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February 28, 2003

Google Maps

Perhaps I'm a bit paranoid (ok, I am), but the idea of Google's growing power does trouble me. Today, Scripting News discusses what might be going on with Google and provides a few good links on the subject. Jason Kottke says Google has developed the most extensive and detailed map of the web; it's making money by selling access to this map. Maps can be powerful things. As a private company, Google can "tweak" its search methods to change the look of the map, leading to the question: What happens when the map begins to precede the territory? And just as important: How will we know?

Posted 02:00 PM | meta-blogging

February 27, 2003

Oh, So That's It

Caring for Your Introvert explains a lot of life's mysteries.

Posted 08:50 AM | Comments (1) | life generally


The hot new game for your next party.

Posted 08:41 AM | life generally


The ever-measured and dependable Professor Cooper notes that Washington Democrats are supposedly mounting a new, concerted effort to question President Bush's credibility. It sounds like a great idea, especially when you look at this list of, um, "contradictions" between what Bush says and what he does. Why would anyone believe anything this guy says? Oh, but the list is missing some major, um, contradictions about foreign policy. For example, Bush says almost daily he wants to make peace by making war. Huh? He also says nearly as often that he wants to support the UN by undermining it. But the Dems refuse to challenge the Prez on foreign policy, and that's a serious mistake.

Meanwhile, the field of Democratic presidential candidates includes a couple of candidates who aren't afraid to say that Bush's foreign policy is just plain awful. Check out David Corn's summary of what Howard Dean and other candidates said at a recent Democratic National Committee gathering. Dean was especially (and thankfully) blunt:

He hit the podium with a sharp declaration: "What I want to know is why in the world the Democratic Party leadership is supporting the president's unilateral attack on Iraq?" He then blasted the party's leaders for not challenging President Bush on whether there should be any new tax cuts; for obsessing over a patients' bill of rights rather than "standing up" for providing health care insurance for all; and for going along with Bush's "Leave No Child Behind" education legislation, which he claimed would leave behind "every student, every teacher and every school board." After this machine-gun opening, he paused and said, "I'm Howard Dean and I'm here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." Cue the applause? Actually, applause lights were not needed. Many in the crowd jumped up and cheered.

Yes! It's like a dream come true! Finally, a progressive in a position to get serious media attention who's not afraid to say what he really thinks. Since Bush was elected, I've played with this idea for a short story that features exactly such a figure -- someone who comes from nowhere saying things so shocking, outrageous, yet truthful, that people's heads spin around, they wake from their comas, and suddenly everyone's saying: "You know, he's right! We need national health care?now!" Could Dean really be this person? And if he is, will the tactic actually work? I don't know, but the experiment of consistent progressive candidness in public is one that I'd like to see tried. I really think that if more Democrats would stand up unflinchingly for Democratic values, the Democrats could win back both houses of Congress and the White House. So where's the Dean for President office? Sign me up! (Read the full text of Dean's DNC remarks, or check out the Dean for President blog. )

Of course, there are other Democratic candidates in the race, and some of them sound like they have potential. Judging from what I've seen at this point, Kucinich could be one of the better candidates, and to my great surprise, Gephardt is sounding, well, not awful. I'm also really wishing the press could treat Sharpton as more than a comedy side-show. Maybe he has no chance to get elected, but he could have a chance to move the Democrats in some positive directions if the press would shut up with their "he's funny but completely unelectable" stuff. I also wish we could something about Carol Mosely-Braun other than that the only reason she's running is to be a "first." I'm pretty sure she's got more to say than that.

Posted 08:06 AM | Comments (2) | general politics

February 26, 2003


I used to work right next door to where this picture was taken. [Link via Scripting News] On alternating days my "office" was either a bicycle seat in which I'd ride 20-120 miles, or the driver's seat of a 15-passenger van in which I'd drive 40-250 miles. I guess you could say I worked in a big "office" park -- perhaps the world's largest -- known to most of you as Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and lots of beautiful country in between. Since my "office" was mobile, I got to work in lots of other cool places, as well; for example, I had some swell times in and around Camden, Maine.

It all sounds great, doesn't it? And it was. There are books that list "dream jobs," and the job I had was often listed in those books -- it probably still is. Leaving that job was in many ways one of the hardest things I've ever done. Ask my friends. Every year I'd say I was finished. The next year I'd be back saying "just a few more trips." It was like a drug -- a whole different kind of "tripping out." But for lots of reasons, I finally broke the habit. That was three years ago. Now I'm going to law school.

Moments like this make me wonder if I should seek professional help.

Posted 06:33 AM | Comments (2) | life generally

February 25, 2003

SUV Factoid

I finally got to take a look at High and Mighty SUVs -- the World's Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way by Keith Bradsher. As I slowly work my way through the book (very slowly -- reading time will have to come after many other more pressing things), I'll try to mention the most mentionable bits.

Here's one for starters:

The Sierra Club likes to point out that driving a full-size SUV for a year instead of a midsize car burns as much extra energy as leaving a refrigerator door open for six years. SUVs also spew up to 5.5 times as much smog-causing gases per mile as cars.

Transcript of the kind of one-sided conversation that happens every day in a parallel universe: Oh, honey, have you seen the keys to the Explorer? I feel the need to work off some more of my utter disregard for the wellbeing of everyone else on the planet. Oh, thanks, I'll see you in a few hours after I've enlarged the hole in the ozone layer enough to satisfy my pathological tendencies toward genocide. Yeah, love you, too. Bye bye.

Posted 06:15 PM | ai books

Limitless Possibilities

I want this job:

"You get sent on a crazy adventure and you get to write about it," she said. "How cool is that?"

