December 5, 2011

Nate Fick '99 for Trustee

The Little Green Blog would like to applaud the Dartmouth Alumni Council's decision to nominated Nathaniel Fick '99 as a candidate for Trustee. As a best-selling author, the leader of a DC policy institute, and a former military officer with combat experience, Mr. Fick's perspectives and experiences make him an excellent candidate. But more importantly, this nomination is a refreshing departure from the usual slate of candidates drawn from the financial world and chosen more to be work horses of fund-raising than inspiring leaders of note.

Mr. Fick rose to prominence as the commander of a Marine Corps platoon profiled in a series of prize-winning articles by journalist Evan Wright for Rolling Stone. The articles became the basis of Wright's 2004 book, Generation Kill and the 2008 TV Series on HBO of the same name. In 2005, Mr. Fick published One Bullet Away, a war memoir that was included on Marine Corps reading lists and became the basis for much of his military fame. His book (which I previously reviewed ) reads like a pencil-written journal splattered with blood from the earliest days of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. It lives in the moment, offers a tremendous first-person perspective on war, and opens the eyes of the reader to the everyday life of the modern Marine.

June 24, 2011

Liberals and Conservatives Overlap on Libya

Democrats and Republicans have sharply divergent views about most political issues today. The proper role of government and how expansive a welfare state there should be are but two examples. Foreign policy though has turned out to be an exception to this rule in recent weeks...

To read this post, go here

June 17, 2011

Thoughts on the Ryan Plan

Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is arguably the face of the Republican Party right now...

To read the rest of this post, go here

June 5, 2011

In Defense of Dartmouth-- The Merits of a Dartmouth Education

I finally put my rebuttal speech from the DPU's "Resolved: Don't Come to Dartmouth" debate on Youtube. Send it to every kid you know thinking of applying or on the fence about going.

April 20, 2011

The Making of a Shadow President

In recent posts, this space endorsed Will Hix '12 in his race for Student Assembly president. In addition to his bona fides as a campus leader and considerable gravitas, we believed that Mr. Hix's candidacy constituted a valuable cause for the student body. An egregious decision by the S.A. election board ruled that any student who had run afoul of Parkhurst was barred from holding office. Mr. Hix, who was once arrested for consuming alcohol underage, was thus ruled ineligible.

Mr. Hix launched a write-in campaign and performed quite well, securing 37 percent of total votes cast, compared with 39 percent for Max Yoeli and 24 percent for Aaron Limonthas. Given his contentious battle with the election board, this is an impressive feat.

In a sense, however, we at LGB understood our endorsement to be in vain. Even had Mr. Hix won in vote totals, he would not have been permitted to take office. So why endorse Mr. Hix at all?

A Likely Counterfactual

First, it is likely that Mr. Hix would have won this race had the election board not barred him from the ballot. The margin separating him from the winner, Mr. Yoeli, was quite thin (48 votes). As a general rule, write-in campaigns are particularly difficult since, among other things, casting a write-in ballot is more arduous than simply selecting a name already displayed. Write-in ballots are also more likely to be incorrectly apportioned due to spelling mistakes or voter misunderstanding.

April 16, 2011

Hix '12, Dartmouth Student Body, both shafted in student election

Election outcomes:

Student Body President:
Max Yoeli '12 -- 691 votes (16.5% of the undergrad student body)
Will Hix '12 -- 643 votes (15.3%, disqualified by EPAC/ ran as a write-in candidate)
Aaron Limonthas '12 -- 427 votes (10.2%, write-in candidate)

Student Body Vice President:
Amrita Sankar '12 -- 906 votes (21.6%)
Brian Holekamp '12 -- 510 votes (12.2%)


* If Hix were on the ballot, he would have won this election. Not since the if-you-don't-vote-for-me-you-support-rape campaign of Tim Andreadis '07 have I seen such an effective write-in campaign, and never with as much adversity. The Elections Planning Advisory Committee's (EPAC) decision to bar Hix had no basis in history or reason and singularly denied Dartmouth what might have been a galvanizing and effective Student Body Presidency. Hix's 48-vote margin of defeat must be especially difficult for him given that he lost the Vice Presidency last year by a mere 7 votes.

