the part of the corporation.
Now take this into consideration: Hand does not expect you to actually plug in any numerical figures. In fact, that would be basically impossible. Say the accident took someone's life. Well, then the liability was very, very high. Are you going to assign a number to that? Probably not.
Essentially, the Hand Formula is supposed to prevent companies from being held liable for freak accidents and just plain stupidity. And, in that regard, it does its job and it does it well.
My only problem with this formula, however, is that both sides - the injured private citizen and the potentially liable corporation - are seen on equal footing. It doesn't take into account the fact that the injured private citizen may only have limited resources with which to bring a legal challenge, while the corporation may have nearly unlimited resources to fight a legal challenge. Therefore, should a legitimate negligence claim be raised as a matter of serious public safety, whose to say the corporation can't just run out the clock on the private citizen, making them jump through all kinds of hoops until they just don't have the resources to continue.
Someone call Erin Brokovich.
Monday, September 26, 2005
The report card assigned letter grades in several categories and - in contrast to Minnesotans relentless ability to pat themselves on the back - gave the Twin Cities an overall GPA of a B-. While we achieved high marks for "Unique Character and Social Blend" (credit Mandingo with that one), "Values Good Health For All," "Can Attract Talent From Other Areas," "Am Concentrated With Skilled Workers," and "Support the Arts," there were some notable areas of slippage where the Twin Cities specifically and Minnesotans generally should take heed. We earned a grade of D in the categories "Adequately Support Regional Infrastructure," and "Work and Play Well with Others." Furthermore, we earned a C- in the categories "Have Resources to Reach Commerical Potential," "Provide a Foundation for Future Growth," and "Resource Flow." All told, the lower grades stand out more - and are far more telling of the challenges facing the Twin Cities - than the higher grades.
So what? The Twin Cities still tops the quality-of-life lists. We have a highly educated workforce of high-income earners. Our children's ACT scores are among the highest in the country, and we graduate a boatload of B.A. and B.S. students every year from our quality public and private universities and colleges. We have a huge arts network, a huge nonprofit network, and an active business community. Why mess with a good thing?
The problem is, we're not taking steps to secure our position at the tops of these lists and statistics. Other similar metropolitan areas - Denver, Phoenix, Raleigh - are taking cues from our past and beating us at our own game, and they have an inherent advantage in attracting residents: weather (or mountains, in the case of Denver).
Our current political environment - lead most notably by Teflon Tim Pawlenty - does not lend itself to accomplishing great things in the name of civic improvement. As evidenced time and time again, Pawlenty would much rather offer David Strom and the Taxpayer's League a couple dimes off taxes when they repatriate their off-shore accounts than worry about calling on Minnesotan to make a joint sacrifice for everyone's benefit. It used to be - or so legend has it - that Minnesota was a place where Democrats and Republicans could get along in the name of basic civic foundations (i.e. Arne Carlson). The current crop of Republicans, however, poisoned that environment a couple years ago, and will probably pay a poltical price next year.
The Twin Cities metropolitan area is widely predicted to add more than 1 million residents in the next 20 years. This is a fact stated over and over again by experts, but a fact you will rarely heard uttered from a Minnesota Republican's lips. Why? Because to admit that we will be adding these people is to admit that we need to be planning for the future, not merely spending on the present.
Therefore, I offer you a Pie-Eyed Five-Point Plan for the Betterment of the Twin Cities. Take umbrage if you will, but if you will, at least provide your own suggestions for improvement. There's nothing worse than a critic who only criticizes and does not provide his own thoughts.
- Put together a comprehensive transportation infrastructure package that covers the entire metropolitan area, and includes Minnesota's other major cities. This will be our biggest challenge: Getting everyone together at the table and figuring out the best way to move people around. It will take a combination of public transportation options and highway infrastructure in order to make this work. It will also take a metro-wide sales tax in order to pay for it.
