Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Bearded Matriarch Will Not Speak

Gawker reports that the whole sacred mess turned out to be a hoax--we, the leaders of the free world were duped into thinking Tom Cruise would carpet bomb the field of mental health with a series of planned lectures out in Los Angeles. Armaggedon avoided. We'll keep the original post below if you still want to throw up all over yourself.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

You can't make this shit up

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?"
Cruise, honey...just be quiet. You had me at hello.

The Greatest Philosopher of Our Time

The BBC's fascinating series of running commentary, "In Our Time", proposed to the general listening public a poll which would capture our thoughts (and votes) concerning "The Greatest Philosopher of Our Time". From a pre-selected list of 20 philosophers--Aquinas (hear that, Ill?) to Wittgenstein--the public doth selected every angsty middle schooler's favorite iconoclast--Karl Marx. Although the good ship BBC doesn't tell us how many people voted, they do give a breakdown of the top ten:
  1. Karl Marx, 27.93%
  2. David Hume, 12.67%
  3. Ludwig Wittgenstein, 6.80%
  4. Friedrich Nietzsche, 6.49%
  5. Plato, 5.65%
  6. Immanuel Kant, 5.61%
  7. St. Thomas, 4.83%
  8. Socrates, 4.82%
  9. Aristotle, 4.52%
  10. Karl Popper, 4.20%
Aside from being an absolutely meaningless poll, it probably sheds at least a little light onto who we read and recognize from our school days. Except for Marx who I believe benefits from pop culture mythology. That's why he won, right? Who's with me?

The Hand Formula

"[...] if the probability [of an injury] be called P; the injury [and level of liability], L; and the burden [on industry taking precautions], B; liability depends upon whether B is less than L multiplied by P."
--- Judge Learned Hand, United States v. Carroll Towing Co., 1947

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

Making the Grade

In yesterday's Sunday Star Tribune Op-Ex section, the lofty Strib scribes pay homage to a recent report card put out by some group calling itself the Great Northern Alliance (I have not yet been able to uncover yet exactly what or who makes up this alliance, but I doubt it has anything to do with the brothers in Mazir-e-Sharif).

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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

Something For the Weekend

Pie-Eyed Lyrics of the Weekend are brought to you by the impenitent Nickelback

"How You Remind Me"

Never made it as a wise man
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

Cup of Joe

(from the Coffee and Caffeine FAQ)

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."

Slouching towards 5000

Caaaaaaan Yooooou DIG IT!? Ok, then. Clap your hands, say yeah!

You Sank My Battleship!

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?

Is Dick Cheney...Bernie Lomax?

          • 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".

How Buses Burn

I have witnessed a large bus burn. This summer, on a trip to Chicago, we stopped at a rest stop in Wisconsin, where a bus had pulled over because the kids inside saw smoke rising from the rear wheels. When we pulled up, all the kids had safely evacuated the bus. The bus driver could not put out the fire that had erupted at the back of the bus. His small, red extinguisher was useless in comparison to the flames coming out of the bus. In the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin, firetrucks were not forthcoming. We watched the bus burn, then, for over 30 minutes. The flames slowly made their way to the front of the coach. It never exploded. When the fire reached the fuel tanks the fuel burned like a controlled blow torch. Some people around us said that this is the nature of diesel fuel, it just doesn't explode like gasoline would (I don't know if this is true). When the firemen arrived, the fire was put out in no time, and the bus looked like a burned skeleton as in the picture above.

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

The Coming Storm?

The Judiciary Committee voted on John Robert's nomination today, sending him on for a full Senate vote. The Judiciary Committe is composed of ten Republicans and eight Democrats. Three Democrats (Kohl, Feingold, Leahy) joined the Republicans in voting in favor of Roberts, five Democrats voted against Roberts (Schumer, Durbin, Kennedy, Feinstein, and Biden). It is clear that Roberts will be confirmed, but what remains unclear is by how large a majority. If a strong majority of Democrats vote against Roberts, Bush and the Republicans can and will credibly claim that Democrats have not voted on the basis of qualifications (see Scalia and Ginsburg whose combined senate wide no vote was 5) but rather on partisan affiliation. This will give Bush license to push the envelope on the next nomination, which, likely, will be handed down upon Robert's confirmation. The tea leaves are still hard to read as many Red State Democrats (Johnson, Pryor, Nelson, Baucus with Landrieu and Conrad possibly moving to the yes column as well) are expressing support for Roberts, but if such a scenario plays out look for a revival of "Nuclear" politics.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

This Day in History

Two hundred years ago, on September 21, 1805, U.S. Army Lieutenant Zebulon Montgomery Pike lead a group of soldiers up the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Minnesota River, where he camped on an island that now bears his name. Two days later, Pike signed a treaty with the Dakota Indians, "purchasing" one thousand acres on both sides of the Mississippi River from the Minnesota to the St. Croix.