* 4 out of 5 dentists recommend crest, but less than one of them voted for Yoeli. One benefit of approval voting is that it enables voters to 'approve' of candidates independently ('yes' to Obama, 'yes' to Hillary, 'no' to Palin) instead of selecting one over another. The candidate with the highest approval rating wins. This usually means that multiple individuals will achieve more than 50% approval, but in this election only 16.5% of the student body 'approved' the victor. How is Yoeli suppose to talk to the Board of Trustees without the mandate of the students? Oh, that's right, he got a higher vote share in his contested election than they did in their uncontested one! (zing!)

April 15, 2011

Will Hix for SA President

Today, Dartmouth students will vote for new representation on the Student Assembly. We at Little Green Blog urge students to write-in Will Hix for SA President.

The staff at LGB has endorsed Mr. Hix previously, and we stand by our reasoning. Mr. Hix, more than any other candidate in the race, has advanced substantive, pragmatic steps to focus the Student Assembly on those tasks to which it is best designed.

Further, Mr. Hix has become the symbol of protest to a recent decision by S.A.'s election committee to bar the candidacy of any student who has previously run afoul of Parkhurst. Mr. Hix was once cited for disorderly conduct and possession of alcohol by a minor -- a crime of which many Dartmouth students have been convicted -- and was thus ruled ineligible to run for SA President. This standard is both ridiculous and insulting, as it insinuates that Dartmouth students need an electoral committee to weigh ethics and rationality in their stead.

The role of S.A. president can be a powerful platform. And at a time when Parkhurst seems intent on degrading the value of a Dartmouth education, while charging students ever-higher prices for it, the students need a powerful spokesman.

Mr. Hix would be that president. Voting is ongoing and ends tonight at 8:00 PM EST.

March 24, 2011

Bachmann Exploring a Run

Michele Bachmann (R-MN) of Tea Party fame is toying with a run on the White House. This would make for an outstanding debate. Amongst her many memorable comments include encouraging Minnesotans to engage in an armed revolution and leading her own witch hunts against "anti-American" members of Congress.

She would, of course, lose the primaries. But it would be endlessly amusing to watch Republican presidential candidates balance the need to win over the Tea Partiers who support her with the desire to not torpedo their general election bid. Best of luck to them on that.

March 18, 2011

President Kim's Great Misstep

To date, President Kim has maintained an extended honeymooner's popularity at Dartmouth. Even as Mr. Kim has faced increasing scrutiny from students, he has appeared as strong as ever amongst alumni. That may be about to change.

Though it has received little attention in Dartmouth's mainstream press, Mr. Kim plans on opening a new office in the financial district of Boston, Mass. Mr. Kim claims that the new space -- which will likely cost more than $300,000 per annum -- is a necessary step toward better management of the endowment.

Critics are crying foul. Joe Asch, erstwhile petition candidate for trustee, writes over on Dartblog:

Setting up premises in Boston is hardly necessary for the good management of Dartmouth’s money. The College’s leading investment maven, billionaire Chairman of the Board of Trustees Steve Mandel, does an excellent job running Lone Pine Capital from Greenwich. [...] Technology has brought us a long way from open outcry trading in a crowded stock exchange pit.

March 15, 2011

Dartmouth's (latest) meaningless election

The Dartmouth Association of Alumni must really be trying to reach me. They sent me an email, they mailed me a letter, and they sent me another email all to get me to cast my ballot in the 2011 Trustee and AoA Executive Committee election! And the deadline is only a month away!! With all that effort, this election must be pretty important, so I signed in using the codes they sent to view this ballot:

That's right, one vote for every one candidate. No write ins. No democracy. They even made a handy little button you can press to automatically vote for all of the preselected, election-guaranteed 'candidates'.