- Fully fund education at all levels. Fun Bobby Bruininks at the U of M wants to be one of the top three research institutions in the world. Rather than laugh him off the stage, we should be encouraging him. Reduce the drastic income gap in education by ensuring our urban school districts receive the support they need, and push math and science to provide future employees for our biotech firms. Do what it takes to make this happen, rather than cutting corners or freezing spending.
- Utilize smart growth in order to better develop our communities, conserve land usage, reduce pollution, and ease transportation difficulties. There is no reason Maple Grove and Andover should look and feel the way they do. It's purely bad design. We need to mix our residential and commercial land use and place them close to transportation hubs. Why must we always rely on our cars? It's unnecessary.
- What's the deal with biofuel? Minnesota and its neighbors to the south and west (Iowa and the Dakotas) ought to be working together in order to make this region the energy capitol of the US. We're honestly sitting on a gold mine of untapped energy resources in our corn and soybean industries. If we work jointly, we can make more waves nationally, and pretty soon we can provide fuel and energy to the whole country. We need both public and private investment in research and implementation.
- Finally, we need to bolster partnerships in the private and public spheres. We need to attract businesses here, and help them invest in the growth of Minnesota. Pawlenty has said that he won't raise taxes because it'll scare away businesses. I say, get the money to build the infrastructure that produces the employees companies want.
Friday, September 23, 2005
"How You Remind Me"
I couldn't cut it as a poor man stealing
Tired of living like a blind man
I'm sick of sight without a sense of feeling
And this is how you remind me
This is how you remind me
Of what I really am
This is how you remind me
Of what I really am
Where did the term "cup of joe" come from?
Legend has it that the origin is a follows:
The U.S. Navy used to serve alcoholic beverages on board ships. However, when Admiral Josephus "Joe" Daniels became Chief of Naval Operations, he outlawed alcohol onboard ships, except for very special occasions. Coffee then became the beverage of choice, hence the term "Cup of Joe."
Ilya, liquid swordsman that he is, challenged my use of the phrase "to wit" (which I was unsure of using in the first place) and called me out. First of all, I rarely admit that I am wrong. Second of all, I rarely admit that I am right. Be that as it may (there I go again, using "to wit-isms") I'll concede this as a direct hit against my shriveling intellect and go on my merry way. My merry way at this point is about four feet from when I last posted. Yes, the dandruff flies, and Paula Deen is still southern, and still pudgy.
Anyone for a game of Othello?
- Forgive me for being so last-week, people, but the game's up. I'm dubious about Cheney's whole leg aneurism schtick. It strikes me as more than a little desperate when the Administration's only means of convincing the public that Dick Cheney is still alive, is to fake something called a "leg aneurism". Nice try, H. You can wag the dog on Iraq but you ain't fooling me about Sundance.
- To wit, I'm not sure what the Times' Steven Holden was drinking when he reviewed Weekend at Bernie's but he was none too kind to Ted Kotcheff's "dark little farce". And by the way, Holden, what's recycled about using a dead guy as a prop?
- Oh, it's 2:27 in the afternoon, crisp and bright outside, and I'm sitting on the couch in a blizzard of my own dandruff. This is the lowest of lows. Someone take my 1/4 serving of burnt, uneaten penne, brown salad, and ice water and get me the hell out of this cockroach infested apartment. Please, I can only take so much of Paula's Home Cooking and her ode to the "sweet patayta".
Anyway, I learned three things from that event. First, large buses should be equipped with many large fire extinguishers. Small extinguishers aren't adequate to put out anything larger than a stove fire. Secondly, the allegedly 20 people who died on the road in Texas in a burning bus know what being burned alive feels like. Their pain is unimagineable. It is really unfortunate that they couldn't evacuate the bus before it was engulfed in flames. Was there only one exit? Finally, buses are liable to catch fire in hot, sunny weather. This is unacceptable. There is no reason that buses cannot be made safer.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
This "purchase" cleared the way for the establishment of Fort Snelling, as well as the future cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, making the wild Great Northwoods safe for the white man.
