January 27, 2010

Liveblogging Obama's State of the Union

9:09pm Obama has arrived... seems to be hugging an abnormal number of people.

9:11 Obama defines what the State of the Union is and why we have it. Lots of comparisons to past SotU given during really crappy times.

9:13 Remember that things were really bad when I took office. My policies have made things better. The worst is over but "devastation remains."

9:15 Yeah, why is Wall Street rewarded for bad behavior?

9:17 [Patriotic platitudes]

9:18 We all hated the bank bailout. "Like a root canal." (Oh, Obama, how can I stay mad at you?)

9:19 (Geitner looks like he's trying to act like he's not responsible for all the policies they're shitting on right now.)

9:21 Don't forget that we cut a ton of taxes on students 95% of families. "I thought I'd get applause on that one." (Oh, Obama, <3)

9:24 The Recovery Act helped boost domestic productivity. I want a new jobs bill.

9:27 End capital gains on small businesses. More business tax credits.

9:28 Use the recovery act to build up infrastructure: rail, clean energy. Cut tax breaks on companies shipping jobs overseas.

9:29 Senate- pass the jobs bill and have it on my desk, pronto. Other countries are not competing for 2nd place.

9:35 Go nuclear energy!

9:36 We cannot ignore the "overwhelming evidence" of climate change. (I wonder whom he is talking about). Regardless, the U.S. needs to be a leader in this field in order to become a leader in green industries.

9:37 We should export more. (But how?) Subsidize farmers(?) Be more aggressive in seeking markets(?) (what does that mean?). We should increase free trade.

9:41 Highschool GEDs just aren't cutting it. Promote community colleges. Give more grants for college/more money for Pell Grants. Students will pay back only 10% of income a year, debts forgive in 20 years, 10 years if they pursue a career in public service. "No one should go broke for going to college" (bravo!)

9:48 Republicans- if you have a better plan for healthcare, "lemme know. lemme know. lemme know." Do not walk away from healthcare reform.

9:50 It's pretty hard to bring down the deficit when you have to pay for 2 wars, tax cuts, a prescription drug plan, all during a recession.

9:51 starting in 2011, federal spending freeze for 3 years.

9:56 "Let's try common sense, a novel concept."

9:59 Congress should publish all earmark requests online before there is a vote so Americans can see where their money is going.

10:00 Politics today is binary competition. Everyday is election day. Confirmation of civil servants should not be held hostage to grudges or pet projects of a few individual senators.

10:02 If Republicans require 60 votes to get anything done, you have responsibility to govern as well (GOP all sitting).

10:06: All combat troops out of Iraq by August. (!!)

10:09 Control loose nukes.

10:16 Repeal don't ask don't tell.(!!)

10:19 America is doing good work in Haiti.

10:20pm (end)
REPUBLICAN RESPONSE (note: full text pre-posted online)
10:30pm (I'm a little surprised to see the republicans' staging device. The speech is given by Bob McDonald in the Virginia Legislature, which is full of adoring people. McDonnell sometimes looks at the camera, as per tradition, but often looks around as if he is giving the state of the union).

10:31 Sports center joke. Polite, planned laughter.


(blogging discontinued)

January 25, 2010

The Scottish Play

Ever feel like Hanover's getting a bit boring? Ever feel like your work is dragging you down- especially now that midterms are here? Maybe you need something exciting to take your mind off of all this mundane schoolwork.

Fatal jealousies. Deep desires. Brutal murders. Dark magics.

How do those sound?

It is eloquent- it is suspenseful- and it is coming to the Bentley Theater (beneath the lobby of the Hop) on February 4, 5, and 6 at 8pm. Shakespeare's Macbeth, a Dartmouth Rude Mechanicals production, will rivet you to your seat, courtesy of the Dartmouth Theater Department.

$2 Dash or cash. (It's so worth it to see Brad and Frank from Rocky Horror have a swordfight.)

