September 30, 2005

Jail Finally Throws Out NYT Reporter

Well, not quite, but Judith Miller finally left jail, promising to testify before a grand jury in regards to the Plame case.

Given that the source she was supposedly protecting, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's COS, gave her the go ahead to testify awhile ago, many are skeptical of her motives for staying in the clink.

WaPo suggests she was doing so to salvage her journalistic reputation (seriously damaged after her inaccurate reporting on Iraq) by becoming a martyr for journalistic freedom. Joe Malchow concurs, quoting GB Shaw in support. Josh Marshall, usually the pick to click for catching all the little nuances of tricky and confusing situations like this one, is unusually silent. (However, his blogging about DeLay is really good--if you'd like to track the decline and fall of the Texan rep, follow it there.)

But doesn't it stand to reason that if all Miller wanted to do was impale herself on the sword of journalistic freedom, she could have left a long time ago? Getting jailed was enough--it's not like people have been eagerly following her 'plight' since. I am inclined to believe the nasty WaPo column is more about sour competition between papers than about the real issue, but there is still a lot to explain.

However, I'll go ahead and solve it for you:
Judith Miller just wanted to take advantage of the free exercise room at the jail. NY gym membership fees are a bitch.

September 29, 2005

Dr. Dobson, I'm ready for my close-up...

The NY Times lays bare the new rampant conservatism in Hollywood.

DWLS now has a blog

The Dartmouth College Legal Society has started a blog. So far, nothing of note, but I suppose it's always good to see more Dartmouth students joining the blogosphere (God, I hate that word).

I'm Sorry Dave, I Can't Do That

Google begins its takeover of NASA

"We already have Google Earth. We'd like to have Google Mars and Google Moon," crowed Peter Norvig, director of search quality at Google.

All Great Artists are Right Wing(ish)

Or so says Ann Althouse in a post about the Bob Dylan doc "No Direction Home." (the claim is found in her comment at 12:33). She argues that the guy who sang "Masters of War" secretly has a very right wing personality.

But before you start chucking your copy of "Highway 61 Revisited" into the nearest rubbish bin, check out how Althouse defines being "right wing."
I'm not saying that the great artist adopts a right wing political ideology. If [sic] fact, [...] the great artist needs to separate himself [sic] from politics and certainly to get it out of his [sic] art. I'm saying there's something right wing about doing that... [I]t was not possible [for a great artist] to do what was needed to be a good lefty, which would require a strong focus on group goals and communal values[...]
I'm calling that right wing. It's certainly antithetical to left wing politics, which requires you to remain engaged and would require the artist to include politics in his art. The great artist sees that those requirements will drag him down.

My inclination is still to say very clearly and loudly "Bullshit," but it does give me pause--are true liberals really so concerned with communal values that they can't be powerful individuals?
In the sense of Mill's liberalism, yeah, probably so. The idea is to maximize happiness for the greatest number of people, so that essentially precludes the type of individualism practiced by "great artists." (Hello, Ayn Rand)

But this comment (later on Althouse's post) rocks her shit totally (I can't do better, so I'll just post it):
Conflating individualism with right-wing politics immediately leads to embarrassing rah-rah non sequiters [sic] like this. It's another link in a long chain of National Review-style "everyone I like is on my political side, whether they know it or not" arguments. Don't your musings imply something like this:
"To be a soldier is inherently left wing. A soldier may have some superficial, naive, righty things to say, but underneath, where it counts, a person who will put aside his personal preferences and goals to obey orders, even laying down his life for his fellow man, shows a powerful recognition of the greater good."

It is awfully nice, though, of Althouse to expose the right wing as a bunch of narcissistic, politically unengaged, selfish solipsists.

In other news, all things not specifically focused on group goals and communal values, like pot-smoking, pornography, and watching Seinfeld re-runs have been labelled "right wing."

September 28, 2005

Only In America



John Stewart opened the Daily Show with this last night and it was just too funny to pass up. The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Marshall v. Marshall. For those unfamilar with the matter, it involves Anna Nicole Smith's quest to win inheritance from her dead husband, the deceased oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II. The issue at hand involves whether federal courts can hear cases involving state probate proceedings (establishing the validity of a will). This case was chosen by the Supreme Court out of roughly 1,900 appeals cases

Another Con Bites the Dust

In early May of last year, as the revelation that Jack Abramoff would be serving some jailtime jostled Tom DeLay from his special-legislative-session vigil for the Schiavo woman, I wrote this in the Free Press

