ambivalent imbroglio home

« March 2003 | Main | May 2003 »

April 29, 2003

Ditzy Genius Really Is

Tip: If you're not getting the daily lowdown from Ditzy Genius, you're missing out. DG often uses an innovative posting structure I haven't seen anywhere else, beginning with a Quote of the Day (usually humorous), followed by an Article of the Day (also often humorous, but always interesting) w/pithy comment, followed by DG's thoughts of the day on a wide range of topics, from law school to work to entertainment to shopping. Some posts also feature punchy lists like "5 Comments About Stuff in the News" that allow DG to cover a lot of ground in a short space. DG's posts are always funny, always provocative, and I never finish a post feeling like I've wasted my time reading it. If I thought I could pull it off, I'd copy DG's format, but I just don't think I've got what it takes. Check it out—you won't be sorry you did (And this despite the fact that DG is not only a Windoze-user, but a MS-defender, as well. ;-) )

Two recent examples of DG goodness: Last Friday DG pointed to the BBC Chief's criticism of U.S. media. (Think about this the next time you think about a "free press." I guess thought police work better when they're in our heads (and on our televisions) instead of on the street wearing uniforms.) And yesterday DG offered up a link to Ted Rall's scathing little ditty, "Bush Comes Clean: It was about oil." Finally, don't forget today's lesson about the Stereotypical Ghetto Princess.

See what I mean? Varied, provocative, funny, and always interesting. Get your dose of Ditzy Genius today!

(Disclaimer: No animals were harmed during the writing of this post, nor have I received cash or any other form of material compensation from DG or any of its affiliates or subsidiaries. Void where prohibited and among people who wish the whole U.S. would just go "red" in 2004. And in my best legalese: YMMV.)

Posted 06:45 PM | Comments (2) | meta-blogging

Completely Random

Heard this on NPR's "All Things Considered" tonight: A family-owned grocery store in Roundup, Montana closed down in the 1950s. Since then, no one has even gone in the building. Now, the items that have sat in this large tomb for 50 years are being auctioned off in Billings. You can bid by phone, and I know you want some Shinola.

Reason I care: My parents lived in Roundup for a few years. I'm not kidding. It was actually not a bad town.

Posted 06:34 PM | life generally

Building Karma Telepathically

Dear <i>ai</i> readers: If you happen upon this before 1 p.m., Eastern, please stop at that time, take a moment and send positive thoughts toward D.C. A special someone has a job interview today, and in this economy, we can all use any help we can get.

Posted 09:17 AM | life generally

April 28, 2003


Fans of David Foster Wallace should not miss his interview with Paul Brownfield for the LA Times. Wallace is the author of Inifinite Jest, which Brownfield fairly accurately (if reductively) summarizes as:

a 1,079-page, obsessively footnoted, high-comic novel -- that made Wallace a literary cause celebre. The book is set in a near future in which years are not numbered but corporate-sponsored ("Year of the Trial-Sized Dove Bar," etc.), and within its world are a junior tennis academy, a band of Quebecois separatists and addicts of various stripes and substances.

Wallace is something of a recluse so this interview is a rather rare look into his life at the moment. The interview touches on his new life in CA (he's the "Roy Edward Disney Professor of Creative Writing" at Pomona College), and on the whole Franzen/Oprah fiasco, about which this quintessentially DFW excursion:

[Wallace] expressed "admiration mixed with a mild contempt for the increasingly savvy way" Franzen handled the controversy that ensued when he spurned Winfrey's selection of "The Corrections" for her book club. He said the Franzen incident illustrates the trouble with whirlwind book tours, wherein the author moves in a state of surreal fatigue from airport to hotel room.

"There's something very uncomfortable about the whole thing, and yet on the other hand, what kind of prima donna says, 'Thank you, major corporation, for your advance, but now you're not allowed to use your marketing tools to try to recoup your investment'? You know, the head just goes around and around and around."


"There's a weird illogic about it, because the less important literary fiction gets to the culture, the harder those corporations who for whatever reason keep wanting to publish it, have to market it. So in order to keep it alive, you have to murder it to save it."