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.

Greatest Threat to America…PORN

The FBI announced that under the guidance of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales they are currently recruiting a new anti-porn squad to investigate obscene material. Gonzales describe the initiative as “one of the top priorities” of the Justice Department and the FBI.

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 is sexy?

From a New York Times article on highly educated women who seek to become stay at home moms and work little or not at all after college or graduate school: "Sarah Currie, a senior at Harvard, said many of the men in her American Family class last fall approved of women's plans to stay home with their children. "A lot of the guys were like, 'I think that's really great,' " Ms. Currie said. "One of the guys was like, 'I think that's sexy.'"

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.

That's hot.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Macalester's national ill fame and local pride

It's official, ESPN ranks Macalester College football as the 2nd worse team of all time. And Mac students take a slightly perverse pride in this fact, along with having being voted a few years ago in the top 10 most godless colleges. But as far as the equations go for calculating quality of education, lack of football talent and disdain for religious devotion make for one hot liberal arts college.

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

Week in Review

In other news...

Gay Equals Pedophile…says the Catholic Church

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

For the Pie-Eyed Record

Since this blog has turned into "What I am thinking/reading in law school/public policy school/business school/grad. school today," I might as well contribute to the decline. I found this tirade against Judge Robert's manner of answering questions quite funny.

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?



Strict Constructionism

As I watched Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn bloviate, pontificate, and toss softballs to Chief Justice nominee John Roberts, I can't help but relate a case that demonstrates how the terms strict constructionism, judicial activism, and the bedrock phrase "legislating from the bench," can mislead.
Boomer v. Atlantic Cement Co. - New York Court of Appeals, 1970

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.
To solve this dillema, the court devised a compromise. Rather than ordering the business to effectively shut down (which would have cost 300 jobs and the loss of a $45 million investment) until a solution could be found to the problem of the plant's severe air pollution, the court ordered permanent damages paid to the plaintiffs until the defendant - in a "good faith effort" - found and installed technology to eliminate or drastically reduce the damaging effects on the plaintiffs' use and enjoyment of their property.

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.

An Ethical Conundrum...

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

It smells like burnt popcorn in Seward and the people are pissed

  • 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.

The Sounds of Now

  • 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."

Super Tuesday

Did anyone realize the primaries for the St. Paul and Minneapolis mayoral elections are today? No? Did anyone vote? Didn't think so.

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!


Some lessons learned in my first two weeks of law school:
  • 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

Oh the riotous single life

"In the summertime when the weather is fine
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.

State of the Blog

TO: Staff and Readers of the Pie-Eyed Picayune
FROM: PiedPiper
RE: More changes to the Pie-Eyed Picayune
Friends, colleagues, secret MSM operatives, it is with great pleasure that I address you this evening on the state of the blog, the Pie-Eyed Picayune.
As you may have noticed, the PeP has grown considerably since its inception this past May. From a rambling, incoherent message board filled with wanderlust, it has become a respectable, established blog with a voice and presence all its own.
Additionally, long-time readers know that the PeP used to be a one-pony show. I shouldered the load myself, but, realizing the value of dissenting and concurring opinions, I have systematically been adding new bloggers to the contributors list. Just this week, the impenetrable Mandingo had his coming out party. And while I see that his recent posts lack a certain, how shall I put this, decorum, I have all the confidence in the world he will learn to blog with the big girls and boys. Also, added onto the list is former PeP Supercorrespondent Anti-Everything, who has been promoted to PeP Contributor. In addition to this role, Anti-Everything will be serving as our resident anarchist as well as treasurer. We thank him in advance for his services.
After commissioning a survey by the Rand Corp., we have also ascertained some information about you, our Readers. While most of you consist of a single man some of us went to college with who may or may not be gainfully employed, there are a significant portion of you from around the Twin Cities. The study also found a small but strong population of northeast Iowa readers. On behalf of the Pie-Eyed Picayune, I invite all of you to share comments with us and suggest ways we can improve the blog. After all, if we weren't writing this for someone else, we'd just be writing it for ourselves, in which case we'd probably just keep doing it anyway.
With that, I'd just like to say that the state of the blog is strong and properous. But please send us things that like money and other things that will make us strong. Please.
Good night, America.
Pie-Eyed Picayune Editor-in-Chief

Apropos of Nothing: Pt. 2

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.