And the American Indians? Well, after years of searching for what they lost, one tribe settled in a magical land known as Mystic Lake.
So let’s see, instead of utilizing FBI agents to investigate terrorists who wish to do Americans harm or corporate criminals who steal billions from the American public, we are instead investigating porn. And will this investigation relate to child pornography and the noble task of protecting children; nope it goes after consenting adults.
So apparently one of the greatest threats to the American public is some chick getting pissed on or taking it from a horse, who knew?
Could this just be an attempt by Gonzales to pander to the conservative American base in an attempt to get the nomination to fill Sandra Day O'Connor’s vacant seat on the Supreme Court? Of course not that would just be absurd.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
That's sexy? (I sense some unspoken and unspeakable desires in this remark)
Perhaps that's sexy if one is having an affair with her while her husband is working, assuming, of course, that she is, as they say, a MILF. I hardly think that advertisers are going to feature stay at home moms using their product, or smoking their brand of cigarettes. Sex appeal consists of something more on the order of Paris Hilton washing a car in a bikini while eating Carl's Jr. That will sell burgers.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Here's what ESPN has to say:
"2. Macalester College (1974-80)
Between 1974 and 1980, the St. Paul, Minn., school lost 50 games in a row. The Scots' worst season probably came in 1977, when MIAC rivals Concordia Moorhead -- yes, the Concordia Moorhead Cobbers -- beat them 97-6, scoring 14 touchdowns to set an NAIA record that still stands (Cobbers kicker Kurt Christenson scored 13 points on extra point kicks alone). Also in 1977, Macalester set a Division III record by allowing 59.1 points per game. The losing streak ended in dramatic fashion: Kicker Bob Kaye put a 23-yarder through the uprights with 11 seconds remaining in an early September 1980 contest as the Scots beat Mount Senario College."
Friday, September 16, 2005
- PiedPiper quotes Alanis Morissette, delivers a State of the Blog address, and recites his class notes (much to ire of his fellow PePpers).
- Ilya goes on a rampage and revels in his single status.
- Xtra falls silent, even on his "other" blog.
- Mandingo reveals his tasteless humor, reports on the happenings at the Neighborhood Group for the People's Republic of Seward, and wants the world to know just how uber-hip he really is.
- Anti-Everything breaks his seal with some serious soul-searching. Search on, brother.
In other news...
- (Not) Surprise of the Week: Northwest Airlines files for bankruptcy...and the union strikes on.
- Randy Kelly gets trounced in St. Paul mayoral primary, and I'm going to go ahead and start a completely unfounded conspiracy theory that when he loses the general election in November, he'll switch parties and challenge Betty McCollum for US House of Representatives, 4th District.
- David Brooks...wow.
- George W. Bush: A Closet Socialist? What's better, a tax-and-spend liberal or a don't-tax-and-deficit-spend conservative?
In response to the Church sexual abuse scandal of three years ago the Vatican has announced a new plan to root out homosexuals from the priesthood and seminaries throughout the United States.
Instead of taking a serious look at how the Church actively covered up this scandal and make radical reforms in the Church (i.e. allow priests to marry and allow women to become priests), they have instead decided to equate pedophilia with homosexuality even though there is no credible scientific research to support this claim and most experts agree that there is not a link.
This is just another example of the blatant hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. In a Church that is suppose to foster a sense of love for all people, they are instead perpetuating false stereotypes and creating even wider social barriers to the acceptance of others.
I guess the Westboro Baptist Church just found another ally.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
SCHUMER: Let me just say, sir, in all due respect -- and I respect your intelligence and your career and your family -- this process is getting a little more absurd the further we move.
You agree we should be finding out your philosophy and method of legal reasoning, modesty, stability, but when we try to find out what modesty and stability mean, what your philosophy means, we don't get any answers.