March 11, 2011

#13: Seven Samurai (1954) conquers the West of the Far East

(Part of my series on watching every movie in the IMDB's top 250)

What do The Dirty Dozen, X-Men, The Sandlot, The Oceans 11(+ n) Series, and pretty much every heist movie have in common? They all owe their plot lineage to Seven Samurai.

Seven Samurai follows the plight of a farming village in Japan just after the Ashikaga shogunate of the 1500s, and their quest to enlist the support of Seven ronin samurai to help defend themselves against gangs of raiding marauders. What follows is a simple three-act set-up -- the conflict and recruiting, the development and cohesion, and the mission and farewell-- that has come to define such movies made subsequently. As in the modern movies mentioned above, each character is brought into the group because of the unique contributions that he can bring to the mission. The themes of honorable 'hired guns' coming to rescue innocents (especially helpless, undeveloped sexy female characters) from violent lawlessness are all common to American Westerns and therefore will be familiar to modern audiences. However, given the timeframe that the movie was made, it is clear that these themes are meant to send a political message against the samurai-inspired militarist ideals exhibited by Japan in WWII.

March 2, 2011

Social Space: The Long Goodbye

It's long been a cause célèbre for Parkhurst to wrest social spaces from the monopolizing Greek community. When the prime option for students to socialize is a fraternity basement, the argument goes, we would expect higher incidents of drinking and related transgressions.

Curious, then, that the College is announcing the renovation of Thayer Dining Hall into a pay-per-meal venue, where students will have to cough up eight dollars just to enter. Reflecting back on my time in Hanover -- not so long ago! -- I recall many nights spent regaling with friends at Food Court while sipping a coffee and nothing more. Food Court was a safe, comfortable social space for those who wanted to temporarily escape the stress of final exams and term papers. Food Court was, in short, a reliable social space for students to join, relax and engage.

No more. By placing a steep price on entry, few students will care to join a group of friends on a whim. Ate an early dinner? Too bad. You're not likely to pay eight dollars to join your friends' later dinner just to spend time with them.

And what message does this send students, anyway? The all-you-can-eat style surely incentivizes overindulgence and waste. Not to mention the additional cost -- on top of what were already exorbitant DDS prices.

What a curious move, indeed. Why write the rules so that your $30 million investment hinders your stated efforts in other areas of College life?

One has to wonder how students will react to this. Or perhaps if the administration cares at all.

March 1, 2011

Review: Snuff- Where the reader gets screwed.

Reading Chuck Palahniuk's novels have convinced me of one simple fact: that ever since Fight Club, ol' Chuck is coasting.

Snuff tells the story of a come-back-seeking porno actress trying to break the world group-sex record, as told by the 600 men waiting off-camera to screw her. Now Fight Club was and remains one of the most brilliant books I've ever read, but the disjointed narrative style, repetition, disaffected characters, and aggressive violence that served that book so well have frankly flopped in his other work. Instead we are left with a gross and simple little story. Gross in the childish way where the point is to shock the reader but too immature to be effective or engaging. Group sex is naughty. Peeing on a floor where people walk on bare feet is gross. Guzzling ranch dip, scooping it up with the same chip every time, is something mommy would never let us do.

February 1, 2011

#92: The Apartment (1960)

(Part of my series on watching every movie in the IMDB's top 250). Think of it as a 22-year-old's analysis of classic American cinema.

Some movies age well. The Apartment did not. There is really nothing in the movie (using your flat as a shag-pad for your co-workers, blatantly porking your secretaries, open nepotism, sexism, smoking constantly, drinking early) that would be acceptable at a major corporation today. But more importantly the premise is not very believable and the romance of the movie is almost completely confined to a game of cards. The plot centers around a love triangle that is basically awkward and the ending was glued on with little regard for the plot's concluding acts.