Macbeth...................Jay Ben Markson '10
Lady Macbeth.............Megan Rosen '10
Macduff....................David Mavricos '10
Malcolm....................Aidan Nelson '12
Banquo.....................Neil Basu '11
Duncan....................Adrian Garcia '10
Witch 1....................Carol Brown '12
Witch 2....................Chiara Klein '10
Witch 3....................Mia Jessup '12
Lady Macduff..............Willa Johann '10
Ross.........................Max Hunter '13
Lennox......................Torrey Barrett '13
Fleance/Young Macduff...Laura Neill '13

January 19, 2010

Subtle media bias

The New York Times ran a front-page article yesterday about Scott Brown, the Republican who is surprisingly likely to win the Senate seat vacated by Kennedy in Massachusetts, which would be a dramatic change in representation for the traditionally blue state.

What caught my attention was that the color photo presented next to this article, which was emphasizing Brown's likeliness to win, was a picture of his opponent -- Martha Coakley -- smiling and waving with Obama.

Only on the inside pages, next to the continuation of the story, was a (black-and-white) picture in support of Brown shown. But it wasn't even a picture of Brown; it was a picture of a rather homely woman holding up a campaign sign in support of Brown.

The most prominent photo -- the thing that catches your eye before you can even get the gist of the text -- is a smiling Coakley. Brown doesn't even get equal facetime.

Biased much?

It's like acknowledging that maybe people aren't as Democrat-happy as Obama would like is some sort of moral failing. We have to clandestinely sweep dissent and critical thought under the rug.

For further information, check out these polls. And for evidence that fairness and representing the people's interests isn't foremost on most politicians' minds (like you needed reminding), check this out:

And in case you do want to know what he looks like, here's a picture of the man:

January 18, 2010

To Remember

It's one of those beautiful days again- one of those days we students celebrate, one of those days we truly appreciate our blessings in life. And why? Well, because we don't have class, of course... What other reason would we have to celebrate?

Wait a minute. Back up. Let's think about some other reasons. Sure, it was lovely to be free of Monday classes, and there was freshly fallen snow, and we didn't have to wake up too early (a good thing, considering how many probably spent their Sunday nights). But there's a reason we had today off from classes, isn't there?

It's because one man had a dream...

Today is a day that is meant to be dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the good he brought to this country and this world. Today is a day that is meant to make us realize just how lucky we are to live in this community of acceptance and equality. Today is a day that is meant to help us think about how we can better ourselves and this world in honor of a great man who did great things.

And yes, perhaps we spent part of today doing work for our Tuesday x-hours, or skiing, or hanging out with friends, or procrastinating yet again. But perhaps we took a moment or two to recognize the lessons that history can teach us- perhaps we took a moment to resolve to be better people in the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream.

And if we didn't? If we forgot what this day was meant to be about? Then I invite you to remember now- and take a second to reflect on just why today is truly important.

Behind the Numbers: Dems Lose in MA

Tomorrow, voters in Massachusetts go to the polls to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Edward "Teddy" Kennedy. Yet the next junior senator from Massachusetts will likely not share the late Kennedy's passion and sense of urgency for overhauling the American health care system. Republican State Senator Scott Brown leads Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) in all major polls.

But even if Coakley pulls off an upset tomorrow, the Democrats still lose. The very fact that a major Democratic figure is now the underdog in a statewide race in one of our most reliably blue states spells peril for President Obama and his party. Making this a tightly contested campaign is a major victory for the Republicans.

Today, Public Policy Polling released it's final tracking poll before tomorrow's election. Surveying roughly 1,200 likely voters, PPP found Brown leading 51 percent to 46 percent (MoE 2.8 percent). Coakley wins Democrats (77 to 19); loses Republicans (90 to 8); and loses independents (64 to 32). 89 percent of Republicans are "very excited" about the election, compared to 63 percent of Democrats. Coakley wins liberals but loses conservatives and moderates (55 to 44).