"Shall I say something so obvious that you just won't even put it in the article?" Wallace said. "A book is also a product. At least the books that we're talking about.... Even a book that's about living in a culture that relentlessly turns everything into a product is a product. There are not very complicated ironies built into that situation. But you know that happens maybe four or five times a year. There are these legions of very smart, nice, usually Seven Sisters-educated young publicists for all the different publishing houses whose entire job is networking and lunching and hanging out with the book reviewers and opinion makers again and again ... hoping the cultural and marketing motor will catch, which one out of 200 times it does.

"At a certain point," Wallace said finally, "I just stopped thinking about it."

If you didn't find that both fascinating and funny, don't read Wallace.

Posted 08:11 PM | ai books


Thanks to jd2b for the mention w/regard to the comments on this post (the link was posted on April 23). Note to the folks at jd2b if you happen to read this: Can you add permalinks, please? And comments? Your readers will thank you!

Posted 08:37 AM | Comments (1) | law school

April 27, 2003


As some of you know, I've spent a good deal of time over the past couple of months working on my house to get it ready to sell. The generous and talented parentals also came and did a huge amount of excellent work— the bulk of it, really. My mom's an expert painter, so she transformed the kitchen from a dark and dingy pit to a bright and beautiful place that now looks like this:

Meanwhile, my dad has mad construction skilz of all kinds so he framed up the opening from the ceiling to the roof so the light from my skylight could finally come into the house instead of just illuminating the attic. (We installed the skylight 3 years ago when we put on the new roof, but I never really got around to finishing the job. This is why I should not own a house.) Dad's work transformed the living room into the bright, roomy, comfy place I always knew it could be:

Now it looks like all that work may pay off. I listed the house for sale at about 3 p.m. Weds. Someone came to see it at 5:30 Weds. By about noon Thursday, I had an offer, just a little below the asking price (which I'd thought was too high to be reasonable). I thought about the offer for a few hours, then, on the advice of my realtor, I counter-offered to meet the buyer halfway between his offer and my asking price. Twenty minutes later, the deal was done. Almost exactly 27 hours from the time I listed the house, it sold at a good price. Needless to say, if this deal goes through it will make everything about the coming months infinitely easier. I'll actually be able to rent a moving truck, afford that first month's rent in MD, pay the rest of GW's initial payment ($600, I think?), and best of all, I should be able to afford a cable modem w/wireless network in the new apt.!

(If you have any suggestions for a good cable/dsl internet provider in the DC/MD area, please share.)

Posted 02:10 PM | Comments (3) | life generally

Daily Outrage

I know I should stop this. Really, I do. By "this" I mean the regular posts about the newest outrage from Yubbledew, Inc. I mean, what's the point? The conservative, imperialist offensive is so outrageous there's no way to keep up. (And besides, it just invites me to use high-flown rhetoric that makes me sound like a raving partisan. Oh wait, perhaps I am a raving partisan.) In the past week we get this from Republican Senator Rick Santorum:

Santorum compared homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery. He also said the right to privacy does not exist in the Constitution. *

And, of course, Yubbldew, Inc. (figureheaded by "the most dangerous president ever") backs Santorum all the way. Wonderful. (See also the full transcript of Santorum's comments and Greg Goelzhauser's links to blawg comments on this issue.)

Meanwhile, Dumsfeld (Mr. Untidy)also continues to spew his own special style of imperialist hubris as he dictates exactly what the future will not hold for Iraq:

"A vocal minority clamoring to transform Iraq in Iran's image will not be permitted to do so," he said. "We will not allow the Iraqi people's democratic transition to be hijacked by those who might wish to install another form of dictatorship."

Where do you even start with that? If it's "the Iraqi people's" future we're talking about, then if they decide to follow their religious leaders instead of the leaders the U.S. picks for them to follow, what grounds does the U.S. have to stop them? And, if it's "the Iraqi people's" future, then won't it only be a "democratic transition" if the Iraqi people want it to be? Enter Rumsfeld, blowing the whole little lie wide open. The future of the Iraqi people depends little on their desires; instead, it's going to be dictated by the U.S., or more precisely, U.S. interests:

Like one of the 19th-century European colonial empires, the Bush government is calling on Bechtel, Halliburton, and other major corporations to take over the job of running the Iraqi colony. These companies are to act in the name of the government. They are to be paid out of our taxes. It might just as well be the British East India company. The colonial corporations become the instrument of the nation-state, in this case to undertake the reconstruction of Iraq. They, not the government, are the purveyors of laws and customs and democratic ideals.