January 31, 2011

#84: All About Eve (1950)

(Part of my series on watching every movie in the IMDB's top 250)

All About Eve is easily the cleverest movie I've ever seen, dialogue-wise. Despite the fact that I was watching it with company, on more than one occasion I rewound the movie just so that I could appreciate all the nuances of particularly well-crafted line.

All About Eve is also one of the few movies where every single premise is believable. It tells the story of a freshly 40-year-old stage actress who grows anxious that she's getting too old to play 20-somethings characters like she used to, and grows increasingly paranoid that the raving (and very attractive) 20-something-year-old fan that she just hired as a valet will be the one to take her spot. It's a story that very closely mirrors the actual lives of the actors in the movie, making their portrayal so much more convincing. In a way it's like a really well written reality show-- to the point that you may forget you're watching a movie at all.

January 30, 2011

#69: Modern Times

(Part of my series on watching every movie of the IMDB's top 250)

I had always been shown clips of Modern Times in high school as artistic examples of the feeling of dehumanization that modernization and mechanization created at the start of the last century. I was please to discover that Modern Times is so much more than that and is, in fact a rather cute and very enjoyable movie. While much of the comedy is in Charlie Chaplin's famous slap-stick style, it's actually rather clever and unpredictable in ways that make it mature and laugh-out-loud funny even today. The satire is there, but it's really much more pantomime, though Chaplin never gets tiring or awkward. As someone who grew up on Cartoon Network, I can see the artistic and comedic influence of Modern Time throughout decades of subsequent cartoons and today appreciate it as a very fine movie.

January 29, 2011

#29. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

(Part of my series on watching every movie of the IMDB's top 250) Every family has a movie they traditionally watch on Christmas. For some families that movie is A Christmas Story or one of the many versions of Dickens's A Christmas Carol. In my family -- we being Italian -- that movie was, of course, The Godfather. And so it wasn't until now that I finally watched this most celebrated of Christmasy movies, It's a Wonderful Life.

In no other movie have I seen such an idealistic portrayal of American civilization throughout the many phases of the early twentieth century. Nor have there been many characters quite as sympathetic and American as the ones played by Jimmy Stewart. In this movie, it's somewhat difficult to pull off given the fact that the 'aww shucks' character of George Bailey (played by Stewart) is a tragic one. He lives exactly the opposite life he wanted for himself in order to satisfy the needs and desires of those around him. He instantly and methodically does what is right, at high cost to himself. And in doing so, grows resentful of a business, community, and family that does not seem to appreciate the sacrifices he has made, and he grows jealous of those who enjoy success in everything he's wanted to do.

Tackling IMDB's Top 250 Movies

Finding every blockbuster around me in New York closed, I stopped by my local public library and found exactly where all those old DVDs went. Rows and rows, and drawers and drawers of free DVDs all at my disposal -- 100 items at a time, for 7-day rentals each -- presented too great an opportunity for me to pass up. I knew exactly where to start. Out came the blackberry, IMDB's list top-250 movies, and my eye at the top. This was to become my mission: to see them all. And not the old lady, blocking the 'S' shelf as she slowly reads each movie back, or the family man with the shopping card full of Dora the Explorer DVDs will stop me!

After printing out the full list at home, I found that of the 250 titles, I had already viewed 98 of them. Not quite a failing grade on the cinematic literacy test, but certainly not enough to win me prizes on Jeopardy either. But with the simple dedication to view one movie a day for the next 152 days, I can finish my task by June 20th of this year.

While this means that I'll finally get around to viewing classics -- the kind that make friends and parents alike recoil in disgust when they learn I haven't seem them -- it also means viewing a considerable number made pre-color and pre-sound. In my experience, these 'ancestor' movies continue to receive high ratings, not based on the pleasurably of viewing them today, but rather based on the reactions they generated in their own time, and their influence on the great movies of the contemporary cinematic age. Will The Apartment be as good as its inspired descendant American Beauty? Will The Great Dictator still be relevant satire some 70 years after Hitler? Time and three tons of popcorn will tell.