What a cool little niche industry: freelance blogging. If a movie needs a blog, how about a book? Hmmmm.... TV series need blogs; imagine all the "Friends" fans (or whatever) who would love to read a daily/weekly insider's look at the shooting of the show. Plus, it would create a great record of these things that could then be quickly turned into a best-selling book (with added bonus content of interviews with the actors and things they didn't want to put online while the show/even was happening). It would be awesome for "reality" TV shows like "Joe Millionaire" or "Survivor" -- fans would eat it up!

But freelance blogging could be much more important than that. For example, every political campaign needs a blog, for sure, but the pay for the blogger would have to be given w/no strings attached or else it would just become propaganda. That's the trick: How getting someone to write stuff that's honest while still earning a living. Hmm...

I bet we're going to see a lot more experiments along these lines. Maybe law school isn't the best thing I could do next, after all....

Posted 06:11 PM | Comments (3) | meta-blogging

Define "Relevant"

The rhetoric of "relevance" coming from the Bush administration is getting really tired. The most recent example came from President Bush in a speech to U.S. governors:
"It's an interesting moment for the Security Council and the United Nations. It's a moment to determine for this body, that we hope succeeds, to determine whether or not it is going to be relevant, as the world confronts the threats to the 21st century. Is it going to be a body that means what it says? We certainly hope it does," Bush said.
Does the administration really think its schoolyard bully tactics are effective? Who defines "relevant"? What does that mean? Why does the administration need to resort to vague, veiled threats like this? Of special note is the continuing pattern in Bush's speech -- his "hope" that the UN "succeeds" came as an afterthought. Listen to every statement Bush makes about the UN and you'll find that his main point is to goad, bully, and threaten, while his supportive remarks always appear in subclauses and parentheses. The global resistance to the Bush administration's agenda of war demonstrates utter failure of the administration's weak attempts to wrap that agenda in a cloak of good intentions. Yet, as the UK's Independent argues, the UN must respond to the Bush administration's repeated challenges to be "relevant." The UN must show the world that it will not be bullied into doing whatever the U.S. demands.
Over the next three weeks, therefore, the member countries of the UN, and especially those that are members of the Security Council, face a historic duty. They must decide how to respond to President Bush's challenge, issued repeatedly in recent weeks, to make the UN "relevant". They should ignore cheap insults accusing opponents of war of wanting the UN to be as ineffective as the League of Nations: Saddam is not Hitler and Kim Jong Il is not Mussolini. The test of the UN's relevance cannot be the extent to which it comes into line with US policy. On the contrary, the test must be the extent to which it encourages US policy to come into line with the concept of international law. That is why those opponents of the war who accuse the UN of simply being a puppet of the US are as mistaken as Mr Bush. The UN may be imperfect, but it does embody the idea of international law. Last year, the US dismissed the idea of restoring UN inspectors to Iraq as a waste of time. Now, the inspection regime has opened up the possibility of an alternative way in which the law-abiding world can restrain the threat from Saddam.
But Saddam is only the threat du jour; beyond the immediate crisis, the "law-abiding world" must address the larger problem of the continued proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. And as Jonathan Schell puts it in his recent Nation cover story, while we confront this proliferation, we must remember that:
Nuclear [and other WMD] proliferation, when considered as the global emergency that it is, has never been, is not now and never will be stoppable by military force; on the contrary, force can only exacerbate the problem.
Schell's arguments in support of this claim are very compelling and highly recommended.

Posted 07:34 AM | general politics

February 24, 2003

Virtual March

If you've watched the growing war protests and thought, "Hey, there might be somthing to that," then here's your chance to "march" from the comfort of the chair you're now sitting in: Join the Virtual March on Washington, next Wednesday, February 26th. and the Win Without War coalition are organizing us to ask Congress to stop the Bush administration's rush to war, and to Let the Inspections Work:

With your help, on February 26th, every Senate office will receive a call EVERY MINUTE from a constituent, as they receive a simultaneous crush of faxes and email. In New York and Washington D.C., "antiwar rooms" will highlight the progress of the day for national media. Local media will visit the "antiwar room" online, to monitor this constituent march throughout the day.

With your help, every Senate office switchboard will be lit up all day with our antiwar messages. This will be a powerful reminder of the breadth and depth of opposition to a war in Iraq.

Sign up now to make your call Wednesday...

Posted 07:12 AM | general politics

February 23, 2003


The latest fashion. No comment, really. [Link via Scripting News]

Posted 10:25 PM | Comments (2) | life generally

First Strikes

Today's Tom Toles cartoon is very smart. You might be able to see it at Ucomics, but since they've gone to this crappy subscription service, I won't bother to link to it because you'll probably have to pay to see it. Instead, I'll describe it to you: Bush is giving a speech to the UN, saying, "It is unacceptable to ignore a threat until it's too late! Or close your eyes and hope it goes away! If you wait 'til you have a smoking gun, you've waited too long..." Meanwhile, a head in the audience whispers to another: "What 'til he discovers we slipped him a copy of the Kyoto treaty." Finally, the little cartoonist that appears in the bottom right corner of every Toles' panel says: "If you wait 'til he gets the irony, you've waited too long."

Too funny. This would make a great plank in the anti-war platform. As we try to prevent a war on Iraq, we should also make the case for a war against two very real threats to national security: poverty and pollution. Those are first strikes I could support.

Posted 10:19 PM | general politics

Pattern Recognition

Speaking of paranoia and conspiracy, I just finished reading William Gibson's latest, Pattern Recognition, thanks to my Valentine, who thoughtfully gifted me a copy for that day. I'm a huge Gibson fan; Neuromancer blew the top right off my head. How could you not be a fan of the book that envisioned an Internet on steroids before the Internet even existed? Ok, so ARPANET began in 1969, but even by 1984 when Neuromancer was published the "net" was nothing like what we know today. Sure, it's the job of Sci-Fi to be ahead of its time; part of what makes sci-fi fun is its ability to play with future worlds and show us the possible places we might go and things we might do. But Gibson brought a vibrant subgenre?cyberpunk?to the wider public, and it's hard to underestimate the impact of that subgenre on the sci-fi of the last 20 years. [1] Would there have been a "Matrix" if there had not first been a Neuromancer? Hard to say. And I'll shut up about this before I get further out of my depth as a sci-fi expert. I know if I start getting into claims about who was first with what idea or who inspired what, I'll be treading on super-thin ice in about one more step.