And even as I wonder how those who supported this war can see a difference between American imperialism today and British imperialism 150 years ago, I have to remind myself that such distinctions don't matter to neoliberals and neoconservatives because everyone else on the planet is, by definition, just plain wrong. These distinctions also don't matter because everything comes down to markets and money, which is why the empire being protected and developed in Iraq is not a United States Empire, but the Empire of Western Corporate Interests. The U.S. gov't. and military are the instruments we see at work, but they are not working for their own benefits, they are working for the corporations that will profit from those markets.

What's more, this imperialism is happening here at home. The Yubbledew, Inc. agenda is clearly calculated to bankrupt the public sector (via tax cuts and military spending) in order to make the world in its privatized, corporate-controlled, someone's-going-to-earn-a-profit-from-every-breath-you-take worldview. (As Eric Alterman notes, Yubbledew, Inc's actions certainly aren't calculated to increase security within the U.S. Oh, and in this world you can't be gay, ok?) It's much like Morpheus' explanation of "The Matrix":

Do you want to know what it is? The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind.... Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

Which brings me back to where I started: What's the point of these political rants? If you have to see the Corporate Empire for yourself, my thoughts on these matters aren't going to do any good. I don't have any red pills, and I am not "The One" ("yeah, the Oracle hit me with that, too"). I realize that. Yet, you still find these rants at ai because they are a growing record—for me, mostly—of where we are, where we're going, and how we're getting there. I compose these posts because they cover things I don't want to forget and because tomorrow I want to be able to easily find the articles and quotations published today. It's ok if you don't read them. I understand.

* I don't know what to say about Santorum's claim that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the right to privacy—I'll save that for after I've taken Con Law, maybe. (Anyone care to explain?) But on the subject of, um, "creative" readings of the Constitution it's worth noting that Molly Ivins' latest column in The Progressive quotes Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia saying the government has great power to ignore civil rights during war time. (Unfortunately the column doesn't seem to be online.) Scalia said:

The Constitution just sets minimums. Most of the rights that you enjoy go way beyond what the Constitution requires.

Ivins replies:

He is dead wrong. The only right affected by war is the Third Amendment: "No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house, without he consent of the owner, nor in tie of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law." The Ninth Amendment specifically says: "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

So what's story here? Ivins is no lawyer (I don't think), but is Scalia "dead wrong"?

Posted 01:47 PM | general politics

Safari Beta 2

From about 199-2000 or 2001, web browsing on a Mac meant you had one choice: Internet Explorer. IE worked fine, but it was MS, and since it was the only real player in the browser market, you just had to accept whatever MS gave you, which wasn't much. Opera and iCab tried to add some new features to the browsing experience, but since they were buggy and didn't have all the basic features IE offered, they never gained much ground. When OS X came out, the default browser was still IE, but the Omni Group came on strong with OmniWeb, which showed a lot of promise. Of course, then came Mozilla, then Chimera (now Camino) and the mac browsing market was blown wide open. Enter Apple with Safari, now in its second "public beta." It's fast, it works on almost everything, it's not MS, and it adds some neat features. Here's a tip from Small Dog Electronics' weekly email newsletter, Kibbles and Bytes #312:

Here's a handy tip if you frequently use a particular set of sites and want to open them all in tabs. We use quite a few Web-based applications here at Small Dog, and I use this trick to open a window in Safari with each of these URLs open and then minimize it to have it in my dock for quick access. If you take a group of bookmarks and put them in a folder and then put that folder into the "bookmarks bar," you can select "Open in Tabs" and all the URLs will load in their separate tabs. Even faster, you can simply "command-click" on the folder and it will open all the enclosed links in tabs. If you have a bunch of tabs open and want to close all but one, you can option-click on one of the "close" buttons on a tab and all but one will close. A very handy little undocumented feature.

Also in the Mac world, Apple's scheduled a "media event" for tomorrow and it's calling it "Music to Your Ears." Will it announce a new online music distribution service? We'll see. For those of you who prefer Windoze or who have wondered what might be appealing about the Mac OS, check out "A Windows user spends a week with a Mac" for a mostly fair "hands-on" comparison of the two OSs.

Posted 12:00 PM | mac geek

Master Satirist?