The closest polling over the last few days comes from Daily Kos / Research2000, which shows the race tied at 48 percent. (It is worth noting that Kos/R2000 show dramatically different results for younger voters than other polls. Most show Brown winning voters 18-44 years old, while Kos shows the opposite.) As Harry Enten '11 wrote on his blog, a likely voter model based on historical trends gives Brown the advantage.

President Obama's visit to Massachusetts comes on the heels of several prominent Democratic leaders scrambling to shore up support in the Bay State. It is likely too little, too late. Republicans are more enthusiastic about this race, and are eager to deal health care reform a fatal blow by making Brown the 41st vote of the Republican bloc.

Win or lose, Democratic bloodletting will begin first thing Wednesday morning. Coakley's ran a terrible campaign predicated on her inability to lose. As my friend Dan Thele '10 pointed out to me in an e-mail, rule one of running a political campaign is: to actually campaign. Democrats should learn this lesson before November. Even safely blue states aren't that safe.

My prediction: Brown (R) 50, Coakley (D) 48, Kennedy (L) 2. The spoiler: if Obama's visit to Boston radically drives the African American vote. (Another prediction: if Brown wins, look for his name on a list of veep contenders in 2012; that is slightly less likely, however, if my current favorite in the 2012 race, John Thune, captures the GOP nomination.)

January 14, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, the FoCo runway is officially closed

Patrons of Food Court this evening will find a change in the storied "runway" layout. As part of a social engineering experiment, Jennifer Chong '10 has somehow cajoled the usually iron-fisted foco staff into letting her tinker with their seating design. In addition to placing tables in the runway, which is really used more for exits than entrances, given the side location of the food lines, tables have been placed side by side, forming much longer tables, and rotated so that none of the chairs are facing the main door.

The reaction of many was on prominent display as many students stopped by the door, aghast at the sudden and profound change to the one constant in their lives, and Ms. Chong was on hand collecting them. Ms. Chong assures us that this is a one-night modification, so fret not all those in favor of the old way. This writer would like to congratulate the self-starting experimenter on the idea of her design and eagerly awaits the results of the study as they are made public. From my own observation over the questionable chicken dinner being served, I found it to be a community- and efficiency- boosting design with much potential.

January 10, 2010

The amazing fall of John Edwards

New York Magazine has this gripping, beautifully-written, most-read excerpt from the new book Game Change (which offers an insider's perspective into the 2008 campaign) about John Edward's affair, titled Saint Elizabeth and the Ego Monster.

Fire in the Phi Delt

Phi Delt suffered a serious fire this morning and the story continues to develop. All brothers in residence are being moved to college housing and, due to fire and water damage, the house will not be reoccupied for the remainder of the year. One Phi Delt described his predicament this way: "I no longer have any possessions."

A look from the outside does not reveal any damage (besides brown icicles resulting from the sprinklers). DDS locations this morning have lists of those who lost their Dartmouth Cards tot he fire, which raises the question of how severe the fire was that something as essential as Dartmouth Cards were lost.

Little Green Blog extends its sympathy to Phi Delts everywhere as well as that particular group of frat-goers who regularly visited their establishment. We will continue to investigate as to whether excessively piping-hot calzones from Cuttings Northside Cafe played any role in the fire.

In other developments, the recently revived Bored@Baker is experiencing a severe drop in corporate-recruiting related posts.

January 9, 2010

The Probability and Politics of the Toilet Seat

I live in one of the largest rooms on campus: a 5-person senior suite in the Fahey/McLane dorm. Our room complex has its own restroom, which is used exclusively by roommates and our guests.

One of our number, who had appearently taken one too many government classes, decided that restroom guidelines were needed to ensure its orderly use. This is the blitz he sent.
>Subject: leaving the toilet seat up
>To: Suite Members
>From: Roommate #1

in the suite is an appropriate, acceptable, and manly thing to do. 9 times out of ten, regular use of this toilet calls for the seat to be raised. as such, it is a social courtesy within this limited context to leave the seat in its most convenient position for the restroom's next probable occupant. these cold, hard statistics are not even counting booting, which, if last night was any indicator, is to be applauded as a rising trend on the zeitgeist. clearly, when social dynamics indicate that women are present, an exception and reversion to traditional social convention will be in order. otherwise, however, let us embrace the revolution
One of our resident math majors crunched the numbers and sent out this toilet-libertarian rebuttal that is as comprehensive as it is crushing.
>Subject: Re: leaving the toilet seat up
>To: Suite Members
>From: Roommate #2

Isn't it more efficient to just leave it the way you leave it?