And but so anyway, as the title suggests, Gibson's new book deals with paranoia, conspiracy, the stories behind what we think we see. The novel focuses on Cayce Pollard and her quest to find the maker and the meaning of "the footage," a mysterious series of film clips that appear randomly on the Web. At the moment Cayce finally begins to see the patterns (or some of them) converge, Gibson writes:

There must always be room for conicidence, Win [Cayce's father] had maintained. When there's not, you're probably well into apophenia, each thing then perceived as part of an overarching pattern of consipracy. And while comforting yourself with the symmetry of it all, he'd believed, you stood all too real a chance of missing the genuine threat, which was invariably less symmetrical, less perfect. But which he always, [Cayce] knew, took for granted was there (293-4).

Win's advice is perfect for this time we're living in. Is every bad thing that happens somehow connected to terrorism? Probably not?some of them may be coincidences. More specifically, does the fact that Saddam Hussien is a brutal despot mean he is also closely?or even loosely?connected with Al Queda and terrorism? Possibly, but again, these bad things may not go together. Finally, is the war on Iraq all about oil? Probably not; the reasons people claim for going to war are "invariably less symmetrical, less perfect" than that. The world is a complex place with forces and patterns and trends and histories converging and diverging all the time. How we read these convergences will make all the difference to our future.

With that in mind, I'll leave you with one of the best lines in the book. Cayce has met up with Stella, a Russian woman. While reminiscing about Russia's recent transition from the soviet to the capitalist model, Stella says:

Now we say that everything Lenin taught us of communism was false, and everything he taught us of capitalism was true (303).

We're all vaguely but often almost viscerally familiar with the patterns behind the first half of Stella's sentence (communism = evil), but why do so many of us give so little attention to the patterns that give rise to the second half?

[1] For a quick into to cyberpunk, this list contains the most notorious examples. I've read the top 10 and recommend them all. (In fact, I like Neal Stephenson better than Gibson, but I don't think I'm supposed to say that, so don't tell.)

Posted 08:51 AM | ai books general politics

February 22, 2003

Is Democracy Dead?

Or is Douglas Rushkoff really paranoid? I'm thinking it's a little of both, but since I love a good conspiracy theory, I dig the dots he's connectingbetween the demise of exit polling for national elections, the rise computerized voting (no paper trail), and the growth of private vote-counting companies (owned by Republicans). What's your take? I hope Rushkoff isn't serious about no longer talking about politics. He's a great storyteller. Besides, paranoia and conspiracy theories can be very useful; the trick is to know how to use them.

Posted 12:15 PM | general politics

February 21, 2003

FTR: Goering

I first saw this quotation (below) last Oct. 26th while in D.C. for the first of what appears to be an ongoing series of big anti-war protests. There were signs and slogans everywhere at the march, and one of the people I was with found a flier with this quote, but I didn't get a copy. Today I came across it again and preserve it here now for its haunting topicality:
"Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." — Hermann Goering, (1893-1946) Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, President of the Reichstag, Prime Minister of Prussia and, as Hitler's designated successor, the second man in the Third Reich.
What think you now of that "Orange Alert" business? terrah.jpg

Posted 07:29 AM | general politics

February 20, 2003

Peace Progress

Retrorocket has some great thoughts on the growing global movement against war. Specifically, he's angered and mystified by how easily many pundits have been able to dismiss the importance of the millions of people who oppose war. I'd agree with him, but I haven't been paying a lot of attention to that dark side. I've been tyring to remain optimistic, hoping that the dismissals are just the last gasp of a march toward war that's really struggling for legitimacy. To that end, I offer the following links about the protests and current events more generally. First, has compiled a list of demonstrations around the world. It's long, diverse, impressive, and pretty impossible to ignore. A few hundred here, a few thousand there, a million or more over there… Has anything like this happened before? Second, although I'm not sure how seriously to take this, the British anti-war movement is apparently planning to shut down Britian if Blair goes to war. As Retrorocket notes, about one-sixtieth of the British population marched against war. If all those marchers refuse to go to work one day, the impact would not be negligible. The article also notes the connections between opposition to war and opposition to the kind of "globalization" that has prompted protests against the World Bank and WTO all over the world in recent years. Although the press likes to dub it an "anti-globalization" movement, it's really a social justice movement, and it's been growing steadily for several years now. I imagine the pundits who are dismissing the anti-war demonstrations are at least vaguelly aware of the close connections between the social justice and anti-war people, and those pundits are really hoping this isn't what it looks like: A huge, powerful, steadily growing global movement that is ready to challenge much of the agenda that these dismissive pundits stand for. Third, the Guardian also reports that Bush's War Timetable is Unravelling, thanks most recently to the resistance of Turkey. Fourth, the media are beginning to cover the anti-war perspective and they are getting called on it when they fail to do so. For example, Take Back the Media reports that CNN left 750 words out of its transcript from Hans Blix's last U.N. presentation. Now why would CNN want to do that? I imagine (hope) reports like this will make at least a few people a bit more critical of what they see in the mainstream media. Fifth, and mostly for fun, cartoonist Mark Fiore is doing his part to explain the case for war. And to end on yet another bit from The Onion: Bill of Rights Pared Down To A Manageable Six. Is laughing still good medicine when the humor is so dark? Written to the tune of: Where's Your Head At from the album "Rooty (Advance)" by Basement Jaxx