Reading Philip Greenspun's blog is like reading "Alice In Wonderland" —you never know what's real and what isn't. I mentioned Greenspun a while back when he made the claim that public schools should not teach critical thinking. Of course, if you check out his biography, it becomes pretty clear that he was being facetious; he just does it so well that you constantly have to ask yourself, "Is he kidding?"

Greenspun followed that little piece a few days later with this polemic which argues that schools should be in session for 50 weeks each year, 12 hours each day, to allow students to get a B.A. in 2 or 2.5 years so they can get out into the working world. Hmm... The comments on this post are all over the place, but I think this one nailed Greenspun's intent:

What I think you're obliquely poking at with your mention of cubicle farms is that higher education (indeed, all of what passes for "education" in this country) is nothing more than boot camp for drones in the ranks of corporate feudalism. The mesne lords insist on that funny piece of pseudo-parchment not because of what a potential drone has learned during his or her sentence at the university, but because it's proof of qualification. What the paper means-- especially when combined with excellent grades-- is that the graduate has a proven ability to devote the requisite hours to grinding out arbitrary and capricious assignments of often dubious relevance as ordered by Authority Figures. That's exactly what's expected of corporate drones. So putting drones-in-training in cubicles for 12 hours a day, interrupted only by class meetings, is the ideal training for the drone-hood to which all students aspire.

Does this describe your experience with formal education? This attitude—that education must lead to drone-hood—has been the bane of my educational life as long as I can remember. Now I'm going to law school, which may take the exercise of "grinding out arbitrary and capricious assignments of often dubious relevance as orderd by Authority Figrues" to all new extremes. Again I wonder: Am I insane?

p.s.: Greenspun has since posted "Teaching them to become lawyers," which paints a far different picture of lawyers than I've been getting from lawyers themselves. In a story about the history of broadcast radio, Greenspun says:

The only people in the drama who made millions without taking tremendous risks, working very hard, and occasionally going bankrupt, were ... the lawyers in the patent and regulatory disputes.

I wonder if the lawyers involved would tell a different story.

Posted 11:54 AM | general politics

April 25, 2003

Watch the Spin

Following up on yesterday's Words of Mass Deception, today NPR (and an anonymous commenter) is telling us that, despite Ari's confident statements to the contrary, Yubbledew now says that the U.S. might not find WMDs in Iraq:

``He tried to fool the United Nations and did for 12 years by hiding these weapons. And so it's going to take time to find them,'' the president said at the Lima Army Tank Plant. ``But we know he had them. And whether he destroyed them, moved them or hid them, we're going to find out the truth.''

In the communications and PR world, I assume this is called "managing expectations."

Perhaps as an indicator of how the Yubbledew spin is working, the Hindustan Times is covering the "where's the WMDs?" story under the catchy headline: "Look, the WMD trick!" What's worth noting is that Yubbledew, Inc. isn't even really being tricky on this. It changes its story to fit the moment, just as it did in the buildup to the war. For months I've been trying to decide if this is a good thing. Are we better off when our government doesn't even attempt to decorate its lies with plausible trappings, or is this the most dangerous development in current American (and British) politics? Or perhaps there's nothing new happening at all. For example, the bait-and-switch has been a reliable technique for mass deception for ages. The latest iteration is working like this:

Bait (skeletal summary of Yubbldew, Inc.'s arguments for past year): "We can't seem to convince anyone that Saddam actually threatens the U.S. because his military capability has been decimated by inspections and sanctions for the last 12 years. Hey, let's tell them it's all about Saddam's WMDs falling into the hands of terrorists or rogue nations so we can go to war!"

Switch (Yubbldew's statement yesterday): "'One thing's for certain, Saddam Hussein no longer threatens America with weapons of mass destruction,' Bush said."

It might be enough to make us dizzy, if we weren't already to jaded and cynical to expect better from politicians.

Posted 01:21 PM | general politics

April 24, 2003

WMD: Words of Mass Deception

It seems that everywhere people are asking questions about weapons of mass destruction, the most obvious being: Where are the WMDs? Left Coast Expat wondered about this the other day, and David Corn changes the question a bit to ask "Where are the WMD Hunters?" To paraphrase Corn's excellent points: If we were so worried that Iraq's "WMD" would fall into the hands of terrorists or "rogue" nations, shouldn't we have made finding and securing those WMDs priority number one both during and after the so-called "war"? Why is the U.S. suddenly so complacent about this? (Why is Dumsfeld allowed to speak in public ever?) As the Washington Post kindly reminds us:

The existence of weapons of mass destruction - and goal of disarming Iraq - were the mains [sic] reasons given by the administration for the war, which did not get U.N. approval.