Let's run some numbers:
Suppose that we stand 80% of the time and sit 20%. If we were to always put the toilet seat up, and we assumed that we were perfect and would never fail to put something back into it's proper position after using it *cough* then we would not need to manipulate the toilet seat 80% of the time and but would have to manipulate it twice the other 20%.

If we were to just leave it the way we leave it, then on times we need to stand, we would find the seat up with probability .8 and therefore would not need to manipulate it and would only need to manipulate the seat once with with probability .2. In the other case, when we need to sit down, we would need to manipulate the seat once with probability .8 and not at all with probability .2. In sum we would need to manipulate the seat once with probability .8*.2 +.2*.8 or .32.

So if we follow [the first author]'s proposal, in 100 bathroom visits, we would expect to manipulate the toilet seat .2*2*100=40 times, but with my proposal we would only have to manipulate it .32*100=32 times. So we could expect to save ourselves from moving the toilet seat 8 times per 100 bathroom visit by following my procedure over [the first author]'s.It can be proven that my proposal is more efficient no matter what percentages we assume for a standing/sitting down ratio, but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Of course, this analysis does not take into account other factors such as concentration of the sitting action towards morning(or afternoon on Tuesday's Thursday's Saturday's or Sunday's) hours or a few hours after Gusanoz is ordered, where the the efficiency of my proposal increases, Nor does it take into account that making a rule that toilet seats are to always be up would force the assumption unto us that toilet seat will always be up despite human error. This assumption could cause disastrous consequences and it would be better for us to be vigilant upon entering the bathroom.

Well done boys. Well done.

January 8, 2010

Review: Emanuel Ax

Excited murmurs of anticipation. Flashes of velvet scarves and straightened sweater collars. Faces showing crushing disappointment as doors shut against hopeful feet. It's all here- the rush, the eager ears, the blue-lit stage. What is this? The tenth American Idol finale? No- the hair's too gray for that. A national political convention? No- no riots, at least not yet. This is a different kind of voracity.

And then he enters, for it's past seven o'clock and those of us sitting in Spaulding are shifting in our seats. Here he is at last- the great Emanuel Ax.

He walks quietly and hurriedly. It is not a lack of confidence- it is his preoccupation with his music; his mind is in A-flat major now and the audience is irrelevant. He unbuttons his blazer, sits at the grand Steinway, and begins to play. It is a Chopin, the Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-flat Major, Op. 61. Mr. Ax does not proclaim this to the hilltops; he does not use any neon signs; he simply embodies the music, and the audience sighs in response.

Thunderous applause; two Chopin mazurkas: Op. 24 No.2, C Major and Op. 56, No. 3, C Minor. Those seated in the dark auditorium- for it is dark; the house lights are down- are awed. Some, perhaps, have heard the pieces before and appreciate the major and minor; some have never even heard a piece of Chopin that has stayed in their memory. All watch in disbelief as Mr. Ax's hands fly quickly- neatly- amazingly over the keys.

The Schumann Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17, follows. Captivated, no one claps between the three movements, even those in the audience inexperienced with the etiquette of classical concerts (and due to the momentousness of the event and the availability of tickets to Dartmouth students, you may be sure there were a few) though Mr. Ax does allow in the post-concert discussion that he wouldn't have minded applause if it arose from true emotion.

Suddenly, it is intermission, and the spell is broken. Just as suddenly, intermission ends, and the spell is easily recast.