It's as if I asked you: What kind of movies do you like? Tell me two or three good movies. And you say, I like movies with good acting. I like movies with good directing. I like movies with good cinematography.
And I ask you, No, give me an example of a good movie. You don't name one. I say, Give me an example of a bad movie.
SCHUMER: You won't name one. Then I ask you if you like
Casablanca, and you respond by saying, Lots of people like 'Casablanca.'
You tell me it's widely settled that Casablanca is one of the great movies.
SPECTER: Senator Schumer, now that your time is over, are you asking him a question?
FACTS: A group of landowners, represented here by Boomer neighbored Atlantic Cement Co., a cement plant near Albany. Boomer and the other plaintiffs alleged injuries to property from dirt, smoke, and vibration emanating from the plant and filed a nuisance claim against Atlantic Cement.
HOLDING: The court reversed a lower court's ruling that awarded Boomer damages without an injunction (a judicial order to cease an activity). The court reversed this ruling because without an injunction against a nuisance, as in this case, the plaintiffs would be free to continue bringing suits against the defendant.
Essentially, the court skirted a well-established precedent to protect a business that was not only causing a private nuisance to the plaintiffs named in the case, but also a public nuisance to the greater Hudson Valley. Additionally, the court, in its distribution of the award, bought off the plaintiffs, while leaving the company free to continue interfering with the use of property - both public and private - without the threat of damages. Atlantic Cement was not held accontable for the lasting and continuing damages it wrought on the effected area. Writing in the dissenting opinion, Justice Jasen argued that since this nuisance was harmful to the general public, it was therefore within both the court’s bounds of precedent and responsbility to protect the public from harm, and in awarding permanent damages rather than issuing an injunction, the court failed its duty.
Keep in mind, this is only a short case example from 35 years ago, and I am a very green law student. It is from a state court system, rather than the federal court system, and obviously is not a constitutional case. The dissenting view, however, is the strict constructionist view. It interprets the case within the long line of precedent (a.k.a. stare decisis). Republicans (and others) who rail against so-called judicial activism would view this dissenting opinion as an egregious infringement on the personal property rights of a private business.
People who consider themselves modern strict constructionists radically misjudge some of the fundamental and historical roles of our nation's courts. The recent decision upholding eminent domain for economic improvements is a good example. The US Supreme Court followed precedent and adhered to the Constitution. Yet the decision was lambasted by people on the right, the left, and in the middle. I'm one of those people. But the Court upheld the law.
I agree with so-called strict constructionists that judges should not "legislate from the bench." I do believe that the courts, in upholding the laws written in the Constitution and passed down through generations of precedents, may make decisions that compel policy. The courts are the arbitors between the push and pull of the legislative and executive branches on one side and the public on the other. Strict constructionism wants to make them puppets of the legislative and executive branches, thereby leaving the public powerless. Except, of course, for the power of our manipulative voting system.
*Note: Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, two proponents of the strict constructionist ethos, have voted to overturn Supreme Court precedent more than any other justice on the Court today.
As you folks may or may not know I recently started in the MBA program at the University of St. Thomas where they say that business ethics is a big deal. In the College of Business mission it states that “we are committed to encouraging serious consideration and application of ethical values in business decision making.”
A movie I watched recently has made me take a second look at what exactly ethics in the bussiness community and society in general really means. In the movie, The Corporation, they look at a study done by Russell Mokhiber entitled Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the Decade (the nineties).
And after watching the movie and looking over the study I had a number of questions about our society and its ethics. I think it is reasonable to say that not to many people would be excited about going to work for a small business that is owned by an individual that has been convicted of child abuse or has been convicted of dumping dangerous chemicals in his neighbor’s backyard. So then why is it morally and ethically acceptable to go to work for criminal corporations who do virtually the exact same thing only on a larger scale?