"I expect to see it any day now. Tom DeLay is going to invoke morality and values in another one of his ego-driven, sanctimonious press conferences, and then it’s going to happen. He’s just asking to get smote. A bolt of lightning is going to shoot out of sky and reduce the man to a pile of ash, expediting his soul’s descent into hell, or at the very least, branding the phrase “unethical hypocrite” across his forehead"



Well, close enough. Tom DeLay has been indicted. He was already losing in the polls, but now that he has been forced to step down as Majority Leader, his defeat is pretty much clinched. DeLay was also a powerful fundraiser for the GOP, and an outspoken and prominent member, so his corrupt image will undoubtedly reflect on the party as a whole. While DeLay claims he's done nothing unlawful, everyone on the hill except for his own staff knows its going to be tough to dodge a conviction. DeLay claims not to have even violated a rule of the House when, at the very least, he's already violated custom. We all remember the ethics committee finagling that helped DeLay resist resigning his seat a few months back. While the prospect of DeLay serving jailtime is uncertain, his political career has been dealt a fatal blow.

I sincerely hope this is untrue

U.S. troops traded photos of dead Iraqis for porn access

Maybe I'm just a nerd

but this is pretty funny:

"Congress Abandons WikiConstitution"

If the Corporation is a Person...

What kind of person is it?
If you ask John Mackey, self-described "free market libertarian" and CEO of Whole Foods, the Corporation is generally a small, egocentric child.
These days, we are seeing more and more debate about the role of corporations, either negatively, in the aftermath of Enron-like catastrophes, or in the more hopeful sphere of socially responsible investment.
In this Reason article, Mackey debates the merits of his business and its "stakeholder" capitalism with renowned economist Milton Friedman and Dartmouth's (Board of Trustees) own hardass libertarian Thurman J. Rodgers '70 .

Essentially, Mackey discusses all the great things that Whole Foods does for its stakeholders, like its employees, the local community, and the environment, and the great things it does for its stockholders, like being the Fortune 500's leading food retailer in terms of returns on invested capital.
Friedman, who believes corporate philanthropy to be theft from shareholders, says that Mackey isn't really being a stakeholder capitalist. Instead, Friedman argues that Whole Foods makes these donations and policies for three reasons: 1) Helping the community is long-term profit maximization for the store, not altruism; 2) The non-evil-corporation is a successful marketing strategy, not actual altruism; 3) Donations make for nifty tax breaks.
Rodgers calls Mackey a communist and then pleasures himeslf to the notion of the nobility of laissez-faire capitalism, while ignoring the fact that his company can barely turn a profit.

The question that comes to my mind is that, whether Whole Foods is intentionally altruistic or not, if the company is doing good, who cares. The very idea that a large segment of the population finds non-evil corporate activity appealing is a step in the right direction. If the general public comes to reject corporations that maximize profit at the expense of community, or at the very least, exercise a preference where possible towards more stakeholder-concerned corporations, the market will begin to favor non-evil corporations. That's a good thing, because everybody, shareholders included, wins, or at least, the people who typically get screwed will get screwed less. I do believe that part of being a rational and informed consumer means exercising ethical judgement of a company, and that this will influence American capitalism. I guess I'm an optimist.

September 27, 2005

this can't possibly be true

I just received a blitz from the Programming Board advertising the sale of tickets for a Vanessa Carlton show at Dartmouth.

Please, someone tell me that they're joking. Please.

Open Letter to Noah Riner

Noah:

I would like to correct a misunderstanding I think you may have in regards to ‘character.’ You seem to believe it is about the moral or ethical courage to stand alone and sacrifice, as Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane; it is more than that. It is propriety. Propriety is the quality of doing the right thing at the right time. Propriety may not be glamorous or romantic, may not get you headlines or convince anyone of your views, but it is the very soul of character, of moral and ethical strength. After all, if one is unable or unwilling to do the right thing in the right moment, but rather insists on doing a right thing at a wrong time (or worse, a wrong thing at a wrong time), how can that person truly be said to possess moral or ethical strength, which encompasses far more than courage, but also discipline and discretion?

You define character as “sacrifice, laying our personal interests down for something bigger” yet you have belied that very definition by your actions and words at the recent Convocation. You have chosen to put your personal interests in spreading the message of Christ before the “something bigger” on whose behalf you were acting—namely, the Dartmouth student body.

I am certain you believe that the “something bigger” you were working for was Christ Himself, but I believe that you in fact neglected entirely what should have been your primary responsibility—your role as Student Assembly President and thus representative of the student body. The duty you owe to our student body is one of representing—or doing your very best to—all voices while silencing or estranging none. This may mean that while you are acting in this capacity, you cannot fulfill your duties to God in the same manner you might otherwise do.