Posted 09:44 AM | general politics

February 18, 2003

Scary Fun II

You know, I'm tired of waiting with baited breath every day for the mail to come, only to find there's nothing but bills and credit card offers and coupons I'll never use. So I'm not going to do it anymore. Instead, I'll read the Onion, and I'll laugh. Yes, that's exactly what I'll do. What fun! Try this on for size:
Saddam Enrages Bush With Full Compliance WASHINGTON, DC—President Bush expressed frustration and anger Monday over a U.N. report stating that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is now fully complying with weapons inspections. "Enough is enough," a determined Bush told reporters. "We are not fooled by Saddam's devious attempts to sway world opinion by doing everything the U.N. asked him to do. We will not be intimidated into backing down and, if we have any say in the matter, neither will Saddam." Bush added that any further Iraqi attempt to meet the demands of the U.N. or U.S. will be regarded as "an act of war."
Wait. Is that funny, or scary? Today the game is to oscillate wildly (a la The Smiths) between the two interpretations: laugh your head off, scream your head off, laugh your head off, scream you head off. Whooh. Now catch your breath and try this one: N. Korea Wondering What It Has To Do To Attract U.S. Military Attention Ok. If you're up for more (and if you happen to be a fan of David Foster Wallace, which, I'm guessing, does not apply to many people, but still, if...), then feast your eyes on this great parody: Girlfriend Stops Reading David Foster Wallace Breakup Letter At Page 20. Ha! The paragraph supposedly on written by Wallace is strikingly like certain passages especially of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. And finally finally, if you haven't already reached your daily limit of laughs-a-minute vs. bowel-shaking-fears (now channeling Cake), get yourself on over to the latest two installments of Get Your War On:
Where the hell is my "Missle Defense Shield????"
ROTF, I'm telling you. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Posted 05:57 PM | Comments (1) | life generally

February 17, 2003

Deadline Extended!?!?

When I got that letter last December from Georgetown, I took it in stride. I hadn't gotten my hopes up too high, and really it turned out fine because it just gave me the incentive I needed to quit procrastinating and finish my applications to other schools. But today I was looking at financial aid requirements for the schools I'm interested in (specifically: do they seriously need my parents' financial info? I haven't received parental support for over a decade. Seems a little stupid.)... Anyway, I went to GULC's site and found this big notice in red:

The JD Application Deadline for Full-time and Part-time applications has been extended to March 1, 2003.

Recall that the letter I got in December basically said, "You're a fine candidate but we don't want to let you in until we're sure nobody better is going to apply." So now, instead of letting me in, they're extending the freakin' deadline!?!? Can you say insult to injury?


Posted 02:38 PM | Comments (1) | law school

February 16, 2003

Blog Borg?

Scripting News reports that Google has purchased Pyra, the company that started Blogger and the ubiquitous "blogspot" (free web hosting for Blogger blogs). What does this mean? Big money behind blogs means....? It's hard to say, but learning a little about how Google works makes me a much less avid Google fan. In today's climate, it seems prudent to assume that any info any corporate entity collects and saves is going to eventually find its way into the TIA program. If that's true, Google suddenly stands as the biggest threat to civil liberties since, well, I don't know, Joseph McCarthy? UPDATE 2-26-03: Is Google Too Powerful? [link via So Sue Me]

Posted 10:12 AM | Comments (1) | meta-blogging

February 15, 2003

GW says Yes!

I heard the news today, oh boy:

It is my pleasure to inform you of your admission to The George Washington University Law School as a candidate for the Juris Doctor degree beginning next fall semester.

Yay yay! That probably puts GW at the top of the list right now, primarily because it's in DC and I think I'm going to prefer DC over Boston, but also because I think the curriculum GW offers (and the connections I'll be able to make there) will be more beneficial in the long run. GW also tops the list so far in the amount and quality of financial aid information included in their acceptance letter/package (medium size manilla envelope). For example, I learned that

Law students may apply for up to $18,500 per academic year [from the federal Stafford Loan Program], to an aggregate maximum of $138,500 graduate and undergraduate Stafford loans.

Previously I'd heard the aggregate max was something like $65k, so this is great news. I also learned that commercial loans have aggregate limits (no surprise there) ranging from $102k to $150k. So it sounds like fools like me should be able to find a total of something like $250k in educational loans for law school. Doesn't it sound beautiful to be so deliciously deep in debt?

Right. But I've found something to give that debt some context. I've been rereading Fast Food Nation for purposes of a class I'm teaching, and there I've been reminded that many careers must begin with massive debt. For example, an owner of a pizza franchise profiled in the book has to borrow $200k before he'd sold a single pizza. It only took the franchisee three years to pay off that debt, and that's probably a lot fewer years than it'll take me to pay off mine, but still, he started in a similarly-sized hole and pulled out. Another example is Idaho potato farmer. According to Schlosser,

The average potato farmer [in Bingham County, Idaho], who plants about four hundred acres, is more than half a million dollars in the hole before selling a single potato.

So, see, lawyers aren't the only people insane enough to borrow huge sums of money on the promise that they'll make it all back sometime soon. It's still insane, but clearly there's plenty of this insanity going around.