What is it exactly about the giant faceless corporation that makes us willing to accept and shrug off their endangerment of the public, but when an individual does so we write them off as a terrible person? Is it the corporate PR machine that allows them to maintain their wholesome image? Maybe it is the fact that corporations are so intertwined in our lives that we consider them almost like family members who always have the best of intentions and deserve a second chance?
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
- I biked over to Matthews Park Center (nice park and playground by the way) to attend my first Seward Neighborhood Group Meeting. Breezing through a few not-so-pressing matters, such as an industrial overlay for Jeff Sommers and Lara Hammel (the owners of Izzy's Ice Cream) to create a mixed use space in a four story, vacant, light industrial warehouse on 25th Avenue. No, people, Izzy's ain't coming to Seward. Rather, the owners are going to live and create art or something in the East end of the building.
- The owners of the soon-to-be "El Gaucho's" Argentinian restaurant pitched their new digs. They'll open at the end of the month across from that anti-christ, the Franklin Freeze. $10-12 a plate with nothing but Argentine beef and grilled cheeses. Franklin Ave, this side of Hiawatha, is the new Eat Street.
- But, what of the burnt popcorn smell that "viciously assaults" the "quality of life" of Seward residents as Kathy-somebody put it? That, FYI, emanates from the flaky bitches down at Morningstar Coffee roasters. They might be organic, they might be full-service, but I'll be damned if they won't install an afterburner over their exhaust ducts to burn off all that excess oil from the beans. We're all sick of the acetaldehyde, formaldahyde, and acrolein floating into our hood from the wastelands west of Minnehaha. The Neighborhood Group is drafting an open letter to the owners, Ben and Jose, asking for a cessation of odors or else we'll sick the eco-lizards on them. Updates as they happen.
- Not tough to say. First, I'm moving away (at least for the time being) from appropriation and more towards authenticity...That is to say of my posting. I'm something like 75% prone on my down laden feather bed chirping slowly in time to a playlist ("ChillUp", don't ask) I put together on August 31st, 3005 torn under the influence. Outkast, Aquemini, "Aquemini" it is, another black experience among many on my 20 song elevator. J. Boogie, Roots Manuva, two by the Brazilian Girls (all white; check them out on the 23rd! I beg!); Talib Kweli twice, MMW without doubt, Bob Marley, Jr. Gong, Lee Perry, MF Doom, to name some.
- Oh, and I'm entering in notes from Amartya Sen's Development as Freedom. Mr. Sen, bordering on sublime obfuscation, (only the stuff Ill can appreciate) talks about important stuff like "The Perspective of Freedom" (Chapter 3); "The Ends and Means of Development" (chapter 2); and this gem, "Freedom and the Foundations of Justice" (chapter 4). Hey, he got a Nobel Prize for this shit.
- I never listen to music when I'm doing homework. My brain barely functions on one channel (or perhaps it functions on like two hundred at once...same thing). This is your back up quarterback saying, "Seward Neighborhood, we have a problem."
Well, I did. And now I can lord my supreme citizenship and civic skills over all of you.
The line was pretty sparse in my precinct. In fact, I walked into a gymnasium consisting of three elderly women and two ballot stands. Exercising my right to an anonymous vote, I won't reveal the candidates I chose. I will tell you, however, that the ballot counter was up to a balmy 162 votes with just three hours remaining until polls close. Talk about turnout!
Hey people, there's still time. So stop playing Tetris and weeping crocodile tears for Natalee Holloway. Democracy requires participation!
- Precision; precision; precision
- Organization; organization; organization
- Learn to use semi-colons, and use them frequently
- Sit in the first row; it's a sure-fire way to stay focused and stay awake
- Make an argument and stick with it (even if it turns out to be wrong); vacillation gets you nowhere
- Think like a lawyer, even if you have no idea what that means
- Be collegial, even with Republicans
- Case briefs, case briefs, case briefs
- If you have done an act, or intend to do an act, that can be construed in a manner "maliciously, wantonly, callously, and recklessly," you are assuredly screwed.