The house lights are up for the second half of the performance- we learn later, in the discussion period, that Mr. Ax asked for this light so that he could be more aware of his audience. And they are, indeed, his- the Schumann Fatasiestucke, Op. 12, is titled all in German and written almost two centuries ago but it does not matter because Emanuel Ax is the music himself.

Then, four Mazurkas, as Chopin returns to the program; the Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise brillante in E-flat Major, Op. 22, follow. These pieces in the second half seem more raw, more full of energy; there are chords struck that pierce the heart of the audience.

Again, the sudden break. The concert is over. But wait- is it over? After several rounds of applause, Emanuel Ax emerges from backstage yet again and sits. What will the encore be? Posited guesses included Schumann's Traumerei. But no. It is the Chopin Waltz in A Minor, No. 3; the "Valse Triste."

This last waltz- the last dance of the evening- was to me the most moving. It departed from the program of Polonaises, Fantasies and Mazurkas but continued to use the music of Chopin; one could almost hear the voice of Chopin sighing at the loss of his homeland. Mr. Ax maintains that his Polish birth does not lend him an advantage when he masters pieces written by Chopin; but through this waltz one could almost imagine him Chopin reincarnate, visiting this great stage to tell his tale of sorrow once more.

Emanuel Ax needs no more pretty words from me; his music stands for itself. All I can do is lay my praise on the high heap of laurels and hope that he will return to Dartmouth before another thirty-five years are out.

January 6, 2010

How I spent my winter vacation

My parents' house in Florida has an unusual abundance of unfilled wall space. I keep telling them to go to the art shows put on by local art schools, find a kid they like, and commission them on the cheap to produce stuff for the house. My parents were receptive to the idea but didn't really want to meander through an endless series of shows. So I did the next best thing. I tried my hand at modern art myself.

As you can see, I mostly experimented with splotches and Jackson Pollock-esque pouring methods. Most of the materials (brushes, canvases, acrylic paint) were bought from the craft store Michael's and created in my garage or in the lanai.

A Jackson Pollock take on 18th-19th century silhouettes. Portraits of my family.

Study of vertical splotches. Earth. Fire. Water.

January 5, 2010

Continuity and Community

One thing I always loved about my time at Oxford was that the meals were all taken together. Seeing everyone at every lunch and dinner made it incredibly easy to keep up with them and general events around the school. It built a sense of community and enabled me to become very close to a large group of people over a short amount of time.

Isiah Berg '10 offered a nice column in The D yesterday on the distinct lack of community in residential clusters, brought about by a lack of continuity of its residents and lacking incentives towards community interaction. Mr. Asch over at DartBlog has always been a strong advocate for reviving the old residential system wherein freshmen were assigned a particular dorm and guaranteed a room there for the duration of their college experience. I think it's time to give this idea annother chance.

I have always felt that this is one of the tragedies of the Dartmouth experience- that the only community to be felt exists in frat basements or in the rare, extremely close knit student organization. It seems that the only interactions most dorm residents have with each other after freshman year are the tedious Undergraduate Adviser meetings. This is clearly a wasted opportunity. Fostering impersonality in a building where people spend the plurality of their time only serves to undermine community everywhere else. The inter-dorm athletic competitons would be a great way to build dorm spirit and foster organization of a diverse group of students. More so than self-selecting clubs or frats, dorms can offer a random sample of Dartmouth students who can learn from the collective wisdom and diversity of their disperate experiences.

A younger Nathan Bruschi proposed creating Residential Interest Groups: student organizations with a house of their own; frats with a purpose. I think my original op-ed and idea are still interesting and relevant to this discussion, though it will require a significant investment in real-estate development-- a non-starter with the college cash-strapped as it is. Since all the necessary tools for dorm-centric community are there, including some elements that make no sense without that construction (community directors), perhaps the dorms are where we should start.

January 2, 2010

Satan wears a goalie mask

Please enjoy this rendition of "God Hates America" by one of the Westboro Baptist Church protesters, who so kindly agreed to let me tape her singing.

If you watched that video, you might be asking yourself, "What in the hell is going on here?"