That means Yubbledew, Inc. absolutely must find some WMD in Iraq, and that means it has incredible incentive to lie, or continue lying. As Head Spinner Ari Fliescher* says:

"There are no changes in the American position. We have high confidence that Iraq did indeed have weapons of mass destruction ... that indeed will be found in whatever form it is."

Got that? "In whatever form it is." So, um, Ari, does that include the stuff you're going to plant?

Meanwhile, Arianna Huffington summarizes a few of the facts that show that those who opposed the war in Iraq were right all along, the negative of which is: Yubbledew, Inc. was wrong. It lied. Is the world a better place for the fact that the U.S. has overthrown Saddam Hussein? Does the end justify the means? Only time will tell. The lack of any WMD might suggest the world became less safe—if Iraq had those weapons, and we can't find them, perhaps they're making their way to the U.S. right now in suitcases or something. But in a bigger sense, what many fear is that each "little" and "easy" war (Afghanistan, Iraq) makes the next war seem that much smaller and easier. You know, perpetual war for perpetual peace and all that.

Those "little" wars will only get easier to conduct so long as Americans remain uncritical consumers of domestic media accounts of international affairs. As Christopher Lydon argues, unless we're careful, "we all become Serbs in wartime, and most especially the media," meaning we almost can't help but view the war through the severely skewed lens of our own culture. But how did the war look to, oh, I don't know, the Swiss? The question might put some flag-waving into perspective.

Finally, in an update to the "Saddam Conspiracy" thread I've been following a bit, Salon asks, What happened to Iraq's army?:

The whole issue of Iraqi soldiers -- how many died or were wounded, how many deserted or fought to the end, where they are now -- is surrounded by a veil of secrecy. Neither the U.S. forces in Iraq nor the Iraqis themselves seem to be willing to delve into it too deep. As a result, conspiracy theories about Iraq's defeat, involving either treason or the U.S. use of "low-level nuclear devices," abound. Paranoia rules; even ordinary or wounded Iraqi soldiers, fearing that U.S. troops will arrest them, refuse to identify themselves. Members of the elite units have a better-founded fear of becoming the target of popular revenge, even for individual misdeeds. Says one former Republican Guard conscript: "Even today, after two years, if I find my officer in the street I'll beat him to a pulp."


* Horror of horrors, Ari Fliescher has fans with a fanclub? And another? So says Scott at Law, LIfe, Libido. Just when I thought the world could not become a scarier place, I find Ari-lovers who live at the virtual address of "" The end of civilization is nigh.

Posted 11:30 AM | Comments (4) | general politics

April 23, 2003

Better Idea Good

What are the advantages and disadvantages of inherited wealth? Check out gtexts for a great discussion of that question. [Link via sua sponte.]

Imagine a world where you don't inherit anything because all property of the dead escheats to the state, but the money is used to radically reduce or eliminate the income tax.

Public policy questions like this are what will make law school fun.

Posted 10:14 PM | Comments (2) | law school


I meant to post this days ago, but better late than never: Greg Goelzhauser's analysis of the latest law school rankings offers another perspective on the tragedy of the rankings. Interesting explanation of how Mason is gaming the system. [Link via jd2b, I think.]

This rankings situation—in which the vast majority of law school deans say the rankings are meaningless, while employers often value little else—is clearly a farce. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the contradictions and frustrations of the law school/the legal profession.

Ok. I'll go be bitter and cynical somewhere else now.