Monday, September 12, 2005
You can stretch right up and touch the sky
When the weather's fine
You got women, you got women on your mind
Have a drink, have a drive
Go out and see what you can find."
—Mungo Jerry, "In the Summertime"
"Whereas there is a loose & sinful custom of going or riding from town to town, and that oft times men & women together, upon pretence of going to lecture, but it appears to be merely to drink & revell in ordinarys & taverns, which is in itself scandalous, and it is to be feared a notable means to debauch our youth and hazard the chastity of such as are drawn forth thereunto...all single persons who, merely for their pleasure, take such journeys, & frequent such ordinaryes, shall be reputed and accounted riotous & unsober persons, and of ill behavior..."
—Measure passed by the General Court of Massachusetts in 1675 in an attempt to restore the Puritan people to God's favor.
After an enthusiastic and supportive personal email sent to my inbox (as well as an East coast tongue lashing in the "comments" section--weird) Xtra asked that I tell another joke...this time in honor of the momentous battle at Marathon, whereby Athens defeated those Persian bastards in 490 BC.
Ready!? No? What's that you say...a drumroll? Fine. Ill, I mean Thriller, give me a taste of the good life. (drum roll)
Q: Who's the most popular guy at a nudist colony?
A (most obviously): The guy who can carry a dozen donuts and two cups of coffee.
- Larry Csonka, host of American Gladiators, CEO of Zonk! Productions , backbone of the 17-0 1974 Miami Dolphins, and renaissance man, found himself adrift in the Bearing Sea living "moment to moment". Our question...where were Griese and Warfield? [espn]
- We're not ones to stereotype but cowboys aren't bowlegged for nothing. [cnn].
We ventured out of our German Cockroach infested headquarters, tripping over nascent egg sacs and molting adults (comatose on pubic hair and nut crumbs at the base of the bathroom toilet by the way) to search for a blog less influential and less coherent than our own. Not long did we search before finding Xtra servicing a guy named Ken behind a park bench in Powderhorn while simultaneously "blogging" about T-Bills and this thing called a Lockbox. Spend hours at the Three Curmudgeons Blog (we're still not sure who's the third midnight cowboy) and find out where Xtra really applies the secret sauce...Not in the ass-camel comments section!
Did you hear the one about the housewife? No? But of course you have, so we'll tell it anyway. It goes something like this...Q: Why don't women know how to ski?
A(Quite obviously): There's no snow between the bedroom and the kitchen.
- 9/15: The Cabooze makes space between rock tribute bands to host the down funk purveyors of deep fried blues, the North Mississippi All Stars. Stew on the dance floor with eraserheads and aficionados alike. Oh, and you can take the light rail to the Hiawatha stop. $16 bucks at the door.
- 9/19: Listen to your favorite closet scientologist commodify the loser ethos at the Wilkins. Beck liberates thetans and war in what's sure to be a nice mash-up.
- 9/23: Pussy and Marijuana from the Brazilian Girls. They emerge from the Gotham jungle to promote their eponymous debut album. We'll definitely be at the show and maybe even take some pictures. The Varsity holds court.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Unfortunately for the administration (and fortunately for the country), the Bush capital has been sucked up faster than $3 per gallon gasoline in a Hummer H2. Rising oil prices, an unpopular war (ok, that's an understatement), reform policies that everyone but corporate wags hate, blatant religious fanaticism (Terri Schiavo, the filibuster flub, "intelligent" design), and now the worst natural disaster in our history followed up by the worst federal government response in history, and abysmal poll results, have all left this president with practically zero political capital as we head into the 2006 Congressional races. George W. Bush has effectively become a lame duck with more than three years left in his second term.