I realize that many Christians believe that no duty comes before their duty to Christ, but I also believe that Christ, at least in the Gospels, was pragmatic. He realized clearly that there are days and times for proselytizing and there are days and times for more worldly matters. Christ was comfortable with allotting to the world what is owed to the world; he was comfortable with fulfilling secular and material obligations when they needed fulfilled.

I assume you know your Bible well enough to substantiate this claim, but Matthew 22:21 is always a good place to start: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.” I Peter 2:13-17 also works well:
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

I am sure that the outcry against you must now seem like “the ignorance of foolish men,” but I think it is more important that you realize that you should not “us[e] your liberty [of speech] for a cloak of maliciousness”—which in this case, I hope, amounts to insensitivity. Insensitivity to the fact that the day, time, and place you chose to speak was not one that was dedicated to Christ, nor need it have been. It was a time to challenge students, sure, but not to do so in a manner that had at least the potential of alienating some of them.

Some have suggested that this small impropriety of yours has been blown out of proportion, that if you had used an innocuous figure from popular culture, then this whole thing would have not been an issue. What that sort of argument ignores is the very fact that you tried to make clear in your speech—exactly how important a position the figure of Jesus Christ is in society.

If all you were doing is dropping his name, you show tremendous ignorance of the kind of impact a mention of Christ has on many students who do not share your faith. It is ironic that you can put Christ at the center of your life but fail utterly to see the tenor and shape of his relation to people other than yourself or Christians like you. Christ is simply not a positive figure in many people’s lives. This may be an unfortunate fact in your opinion, but it is not and will not be solved by thrusting His Cross into a Convocation speech.

Sincerely,
Andrew Seal

September 26, 2005

Cesspool

I'm not actively posting anymore, but I just thought I'd link to a post by a military blogger and graduate of the "fine institution" of "Ole Miss" who was greatly impressed by SA President Noah Riner's convocation speech. Apparently this asshat thinks Riner is a proper representative of Dartmouth's political character:

Dartmouth College is a beacon of conservatism amidst the cesspool of academia.

Suffice it to say that this blogger is not a beacon of intelligence amidst the cesspool of the military.

September 25, 2005

Our very own cowboy president


[T]he differences are in degree. We [Dartmouth students] have the same flaws as the individuals who pillaged New Orleans. Ours haven't been given such free range, but they exist and are part of us all the same.

Jesus is a good example of character, but He's also much more than that. He is the solution to flawed people like corrupt Dartmouth alums, looters, and me. [emphasis mine]

Premise 1: Dartmouth students are all flawed people.
Premise 2: Jesus is the solution to flawed people.

Conclusion: Jesus is the solution for Dartmouth students.

It's not very difficult. Seriously. Noah Riner's statements at the Convocation for the Class of 2009 do not equivocate in their message: Jesus is the way for Dartmouth students to build character.

If you still believe, as Joe over at Dartblog does, that Riner's comments were "[h]ardly inflammatory...universally apt and eminently peaceful," try this on for size:
Jesus' message of redemption is simple. People are imperfect, and there are consequences for our actions. He gave His life for our sin so that we wouldn't have to bear the penalty of the law; so we could see love. The problem is me; the solution is God's love: Jesus on the cross, for us.

The last sentence is what I'd like to focus on. Riner simply makes bare that he equates "me" with "us"--the pronouns slip entirely--"us" replaces "me"--grammatically, the sentence should be "The problem is me; the solution is God's love: Jesus on the cross, for me."
This is not a case of a personal profession of faith. Riner makes no distinction between himself and the rest of us, between what he believes is the route to his salvation and the path for everyone else to follow.
One thing that is even more disturbing: Riner does not stop at saying something equivalent to 'Surrendering to God's love is the optimal or best way to obtain character.' By providing no further examples of character and by using the exclusive article 'the' without any attempt at moderation, Riner makes it explicit that Christ is, according to him, the only Way, Truth, and Life.
I am not surprised that he holds this belief nor am I arguing that he does not have a right to hold it privately. But Riner does not just hold it; he does presume that we also hold such a belief if we are to have or do have character. In speaking for all others on campus who would like to think of themselves as persons of character without asking for or receiving their consent, Riner does abuse his position as a public speaker and as Student Assembly President.

One further note: Joe and others try to make the case that Riner's comments were no more (or no less) a violation of his office than a professor espousing or recommending political opinions (and therefore anyone who complains about Riner but lets professors off the hook is a hypocrite).
However, a speech by an elected representative is a far different matter from a professor voicing his or her opinions on gay marriage or Bush's penchant for prevaricating. Simplistically, Professors are not elected to represent our voices to anyone else; Riner clearly was. As such, Riner's acts usurp our own voices without our consent; a professor speaks only for him or herself.