Posted 10:35 AM | Comments (3) | law school

Non-Violence is More Difficult

As "anti-war" protesters gather in cities around the world, Jason Rylander agrees with Jeremy Hurewitz that the anti-war left has failed to offer alternatives in the face of threats to peace. Hurewitz makes some good points, and he's right that progressives desperately need quality leaders with coherent, concrete, and comprehensive plans for addressing the complex problems we face today. While Hurewitz offers no evidence for one of his central claims—that the left has praised U.N. sanctions against Iraq (where? when? who?)—the fact that he can make the claim shows the desperate need for expanding the agenda: Progressives shouldn't think of themselves as "anti-war" or "anti-American" [1], but as "pro-peace" or simply "strident activists for non-violent conflict resolution." But see, there it is: Nonviolence seems complicated. It doesn't fit well into nice little soundbites and conceptual bon-bons. Well, actually it does, but those bon-bons have been poisoned by a cultural narrative that dismisses as "flower power" and "hippy dippy" the idea that non-violent solutions can effectively address the world's problems. When we're confronted with a situation like that in Iraq, we want a concrete solution. What should we do? That's where violence has a lot of appeal—it's simple. What do we do? We bomb them; problem solved via elimination. Of course, what the "anti-war" people are saying is that it's never that simple. Massive bombing of Iraq might end Hussein's regime, but it won't end the problems in the region or the world. So what should we do instead of bombing and killing and violence and physical, material force? Well, we could start by returning again to Ghandi's eight rules for making nonviolence work. To me this would mean we should:
  1. Vigorously support robust inspections. No violence involved.
  2. Flood Iraq with humanitarian aid: food, water, medical supplies and personnel. Withdraw our troops immediately and instead of spending millions (perhaps billions) massing troops on Iraq's borders, we should start spending that money building hospitals and distribution networks for food and other material goods in Iraq. Think about that for a minute. What do you think would happen? Could Saddam Hussein remain in power if he tried to prevent these humanitarian measures? Probably not. And what this food and medicine (and perhaps education) would give Iraq is a healthy, thinking population with a sense of possibility and an ability to work for its own improvement. Plus, this strategy would answer the critics who say the anti-war movement seems oblivious to the continued suffering of the Iraqi people. (Again, I think this charge is completely unfounded, but the perception exists, so it's a good idea for the left to actively counter it.)
  3. Immediately stop humiliating and making fun of the U.N. and our allies in Europe. Go to them with hats in hand, apologize, and make genuine efforts to regain their trust and to work with them to douse the flames of the violent rhetoric we've been spouting.
  4. Ask the U.N. to create an international panel of experts—politicians, historians, academics, intelligence people, etc—to identify the situations, events, and policies that motivate terrorism around the world, and to suggest strategies for changing or eliminating those situations, events, and policies to reduce or eliminate terrorism. Call this panel something like the International Terrorism Council (ITC). Currently the "war on terror" is a "war" being run by Bush and Co., "terror" is whatever Bush and Co. says it is, and the methods of this "war" are to kill, crush, and imprison suspects. This is a little like putting band-aids on skin lesions that are really being caused by a cancer that you don't even try to treat. The ITC would diagnose and treat the cancer, eliminating the need for all those bloody band-aids.

Of course, who am I to make these suggestions? I'm just some guy. But here's the thing: If we're going to demand alternatives, we have to be willing to consider them, to discuss them, to have good reasons for rejecting them or for preferring other alternatives. Taking non-violent, humble, cooperative foreign policy seriously in the U.S. is difficult for most Americans to do because there's such a powerful set of forces massed against it.

It's easy to find reasons to go with the flow, or at least not to actively obstruct its progress. It's easy to take issue with A.N.S.W.E.R. because you disagree with the views of some of its members. And it's easy to think that violence and physical force will solve our problems. These things are easy because the are simple and because many elected and otherwise prominent people are constantly tell us to do them. What's hard is to face the fact that we face complex problems without simple solutions. It's hard to have the courage to stand up to dominant cultural narratives and to take seriously alternatives that you're constantly encouraged to dismiss. We have to stop taking these easy routes and choose instead to take the higher road.

Footnote: [1] All the progressives I know are also the most patriotic people I know. This "anti-American" business is a ludicrous charge on its face. What does it mean? Why would people who are against "America" go freeze in the cold to protest policies they fear will only hurt America in the long run? Like those crazy kids over at Buzzflash argue, a strike against Saddam Hussein is a gift to Al Qaeda since it will only create more hatred for and resistance to American global hegemony. So people who say "no war" are saying "Save America," even when they don't have a concrete, step-by-step program for doing so.

Posted 10:13 AM | general politics

Media Failures

I'm playing catch-up, but really, any time's a good time to point out media failures. Media failures are examples of the media failing in its duty to keep even those of us who work hard to pay attention informed of important events. For example, there was the news last week that the "dossier" U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair presented to make the case for war on Iraq—and which U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell cited and praised in his speech to the U.N.— was at least partly a work of plagiarism. Yes, some media outlets covered the story, quietly and briefly, and somehow people seem to have heard about it, but I didn't see this news on front pages or leading nightly news broadcasts, which I would say is a failure. The two most vehement supporters of war base their arguments on publicly-available information, some of which is years old, and that's not a top story? Blair's and Powell's reliance on such information shows they have no "secret intelligence" they're not sharing; if they had anything better, they would have trotted it out—and that's not a top story?

Recent Media Failure #2: Where is the news about the resolutions in both the House and Senate to require President Bush to get Congressional authorization before using force in Iraq? See more at Ruminate This (which also leads to the interesting Stand Down, the "no war" blog. Originally spotted via Testify!.) This story dovetails nicely with one that thankfully is getting a good amount of coverage: the lawsuit against President Bush that charges he doesn't have the authority to commit troops in battle w/out an explicit declaration of war from Congress. Long shot? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.

Finally, Newsweek gives the full story, I'll give you the highlights: When recently asked its email recipients to donate money for pro-peace advertising, people responded; collected more than $75,000 in less than two hours. However, Viacom Outdoor CEO Wally Kelly made a personal decision not to run the ads. Viacom's PR people quickly conjured up some obscure guidelines to cover this capricious decision, but media buyers said they'd never heard of those guidelines. and other pro-peace groups were not happy.

“It does not sound like free speech is alive and well in this country,” says Ben Cohen, founder of TrueMajority and cofounder of the Ben & Jerry ice-cream company. “We can’t even get our message out by paying for advertising.”

But after receiving hundreds of calls and emails in protest of this decision, Viacom reversed itself with the following statement:

This note certifies that Viacom Outdoor will run advertisements for, as discussed by you and [named employee] of Viacom Outdoor. As we discussed at no time was this ever an issue about the content of the ads but only involved our longstanding policies with respect to and political ads. We hope that this clears up any misunderstanding.