What we appear to have here is a melting pot boiling over with political turmoil. Yeah, things were heated during the election last year. But people still bought into Bush because they thought he'd make us safer, or that he was somehow more "moral," or that you can't change horses in midstream (which, strangely enough, are the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song). People bought into Bush and they're now realizing that there are some immense defects. Empty promises (like Rumsfeld's recent one that troops would be out of Iraq in two years...haven't we been hearing that for two years now?) sound like broken records. And people become much more attuned to their repetition when they're faced with tragedy and ineptitude at the same time. Perhaps we need a product recall.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Why? Machiavelli said it best. The most powerful remedy a prince has against those who would conspire to kill him is "not to be hated by the people generally" (The Prince, Chapter 19). Now, 39% approval is not exactly hatred, but Mr. Bush doesn't exactly have the good-will of the electorate either. According to Machiavelli, conspiracies are entertained in the minds of mad men when they believe they will satisfy the people with the death of the ruler. Because the difficulties on the side of conspiracy are so enormous, and because the protection of the ruler is so great, only the prospect of being praised by the people will motive assassins. Dick Cheney got a big "F--- You" on television—which was met with much applause on Comedy Central. It is not inconceivable that the President will receive a much more deadly message. Again, I don't support such crimes, but history is laden with assassination attempts. This is a warning, not a threat: the President ignores the potentials of the situation to his own peril.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Not since the brief life of Uptown non-destination Tonic have we so felt the urge to declare Minneapolis nightlife in danger. Nickleback, Billy Idol, Live, and a DJ named Mykonos sound the deathknell up in a place we've heard called Maplewood. Pravda's got the opening night review.
Eugene Bardach, political scientist at Cal-Berkely wrote a nice little primer on policy implementation and public management called the The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving. The title, indebted perhaps to our subcontinental cow worshippers, analyzes policy problems thusly:
- Define the Problem
- Assemble Some Evidence
- Construct the Alternatives
- Select the Criteria
- Project the Outcomes
- Confront the Trade-Offs
- Tell Your Story
Thursday, September 08, 2005
It's an unhidden fact that the media - well, actually pretty much just television media - swarms around disasters of mass inhumanity. As much as people hate the violence and horrible events that others are forced through, we can't turn our eyes away. We crave it.
Television media long ago realized this fact, and now has perfected packaging, marketing, and selling the human drama to millions of viewers. The "idiot box," as it's sometimes so lovingly called, has turned into a conduit for transactions between addicts and dealers. Fox, CNN, MSNBC, all of the major networks, push their stories on the viewers, who consume it until every last drop of sentimentality is bled out. And then? Well, the swarms move on to the next tsunami; the next missing beautiful pregnant white woman; the next high-speed car chase; the next celebrity courtroom drama.
Am I cynical? I would argue that it is not I who is cynical, but this whole process that is cynical. Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath is an event of gigantic proportions, the repercussions of which will be felt for years to come and at multiple layers of our society. Without a doubt it deserves all of the attention that it receives. But rather than focusing on the gruesome eye candy - such as Richard Simmons in short shorts going into manufactured hysterics - the focus should instead be on the sobering facts.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Former first-ladies say the darndest things
For Barbara Bush, at the summit of priviledge, those at the bottom of society seem to be different creatures. Of the Katrina refugees, she said on public radio today,
"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this -[slight chuckle] this is working very well for them." (my italics)
Indeed, Mrs. Bush, they [slight chuckle] feel your love.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
In the light of the following consideration by the ever-prescient Alexis De Tocqueville on the peculiar importance of the Supreme Court in America, it hardly seems that there should be limits to the scope and degree of the questions put to Mr. Roberts, his good education and character notwithstanding:
"The President may slip without the state suffering, for his duties are limited. Congress may slip without the Union perishing, for above Congress there is the electoral body which can change its spirit by changing its members. But if ever the Supreme Court came to be composed of rash or corrupt men, the confederation would be threatened by anarchy or civil war." (Democracy in America, Vol. 1, Part 1, Ch. 8, p. 151)
Monday, September 05, 2005
I know little about him, the current composition of the Court, not to mention the other potential candidates. Nonetheless, what I do know is that whatever one thinks about his allegedly conservative political affinities, McConnell is above all a brilliant legal scholar and judge. McConnell taught at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years. He is an authority on religion and the constitution and the first ammendment, two issues that have received more attention since 9/11 and the global war on terror, issues that will continue to vex law students and laypersons alike.