September 20, 2005

Just when I thought I had found my drug of choice

Apparently, coffee is actually pretty good for you.

Meanwhile, Whitney Houston is still trying to fund research that will say that crack is rich in Vitamin A and riboflavin.

September 15, 2005

CONfirmation hearings

I'm growing increasingly frustrated with the Roberts hearings--both with Roberts's flinty refusal to talk about anything that might matter and with the Democrats' ridiculous questions. (Slate has a pretty good piece that writhes with disgust.)

But most of all, I'm frustrated with what these confirmation hearings make all too clear--the Democrats' increasing propensity to play for small potatoes.

Seriously, what is the point of these hearings--what is Schumer & Co.'s goal in their questioning? To uncover or make explicit Roberts's conservative side? To somehow get him to align himself with the wrong end of a highly divisive issue? Merely to discredit him?

To discredit Roberts will be very difficult in these hearings and, as I have said before, counterproductive--we need a respected judiciary, not a slate of nine robes who people think are partisan stiffs.

To force Roberts to come out against a right to die or eminent domain or something similar or to "uncover" his conservative side--both are merely attempts at discrediting him. It is unlikely that such attempts--even if successful--will result in his being rejected by the Senate.

So what are Schumer, Feingold, Brownback, et al. really playing for? I don't know if they know, but it's not the least bit strategic or even very bright. It's bush league, and I don't intend a pun.

What do we (liberals) really need to know about Roberts? Not how conservative he really may be--we need to know what are his strengths--understood not as what he is good at, but what he is good for us at. Can we count on him to insulate the judiciary from the influence and intimidation of Congress, the President, and extreme interest groups? (One word here--just because Roberts's politics may be conservative does not mean he is in "their" pocket--but that is a topic certainly to be pursued--how much allegiance does he feel he owes to the executive and legislative branches, etc.)

Also, why don't they ask him a bit more about how he sees his duties specifically as Chief Justice? How will he assign the writing of opinions, how will he handle 7 fellow Justices who are much more experienced than he, etc. His answers to these sort of questions--much like his "umpire answer"--will reveal far more about his philosophy of law (and will consequently be far more valuable) than trying to get him to talk about abortion.

Are we playing a prevent defense--just trying to locate the cases and precedents he might strike down so we can marshal our forces now? As Schumer said, "What we need to know are the kinds of things that are coming before the court now." No, honestly, we don't.

Are these hearings to confirm him as a Chief Justice or to try to confirm our worst suspicions about him? There's an old lawyer's saying that you never ask a question of a witness that you don't already know the answer to--that's certainly the way the Senators are acting.

(Caveat: I honestly have not been watching the hearings--no TV here in Scotland--but I've been reading about them and nowhere have I found coverage of questioning like I propose. Feingold had a few questions along this line, but they were mostly of the sort that result merely in yes/no answers, not in insights.)

September 8, 2005

How to help Katrina victims





Long time, no post, eh? I stated at graduation that I had to bow out from writing for the Little Green Blog, due to time constraints and dial-up connections at my home in CA.

However, in the wake of Katrina I decided to see if I was still eligible to post. Lo and behold I can still sign in and write something, so here goes.

If you're wondering about ways to donate to the victims of Katrina, check out http://www.charitynavigator.org/. They have a comprehensive breakdown of how different charities spend their money: efficiency ratings, annual income/outcome, CEO salaries, etc. The Red Cross is a generic fallback donor, but there are also local groups such as the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, who could do a lot of good with anything you can spare. I've had a lot of experience with local charity orgs and food banks, and even $25 goes a long way.

September 7, 2005

Republicans were quicker to rush to the aid of one totally braindead woman than the tens of thousands in New Orleans.

Bush at least mourns the loss of Trent Lott's house.

His mom points out that, hey, these people are poor anyway.

His FEMA director is a horse groomer who knew less about the situation on the ground than network television viewers.

Need I go on? These people are assholes.

Coins, Vets, and Fraud, Oh My

Change is in the air in Ohio. After the numerous reports of election fraud in the 2004 presidential election, rabblerousing by Democrat Paul Hackett in an August special election, and the Coingate scandal, Ohioans have become more receptive to political reform. Yesterday, the group Reform Ohio Now received word that 4 of their sponsored amendments will be on the November ballot this year. All 4 measures aim to make Ohio a more fair and politically competitive state, which unsurprisingly has Republicans up in arms. The most important amendment seeks to create an independent commission to draw up voting districts in the state. The 5 member board would be chosen (courtesy of Reform Ohio Now) as follows:

1) The first member would be appointed by the state appeals court judge with the longest continuous service. The second member would be appointed by the next senior appeals court judge from a different political party.
2) The first two commission members then would appoint the other three, including one member not affiliated with a political party.
3) Any person or group could submit a congressional and legislative redistricting plan, and the commission would choose the plans judged to create the most competitive districts without dividing up counties and cities.
4) The first districts under the plan would be in effect in the 2008 elections. After that, new plans would be chosen in the year after each census, starting in 2011.