While it's great that Viacom has deigned to run the ads, the "misunderstanding" definitely remains. A major part of the misunderstanding here is how (unelected) one person can make a decision about freedom of expression in the U.S. that shuts down speech in major cities all over the country. This and all similar failures of "freedom of the press" in the U.S. are products of media conglomeration: too few companies (about 10) own nearly all media outlets in the U.S. See The Big Ten to get a peek at how deep the rabbit hole goes, and read Rich Media, Poor Democracy for something more like a full story of how media conglomeration shapes our political landscape, limits the range of debate on nearly every issue, and thereby limits the possibility that the world might one day be a better place for us all.

Posted 08:00 AM | general politics

February 09, 2003

When Law School Sucks

Nikki, Esq. has hit a low low on the road to becoming a lawyer, the low point which I'm currently most afraid of facing myself all too soon: drowning in debt, hating what I'm doing, and trapped doing it because of said debt. The advice from Bill Alltreuter in Nikki's comments are helpful, and I hope he's right. The trouble with big life decisions like this is you just can never be sure. Is X better than Y? There's no way to know until you're in the middle of it. And even then, it's hard to know because once you're through the middle, on the back side somewhere, things can look different yet again. In optimistic mode, that's probably what makes life fun. In pessimistic mode, it just sucks.

Posted 09:57 AM | Comments (1) | law school

February 08, 2003

Lawless is In!

Congrats to S/R at So Sue Me -- she's in! Congratulations!

Getting in means S/R has now moved on to the next phase: How the heck do I decide where to go? What variables are the most important to consider? Cost? Location? Workload? Reputation? The quality of the stationary and promotional materials the school sends? The tone of voice you hear when you talk to the school's representatives? The clinical programs available? The faculty? The curriculum? What your friends think? The way your stomach feels when you think of living there for three years? Hmm...

Funny, but in some ways every decision on the road toward law school seems harder than the last. The decision to take the LSAT? Not so hard. Actually studying for it and doing well is harder, but deciding whether to do it is pretty simple. Then deciding where to apply is a little harder, and, of course, deciding where to actually go is harder still. Perhaps I should take this as a message of sorts: If I find decisions like these so difficult, and if the stakes only get higher and the decisions along with them... I've always thought I'd make a great barrista at the local Borders.

Posted 10:06 AM | Comments (1) | law school


FYI: After recently adding an email link to ai (at left), the volume of spam email I receive is increasing every day. If you don't want this to happen to you, you might want to try the Enkoder Form:

The Enkoder will encrypt your Email address and wrap the result in JavaScript, hiding it from Email-harvesting robots which crawl the web looking for exposed addresses. Just paste the resulting JavaScript into your website's HTML. Your address will be displayed correctly by web-browsers, but will be virtually indecipherable to Email harvesting robots.

Enkoder should now be in effect, so now I'm bracing myself to cope with the large void that will open in my life when I no longer find my email box packed with bogus job offers and poorly written pitches for generic viagra ("100% identical formula!!!"). It's going to be tough, but I think I'll pull through.

And speaking of blog modifications, I recently stumbled upon this readme for bloggers. It's a disclaimer to remind readers of the limits and etiquette of reading and writing weblogs. I won't go into the details here, except to say that it seems a fascinating look into the kinds of issues other bloggers have found it necessary to shield themselves against. [link via the beautifully-designed Bealog]

Posted 09:30 AM | Comments (1) | meta-blogging

February 07, 2003


Speaking of Orwell, what would you say if asked: "How many of the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackers were Iraqi citizens?" Apparently, ignorance is strength:

At the end of the first week of January, the Princeton Survey Research Associates polled more than 1,200 Americans on behalf of the Knight Ridder newspaper chain. They asked a very simple question: "To the best of your knowledge, how many of the September 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens?" … Of those surveyed, only 17 percent knew the correct answer: that none of the hijackers were Iraqi. Forty-four percent of Americans believe that most or some of the hijackers were Iraqi; another 6 percent believe that one of the hijackers was a citizen of that most notorious node in the axis of evil. That leaves 33 percent who did not know enough to offer an answer.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Posted 08:40 PM | general politics

February 05, 2003

Bits and Pieces

Minitrue: In George Orwell's 1984, the Ministry of Truth is responsible for news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts. It's affectionately known as "Minitrue," a highly appropriate name considering that what it really does is churn out fabrication after fabrication in order to make the government look as good as possible.

Although it's almost a week old and has thankfully faded into obscurity, this story is worth remembering. It suggests that "Iraqi spies" have been circulating in the U.S., to encourage anti-war sentiment. Will this be the last we hear of such misinformation, or is it only the beginning? [cue theme from "The Twilight Zone"]

Compartmentalization: Another old story that I'm just getting to is the one about the cancelled poetry reading at the White House. After hearing that some poets were planning to read anti-war/pro-peace and justice poetry at the White House event to which they were recently invited, Laura Bush cancelled the event.

``While Mrs. Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she, too, has opinions and believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum.'' Noelia Rodriguez, spokeswoman for first lady Laura Bush, said Wednesday.

Remember, Laura Bush was a teacher, and she taught us that "there's nothing political about literature." Good thing there's nothing political about that position. It's great that our First Lady is there to clarify those impermeable borders that divide the world into neat little boxes, don't you think? Without someone like her enforcing those rigid boundaries, people could get really confused…

Online OD: What would you do if you watched someone take a deadly drug overdose via webcam? What a horrifying story.

Bloodthirsty Much?: Attorney General John Ashcroft is wants to kill people:

Mr. Ashcroft has stirred a controversy in federal prosecutors' offices nationally in recent months by insisting that they seek executions in some cases in which they had recommended against it. Under Justice Department rules, local federal prosecutors can only recommend whether to seek the death penalty; the final decision is up to the attorney general.