I had the occasion to hear him speak at the University of Minnesota on the anti-establishment clause. He reviewed the reasons for and against the separation of church and state, and why the separation is good for religion, civic virtue, and liberal democracy. It took a while, he said, but the argument that government is bad for religion won the day. Religion has flourished in American because government has refrained from exercising its authority in matters proper to the church. And America's government has been a beneficiary of religion, the first of America's political institutions, as Tocqueville noted.
McConnell's experience and style of learning is impressive, and I urge his nomination. As Madison said of Jefferson in Federalist No. 49, everything from his pen "marks a turn of thinking original, comprehensive and accurate; and is the more worthy of attention, as it equally displays a fervent attachment to republican government, and an enlightened view of the dangerous propensities against which it ought to be guarded."
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Trying to measure media bias by directly investigating media content seems to be a dead end. It is not helpful because one can demonstrate anything with this approach.
I would like to suggest that there is a better way.
If the press were significantly and systematically biased to the right or to the left, and if it is true that most people who seek out news consume news sources that reflect, rather than challenge, their political views, we would expect to see a considerable stability of political opinions. For it is true as any political science truth goes that people who are little exposed to opposing views exhibit stability of political opinions. So if the media is markedly biased one way or another, and people are watching it, their opinions are being reinforced rather than destablized, and we should be able to observe stability of political opinions.
But this is precisely what is absent in our political climate. Today more and more people change the way they vote from one election to the next, and there are many people who don't identify with any existing party. This political instability amounts to indirect evidence that the media are not as partisan as they are made out to be. Or at least that people are in fact exposed to opposing views. This is of course only a highly suggestive conjecture. My evidence is inconclusive because there may well be other factors which better account for the instability of political opinions today than the media.
Friday, September 02, 2005
- PiedPiper was held up at gunpoint;
- New Orleans has descended into anarchy, and we want heads to roll;
- President Bush had to cut short his vacation;
- About 1,000 people died in a human stampede in Iraq, when merely the rumor of a suicide bomber went through the crowd;
- Ilya can't break an egg; and
- Xtra flogged a dead horse.
All things considered, not a bad week.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
One is a series that appeared in the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 2002 that details many of the problems faced by the geography and topography of that city, and how various government agencies - particularly the Army Corps of Engineers - have played roles in both protecting residents and setting them up for this disaster.
The other is from Editor & Publisher, which goes a bit more in-depth on the financial issue and how over the past few years - as hurricane seasons have produced larger and more frequent storms - funding for the projects that were meant to protect New Orleans was slashed; the biggest reduction came just this past year. There is also an argument to be made (my apologies to Xtra who may see a political spin to this) for a direct correlation between lack of funding for flood-prevention projects in New Orleans and increased funding for the Iraq war.
Of course, as the title of this post shows, this is all Monday-morning quarterbacking (and undoubtedly the kind that drives President Bush bonkers); however, it will be necessary in the weeks, months, and years ahead to figure out exactly why steps weren't taken to prevent a catastrophe that everyone agrees was inevitable. One of the core duties of government is ensuring public safety. There has been a dramatic and drastic breakdown in the public safety of an entire municipality. If responsibility is not assigned, there is no way to learn from these mistakes, and they are doomed to be repeated.
– Judge Learned Hand; Hotchkiss v. National City Bank, D.C.
He sure ain't no activist judge. We all know Scalia is a strict constructionist, but would he still adhere to the 20 bishops rule?