The creation of independent oversight for voting districts just seems like common sense to me. Politicians have too much self-interest in election outcomes to objectively draw up districts. This isn't solely a Republican phenomenon; Democrats do it too.

Despite earning the requisite number of signatures to appear on the ballot, Republicans have launched one last ditch effort to sabotage RON and protect their stronghold. Former Senator Richard H. Finan has filed suit against the group claiming that the use of out-of-state signature gatherers based on the law that only Ohio residents have the right to petition their government. Finan predicted that Ohio could lose up to 6 of their 12 Republican Representatives should the measure pass. If that indeed happens, wouldn't that just prove the flagrant gerrymandering that is going on in our country (cough, Texas, cough), installing representatives increasingly unresponsive to their electorate because of a lack of opposition?

September 6, 2005

Just a thought

Was Roberts the intended Chief Justice replacement all along?

September 5, 2005

Racism in the Respone to Katrina

Joe Malchow in a recent post suggested that natural disasters are equal opportunity destroyers, and that there is no racism involved with Federal Government's appalingly slow response. While I watch various political and non-political (cough - Kanye West) figures weigh in on the issue, I'm somewhat pleased just to see the issue of race being addressed here, and some recognition of the reality that mostly black people are suffering. It serves as a great counterweight to all the footage of African-Americans looting stores and shooting at people. So far, however, the only clear example of racism has been one man (I think this was in a U.S. News report, but I can't find it right now) who was not backed by the government, using not-so-PC language in explaining his choice not to rescue any black people.


But its not that simple. Black people are suffering disproportionately, not because of their race (at least, not directly), but because of their socio-economic status. Poor white people I'm sure are suffering quite badly as well. In the coming months as people feebly try to weed out who deserves blame for what in this disaster, I hope the government addresses the pervasive problems of poverty than make these people so vulnerable. Because it's not so simple as saying President Bush hates black people. It's not that he hates them, he just doesn't care about them, or any other poor people for that matter.

Unfortunately, few natural disasters actually are equal-opportunity destroyers. Right now, the only big exception that comes to mind is wildfires that tear through suburbs.
The problem isn't so much that black people get hit badly, but that poor people get hit badly, and as we all know, a lot of poor people are black people. Poor people suffer disproportionately because they live in more densely populated areas, in housing of sub-standard quality, and a lack of information and resources to enable fleeing the impending disaster. People often joke that tornados steer themselves towards trailer parks. Well, not quite. But a tiny little aluminum box will come out of the storm in far worse shape than a newly built house in the suburbs. When you consider how tightly clustered a trailer park is compared to a normal housing development, you can see once again why poor people suffer disproportionately. Finally, they are the least likely to be able to leave everything behind, jump in their cars, and book a hotel room somewhere out of harm's way. Now that I think of it, the process of recovering afterwards is probably tougher when you are completely broke, and your now destroyed former employment was the only thing keeping food on the table.
This isn't an issue of race so much as it is an issue of neglecting the poor and neglecting the inner cities. Where I don't dispute the cries of racism is here: The inner cities are easier to ignore because they are poor and black. The American public doesn't hear from them, and is less likely in general to sympathize with their plight.

The slow response isn't motivated by racism, but its enabled by a long-standing neglect of such areas and the people that are affected. One can only wonder whether the same violence would've broken out if, during the peak of the crack epidemic, if there was a comprehensive effort at providing drug counseling and rehabilitation services in addition to increased police pressure. With better housing assistance, would as many people be stuck in homes so easily damaged by the high winds and water? With better healthcare, would there have been so many people on the brink of death, unable to withstand a week without adequate food and water?
The media focus on looting and destruction, as opposed to struggling and separated families helps reinforce the fear America has of urban black people, but still, we can all see through to the main point. Human beings are suffering, and they shouldn't be. As we prepare to prevent this from ever happening again, we should focus on the succeptibility of the poor as much as we concentrate on the weakness of the levees.

September 1, 2005

Latest DFP now online

Shameless self-promotion, the heart of journalism.

N.B. The cover picture on the website is different from the picture we actually published. We had a little mix-up with the Valley News. Don't be confused, though--it's the same issue.