Posted 07:32 AM | Comments (1) | law school

April 19, 2003

Best Laid Plans

jd2b links to "some uncharacteristically serious thoughts about pro-bono work" from the dubiously named Mr. Poon.* Mr. Poon is a 2L, looking forward to working with a firm in NYC this summer, and possibly again after he completes his J.D. Yet, he hopes he continue to do the kind of rewarding pro bono work he's doing now as a student. I asked how he plans to avoid becoming the kind of "a-hole" he's been doing battle with recently, and his response is worth a look. Basically he says that, as a lawyer, you've got to try your best to convince your clients to do the right thing, but if they insist on doing the wrong thing, you still have to do your best to represent them. I'm guessing this will be one of the harder things for me to learn or accept as a lawyer. My idea is that, by working in public interest law, I'll be able to avoid working for clients who would ask me to be an a-hole, but as this exchange between st and myself suggests, it's likely things won't be quite that simple. st writes:

I do know one thing, though - the market for full-time public interest legal positions at ANY level of salary and benefits is more cutthroat and competitive than the market for work in the private sector. I suppose the only good advice I can give is the most obvious - do really, really, really well in law school, and many of these issues will become, ahem, academic.

Yet another thing I so don't want to believe, but I'm sure st is correct. I suppose this is why I chose GW; if the public interest market is so competitive, I'll need every advantage I can get. GW's no trinity school, but, well, I'll take what I can get.

Meanwhile, now that the big "where do I go to school?" decision it's over, the anxiety topic du jour is: How much preparation do I need to do before school starts? So Sue Me and her commenters have some thoughts on the matter. Me, I'm still trying to get the house painted and electrified (do not, under any circumstances, ever attempt to rewire your house—trust me). I'll stress over how much I don't know about law school a little later, I'm sure.

UPDATE: Life, Law, Libido also has some good thoughts on the subject of paying for law school w/out working for firms. [Link via Left Coast Expat.]

I'm guessing from the Chevy Chase photo on Mr. Poon's main page that "Mr. Poon" is a movie reference? My cultural ignorance is very deep, w/regard to Chevy Chase; I admit he's one of those funny people I just don' "get." Not to say I never will. Much humor is an acquired taste. I seek enlightenment in all things.

Posted 11:40 AM | Comments (2) | law school


The loss and destruction of the artifacts that were in Iraq's museums is being lamented worldwide as a loss for humanity. Scott Rosenberg has one version of the many comparisons being made between the U.S.'s inability to protect these cultural treasures, even as it seemed perfectly capable of protecting Iraq's oil. As I noted briefly in the comments below, the fact that the U.S. did nothing to stop the destruction of Iraq's cultural history only proves that its real interests in the country and region are economic. This "war" was about freedom, all right, the freedom of western capital to open new markets and make more money. Where's the $ to be made in museums and historical artifacts? Perhaps on the black market, so the looting was really a good thing—it opened a whole new market to trade and commerce as the looters begin to sell what they stole. Not that that was anyone's plan, necessarily, but what's certain is that the U.S. planned deliberately to protect the oil and the oil ministry (which it did), and it also planned deliberately to do nothing to protect Iraq museums, which were consequently destroyed. Now it's easy for Dumbsfeld and Yubbledew to claim they didn't "allow" the looting to happen, but then, lying has always come easily to this administration. Current priority: Let's get those damned sanctions lifted so we can start making some money from our new colony. Bechtel has millions to make, thanks to its, um "connections." Who's next?

Posted 09:25 AM | general politics

April 17, 2003

Who's Starting What?

These people say they want to take away Michael Moore's Oscar for "Best Documentary" because his film is "fictional," meaning it does not contain just the facts, ma'am. Sure, Moore is an infamous truth-stretcher, but lots of stories stretch the truth to make a point. But if we want to talk about truth-stretchers, what about the people behind this "revoke the oscar" business? They only care because they disagree w/Moore. All are "true patriots" and defenders of "freedom," I'm sure. A couple of clicks from the revoke the oscar site gets you to this site that implores you to "never forget who started it." Funny how they don't tell us who "who" is or what they mean by "it." Those details probably don't matter, though—just never forget, ok? Of course, one look at this site and we'll never forget who's selling it.

If you enjoy the complete lack of concern good "patriots" show about sticking to the "facts," pick up the most recent edition of Harper's and read this transcript of a Feb 4th interview between Jeremy Glick and Bill O'Reilly on FOX News' "The O'Reilly Factor." Glick's father was a Port Authority worker who died in the 9-11-01 destruction of the World Trade Center; yet, despite that, Glick is outspoken in his condemnation of the 2001 U.S. attack on Afghanistan, as well as the recent occupation of Iraq. This makes O'Reilly apoplectic; he comes apart like a robot on bad code: "That does not compute. Error. Error. That does not compute!" For superfun, check out this mp3 version of the interview. Obviously, the last thing O'Reilly wants is to remember—or even talk about—who started "it."