That is a damned good question.

The Westboro Baptist Church is flamboyantly extremist, hostile, and out of touch with reality. They aren't affiliated with any other Baptist conventions, and the membership is composed almost entirely of the extended family of Fred Phelps, the crackpot founder of this bizarre hate group.

And, boy, are they ever a hate group. Among their registered domain names are www.godhatesfags.com, www.godhatesamerica.com, and even www.godhatessweden.com. Yup, they have a vendetta against Sweden. A quick YouTube search will show you many examples of the vitriol with which they attack gays, dead soldiers, the loved ones of dead soldiers, Lady Gaga, gay-loving Swedes, and pretty much anybody else they can think of.

Their picket schedule, which is posted publicly online, leaves the outsider amazed that these people don't have anything better to do with their time. The group is based in Topeka, Kansas, but holds pickets all over the country, from Texas to Missouri to New Hampshire and beyond.

Most of their picketing has to do with denouncing the groups mentioned above -- they are famous for picketing military funerals -- but tonight they had a different agenda, one that dwarfs all their other protests by its grave importance.

They're picketing Dartmouth hockey.

Wait... What? Here's what their picket schedule has to say:

Dartmouth College Thompson Arena - Hockey freaks God H8s U!...WBC will picket your stupid, cold (really, ice hockey in the middle of winter?! COULD YOU BE MORE LAZY AND UNIMAGINATIVE?) violent, time-wasting crappy Hockey game - your SPORT.

Okay, so they don't like sports. Strange that this ranks up there with destroying the nation through sodomy, war, and rape of little boys, but whatever.

You know there will be only a few more of these entertainment events before God lets Obama simply destroy this nation.

I'm not sure why exactly this is, but they seem to have a lot of predictions that involve Obama bringing about the apocalypse.

After this, it devolves into a feverish rant that I am at a loss to describe:

God does not have anything good to say about your sport(s). Check this out, and be afraid - be very afraid: Judges 16:25 And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars. Judges 16:27 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. Then right after they made sport of harassing the blind Samson, God DESTROYED ALL those Philistines! YAY! Proverbs 10:23 It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom. Proverbs 26:19 So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport? Isaiah 57:4 Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood, God Hates DOOMED america, God Hates Arizona, God Hates Florida. You are all going to hell, and there is nothing to do but hear the words, hate the words, get mad at the words - - then get more words. Repeat, repeat until Jesus Christ comes in power and glory to redeem HIS people. Praise God! AMEN!

Just in case this sounds like your cup of tea, you can join them in Manchester tomorrow to express your outrage at the existence of Catholics -- "FAG PRIESTS, PRIESTS RAPE BOYS", "U pay to rape 'em U R guilty!", "Obama loves you baby-murdering-raping-freaks, but God Hates you. Praise God!" ... and so on.

Interestingly enough, when I met them on the street, they had nothing to say about hockey. I asked one woman why they had come to Hanover tonight, and she responded that she wanted to warn her fellow men of the "impending judgment".

Hear that, hockey fans? You must mend your ways, or you're sending us to hell quicker than a breakaway shot down the ice. Maybe you should take up croquet instead.

But they're not all bad -- these folks have their human side too. Witty barbs like "Fuck you!" zoomed out the windows of many passing cars. One motorist yelled "Go home!" to which my amiable correspondent replied "You go home! You're a towel!"

See? Even Westboro Baptists watch South Park. Wait... that seems a bit hypocritical, doesn't it? And do they really think that invoking Towelie, the talking stoner towel, will move the average sinner to repent?

If nothing else, the Westboro Baptists are very media-friendly folks. A couple of guys on the street stopped next to the protesters to get a picture with them, and our WBC buddies were happy to oblige. "They'll probably put it up on their Facebook page, or their Twitter, or their Tweeter, or whatever it is," remarked my good-natured evangelist. "Facebook is so last year," scoffed her comrade nearby.

Maybe they're not entirely out of touch with reality after all.