Makes you proud to be an American, don't it?

Impeach Bush: Speaking of being proud to be an American, there appear to be two, count 'em, two! competing campaigns to impeach George W. Bush and trusted members of his gang. The Vote to Impeach campaign appears to have the support of former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, not to mention the weight of the International A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (a major organizer of the large anti-war protests in Oct. and Jan.). Meanwhile, the Impeach-Bush-Now effort is headed up by U of IL College of Law Professor Francic A. Boyle, who also wrote the articles of impeachment against George Bush I. One of my favorite 80s bands, The Woodentops, sang a song in which they bouncily chanted "don't let history repeat itself, don't let history repeat itself." I've thought about that song a lot since December 2000.

Plagiarism: If you've taught a writing class since the dawn of the Internet, you'll enjoy this. And if you've taught any college class in recent years, you might be glad to have your suspicions confirmed that grades are up, while studying is down.

Posted 02:04 PM | general politics

Space, Peace, Granny D

I'm going to try to stop pointing to every single new edition of Mondo Washington, really I am, but I continue to be impressed with its incisive coverage of current events. It consistently delivers short, punchy perspectives you just won't get from the mainstream media. For example, check out this view on the Shuttle Columbia disaster:

"It's unfortunate that lives were lost in a mission that did not advance science in a meaningful way, and that is exactly what we have to avoid in the future," Francis Slakey, a Georgetown University physics professor who writes on space issues, told the Voice.

Ok, sure, the media are covering the building controversy over the value of the shuttle program, but Ridgeway gives it to you straight up, no chaser. Here's another: Is the U.S. a nation that's helping create a more just and peaceful world? Well, um...:

The U.S. now accounts for more than 50 percent of all the armaments sold on the planet. In 2001 we exported $12.2 billion in arms and signed up $13.1 billion in new business through the Foreign Military Sales program. What's more, our subsidies to the weapons industry are second only to those we give agribusiness.

"U.S.-origin weapons find their way into conflicts the world over," says a recent report from the Federation of American Scientists. "Of the active conflicts in 1999, the United States supplied arms or military technology to parties in more than 92 percent of them—39 out of 42." American troops have had to face armies we trained in Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, and Afghanistan. Because we trained and armed them with modern weaponry, we have had to spend yet more money to develop high-tech arms to, in effect, defeat ourselves. In addition, we soon will subsidize the sale of additional weapons to former Soviet republics and East Bloc nations, which are modernizing to meet NATO standards.

What do you think? Does the whole "peace via bullets" thing really seem to be working? It doesn't look like it's very effective to me; using violence to create peace has almost never been more than a temporary solution that tends to eventually make bad situations worse. But you don't have to take it from me; listen to Granny D., who has been working for peace and justice longer than most of us have been alive. Her message? A better world begins with you and me. In a recent speech Granny D put it this way:

How we live shapes the entire world. I am no angel. I buy clothing that is a bargain and I look at the tag with guilt if it is from some faraway place where the workers may be abused. My part of New England used to be a great textile center, so I also care about the fact that my purchasing may take jobs from my neighbors.

What we drive, what we buy, the entertainment we choose, the way we use electricity and water – all of these things matter. Our little decisions work for or against our dream of a fair world that spins along with nature in balance and with people living well in their local economies. Poverty happens, war happens, imperialism happens, when all the little bad decisions of a nation's people accumulate and find political expression.

We cannot have world peace without peace in our own lives. We cannot attack our planet by the way we live, and then go off to a peace rally and hope to set right all the imbalance we have caused. Peace is first a private matter. It cannot grow except from there.

You tell us, Granny.

Posted 01:56 PM | general politics

Thanks (and In Again!)

Thanks to everyone for your kind words and congratulations, as well as your helpful advice about the whole "financing your legal education" thing. The most recent news on that front is that I just got a phone call from George Mason University School of Law to notify me that I've been accepted there, as well. Hooray! Of course, my first question was about financial aid and the answer was that federal loan programs allow anyone to borrow a maximum of $18k/year, which won't even cover tuition at any of the schools I've applied to. Mason apparently has very little money for scholarships, which means that even though its tuition is $10k/year less than that of Boston College, BC might end up being the less expensive choice. BC appears to have a good bit of cash for financial aid purposes—almost 23 percent of its students get "half to full tuition" in grants/scholarships, compared to 2.4 percent at GM.

I know, just be happy I'm in. I am, but as Liable has noted, somewhere between deciding to go to law school, studying for the LSAT, applying, getting LSAT results, and getting admitted, the initial euphoric enthusiasm for the whole massive endeavor almost inevitably morphs into the realization that, well, going to law school is difficult. And it may be that part of its appeal is in its difficulty, in the sheer insanity of taking on so much debt (not to mention the psycho-emotional trauma of making it through the first year of classes). Are all lawyers masochists?

Posted 01:36 PM | Comments (2) | law school

February 03, 2003


Contained within a fat white envelope in today's mail was the following letter:

On behalf of the Admissions Committee, I am delighted to inform you of your acceptance to August 2003 entering class at Boston College Law School. You should be proud of this accomplishment; we expect to receive over 8,000 applications this year for an entering class of 260.

I'm glad I should be proud, because I am, but probably more than anything else I feel relieved. After being deferred at GULC, my confidence was a bit shaken and I was beginning to worry about getting in anywhere. Of course, I hope I'll be getting at least a couple more letters like this from other schools in the coming weeks, but at least I now know that I can get into law school.

Now the question is: How will I pay for it? The good news is that BC does have what appears to be a fairly good LRAP, which is reassuring. The hard part is getting to graduation and a job so that the LRAP can start doing its good work. Looks like it's time to get serious about all those financial aid details.