Monday Detritus: Csonka lost at Sea, upcoming Cowboy movie

  • 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].

Found! A Blog Less Influential Than the PeP

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!

Apropos of Nothing: Pt. 1

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.


Looking Ahead: North Mississippi All Stars, Beck, Brazilian Girls

  • 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

Saint Paul

---Letters of Paul to the Romans 14:7

Isn't it ironic; Don't you think?

Less than one year ago, George W. Bush was running for reelection in one of the closest presidential races in U.S. history. He won - as Dick Cheney is so apt to say - with the largest number of votes ever. (Never mind that John Kerry had the second highest number of votes ever. Really, never mind it. His campaign sucked.) The Bush administration was flying high after the election and claiming that their 51 percent share of the electorate entitled them to a "mandate" that would fundamentally change or eliminate a number of long-standing American policies and programs. Remember the "ownership society" we were going to create? Remember that bellyflop known as Social Security reform? Remember the Iraqi with the purple thumb at the State of the Union address? Remember September 11, 2001? Everyone seemed to believe that Bush had at least two years of political capital shored up, and it was going to be spent fast and furiously in his second term.

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

Assassinations happen

Reagan was shot, but survived. JFK was not so lucky. W., too, if my memory is correct, has been fired at (or someone threw a dud grenade at him when he was speaking). Anyway, with the news that President Bush's job approval rating is at an all-time low of 39%, he and his secret service men should be worried for his life. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that anything is afoot. But history tells us a lot about extremely unpopular political leaders: they are especially vulnerable to assassination attempts.

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

Maplewood: Epicenter of the Apocalypse

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.

The Eight-fold Path

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:

  1. Define the Problem
  2. Assemble Some Evidence
  3. Construct the Alternatives
  4. Select the Criteria
  5. Project the Outcomes
  6. Confront the Trade-Offs
  7. Decide!
  8. Tell Your Story
This simple distillation may in fact prove invaluable to the post-Katrina mop up

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Has Hurricane Katrina Jumped the Shark?

After witnessing Kanye West's not-so-eloquent and not-so-persuasive argument during a hurricane relief fundraiser that George Bush hates black people, and after pulling out my bleeding eyeballs while Richard Simmons blubbered all over his pink sequin shirt while "reuniting" with his brother (who evidently has not sweated to the oldies since the early '90s) on Entertainment Tonight, the question must be asked: Has Hurricane Katrina jumped the shark?

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

Such a Parisian Way of Life:

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

The Heat and Ferment to Come

As Senators, commentators and bloggers gear up for U.S. Chief Justice-nominee John Roberts' Senate confirmation hearing scheduled for next Monday, I thought I'd emphasize just how important this hearing is, how much impact it could have on the future of our country.

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

Nominate Michael W. McConnell

Michael W. McConnell should be nominated to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Such a decision is one that the President is surely considering, having nominated McConnell on September 4, 2001, to a seat vacated by Stephen H. Anderson in Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. McConnell, in short, already holds the president's trust.

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

A Better Measure for Media Bias

Though the press (i.e., the MSM) have not been associated with one of the parties since the early 19th century, it is curious that the question of the partisanship of the press has been raised with much intensity in the last five or ten years. Attempts to measure partisanship, however, have proven hopelessly contentious and inescapably political. One can prove that the media is almost entirely liberal, or the opposite, that there is hardly a genuinely liberal sentiment to be found. For it all depends on how one defines "liberal" or "conservative" bias.

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

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Monday-Morning Quarterbacking

Merely pointing out in the Pie-Eyed Pickle of the Week that some people must be held responsible for the continually unfolding breakdown of law and order in New Orleans as a result of Hurrican Katrina, provoked some commentary questioning how blame could be tossed around. Esteemed PeP Supercorrespondent Anti-Everything did some serious sleuthing and came up with a couple of great articles to give our readers a better understanding of how this tragedy was considered not a matter of if but when.

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.

Learned Hand

“A contract has, strictly speaking, nothing to do with the personal, or individual, intent of the parties. A contract is an obligation attached my mere force of law to certain acts of the parties, usually words, which ordinarily accompany and represent a known intent. If, however, it were proved by twenty bishops (!) that either party, when he used the words, intended something else than the usual meaning which the law imposes upon them, he would still be held, unless there were some mutual mistake, or something else of the sort.”
– 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?