I know finances are considered taboo and personal in U.S. culture, but I do wonder: Why don't bloggers currently in law school talk more about the financial side of things? Now that I must seriously contemplate taking on something like $40k or more per year in debt for the next three years, my first instinct is to panic and become seriously dismayed. My second instinct is to ask: How the hell do you do that?

Posted 10:26 PM | Comments (8) | law school

Pinstripes and Pearls

A new book about life in the 60s for women at Harvard Law: Pinstripes and Pearls by Judith Richards Hope and Justice Stephen Breyer. They didn't even have women's restrooms at Harvard in the 1960s!?! [link via NPR's All Things Considered]

Has anyone read this?

Posted 06:57 PM | law school

February 02, 2003

Making Nonviolence Work

If we're going to value life, we have to find ways to solve problems without killing people, which means, usually, without violence. According to People Power: Applying Nonviolence Theory by David H. Albert, Gandhi relied on a list of eight things that make nonviolent conflict resolution possible:
  1. Refraining from violence or hostility.
  2. Making real attempts to gain the opponent's trust.
  3. Refraining from humiliating the opponent, rather relying on the power of the truth which you hold.
  4. Making visible sacrifices for one's cause—you may be asking your opponent to sacrifice what s/he sees as her/his own self-interest or self-esteem; to convince them, you should be prepared to do the same.
  5. Carrying on constructive work—positive activity reduces the negative image that a society may have of those who noncooperate.
  6. Maintaining personal contact with the opponent—insures maximum possible mutual understanding.
  7. Demonstrating trust of the opponent—when you have high expectations of an opponent, these expectations may encourage her/him to live up to them.
  8. Developing empathy, good will, and patience toward the opponent—why address yourself to an opponent at all unless you assume s/he can change? If you deeply understand the motives, expectations, attitudes and perceived interests of opponents as people, your actions are likely to become more powerful.
If we compare these strategies to the current U.S. efforts to reduce "terror" and bring peace to the world, it's not hard to see why we'll never "win" the "war on terror" or eliminate the possibility that small nations like North Korea will threaten world peace with nuclear (or other) arsenals. If Ghandi was right, then everything we've been doing only makes more people mad and escalates levels of violence, rather than reducing them. So, in light of Ghandi's advice, what kinds of things could the U.S. do to be a more effective peacemaker in the world?

Posted 04:22 PM | general politics


I like how Dave Winer of Scripting News is handling the disintegration of Space Shuttle Columbia yesterday. He begins this DaveNet with, "Here are some points of view you won't get from TV coverage of the Columbia disaster." He goes on to repeat a few of the things I've been thinking since about noon yesterday when it was clear that just about every U.S. media outlet had shifted into "shuttle porn" mode. Winer doesn't make light of the Columbia crash, and I don't want to either. But his concluding point about the seven people killed is what I think we should remember as we move on:

Yes it's sad they died. Yes. But it's great that they lived.

And jumping off from that celebration of life, perhaps as we mourn the loss of the Columbia crew, U.S. citizens (and especially U.S. political leaders) should question more seriously than ever the value of dropping bombs on Iraq or anywhere else. Perhaps we should consider the contradictions between non-stop media coverage that makes it appear that the world is ending when the U.S. loses *seven* astronauts, even as the U.S. moves almost full steam ahead toward a war that will kill thousands. If the lives of those seven astronauts were worth so much (and they were), then are the lives of Iraqis or the American soldiers who will die in a war against Iraq worth any less?

Posted 04:17 PM | life generally

Law School Motives

Liable points to a great little piece at about why people go to law school. Does it seem a bit odd the way the people in the article seem to see the study of law as something that will give their lives definition and structure? It's almost as if these people are hoping law school will save them from something. Law school as salvation? What do we need to be saved from? Ourselves? Why would law appear to be salvation? Do other professions attract people for reasons like this? Hello Freud, am I just projecting here?

What's awful about a couple of these people is their cynicism; they haven't even started law school and they've already convinced themselves that whatever horrible shit they have to do (i.e., defend lead paint companies or tobacco companies or corporate polluters or whatever) won't matter, either to them or to the world. The opening sentence sums it up brilliantly:

For all the bites I have taken at the law, I always maintained the belief that most of that tar-mountain called What's Wrong goes back to the attitude some people take when first entering law school, attitudes whose implicit cynicism will shape the next three years instead of the growth-oriented converse.

Now doesn't that just make law school sound like fun? Yikes.

I guess I'm most like "Charles" who explains his decision to go to law school this way:

"The point of a J.D. is the sudden power it brings you. I have to work from the inside. … It doesn't matter whether I'll feel satisfaction or believe in what I'm doing. Don't you see? It's war. War. This hell has succumbed to the blasé; people will dismiss this article like any another hollow statistic. Well not me. I didn't dismiss a thing. Feeling bad accomplishes as much as feeling nothing. I'm not even going to waste my energy hoping someone reads my words and gets inspired. Everyone knows what I know, knows it goes on around the world, everyday, right ... now. I knew it, too. But I saw it, and that made all the difference."

Read that again: "Feeling bad accomplishes as much as feeling nothing." And yes, the point for me is the "sudden power" that comes with the J.D. When I look at the world and how power moves through it, it seems to me that, in my current position, my ability to act is fairly limited. However, as a lawyer, many new avenues should open. So instead of just feeling bad (or angry) about how screwed up the world is, I hope I'll be in a better position to do something about it. But right now I think I need to quick jump down off my high horse before I fall off and break something. Part of me is that crusader, but another part is the one looking for structure and salvation. And even as I admit that I know the joke's on me if I'm looking for the law to save me. Sheesh, you'd think I would have learned the foolishness of that lesson when I got my first speeding ticket at age 16!

Maybe that will be my new mantra: Feeling bad accomplishes as much as feeling nothing. Feeling bad accomplishes as much as feeling nothing. Feeling bad accomplishes…

Posted 09:38 AM | Comments (5) | law school

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