Posted 08:50 AM | Comments (4) | general politics

Just Ask

If you're the poor soul who came here looking for "a person who knows everything," you've come to the right place. Ask away.


Posted 07:54 AM | meta-blogging

Decision's Day After

Browsing the discussion board for students admitted to GW I find this (which you probably can't access, but I wanted to save the link):

I talked to the dean in charge of Financial Aid during the preview day about the Loan Repayment. He said that currently, it only applies to certain public service jobs. Govt repays something like $8k a year each year you work in a DA’s office or as a public defender. They do not do this for DOJ or other government agencies. Repayment for that depends on the agency in question, most of which dont.

Basically, look to spend a year or two in the private sector to put a dent in the debt.

I so don't want to believe this is true. When I visited, I talked with the Public Interest Liason in the Career Development Office about the LRAP, and he, of course, made it sound a bit better. He estimated that in recent years, only 21-22 graduates each year have participated in the program, which is obviously not many. Perhaps what he didn't tell me (and what I think I failed to ask), is what types of jobs are eligible. Looking again at the program's details, the criteria for eligible jobs seem reasonable and the major limiting factor will probably be the income cap. The "target income" the program tries to give grads is $35k, which isn't much, but it is enough to live on. I hope. I assume the reason so few people use the LRAP is simply that it's not too hard to find a job that pays more than $45k, and since the LRAP will pay a max of $8k/year, you'll come out ahead just skipping the LRAP altogether.

LRAP aside, in the interest of staving off second thoughts—or answering them when they come—I want to note one more rather important argument I considered in the decision about where to go to school. It's a bit abstract, but I get the impression that while American is concerned with helping the people who get screwed by social structures (bad laws or absence of laws, bad social policy or lack of policy, etc.), GW may be a better place to learn how to change those social structures so that fewer people will get screwed in the first place. For example, if you're concerned about domestic violence, it seems you could work on the issue on two levels:

1) You could represent and work with clients who have suffered abuse to help them, one-by-one, get justice and go on to better lives; or,

2) You could head to a larger group like NOW (for example) to try to change—via legislation and test cases in court—the social policies that seem to encourage domestic violence in the first place (e.g., certain aspects of welfare policy, maybe).

If you choose option 1, you're working "in the trenches," which is incredibly noble, absolutely necessary, and completely worth doing, but progress is slow, case-by-case, and the cases will probably just keep coming. If you choose option 2, you're working on the structure in the hope that your work will have wider, and perhaps more lasting effects. So the idea is to work on option 2 in order to obviate the need for option 1. (It's not that simple, I know, but I'm just trying to make the point.) Of course, you can always do both kinds of work, and I'm sure both American and GW will prepare you to do either or both. However, it also seems that going to a "better" (meaning higher ranked) school will put me in a better position to work on those larger, structural issues. It may be as simple as the connections the different schools help students make. American seems to promise lots of connections to grassroots, legal aid type public interest work; while GW might promise more connections to things like think tanks, national lobbying groups, government offices, etc. Of course, I could be wrong.

Anyway, it's time to think about other things. Decision made, time to get behind it. For those of you who haven't yet enjoyed a visit to GW, the newly-christened Left Coast Expat recently posted some nice pics of the Law School buildings and "courtyard." It's urban, with personality and a certain charm. Downtown D.C., very easy to get to, close to all that D.C. is famous for. It's all good.

Posted 07:53 AM | Comments (8) | law school

April 16, 2003

It's Done

Have you seen that commercial for the Volkswagen Passat? A guy gets a call from someone claiming to be his Future Self. The Future Self gives the guy advice: don't take job X and stay away from woman Y. Oh, and buy the Passat. "Trust me, it's the one decision you'll always be happy you made," Future Self says. Recently I've wished for just such a call from my Future Self. I've wished I would call myself from 3-5 years in the future and tell myself which law school I should attend. But after waiting to nearly the last minute for such supernatural serendipity (this blog isn't called ambivalent imbroglio for nothing), I finally made the choice.

For the last couple of weeks I've been mentally preparing myself to go to GW. At least that's what I told everyone I know. But as decision-time neared, I was increasingly nagged by a little voice saying, "but, but, American is such a cool place!" That voice reminded me that I've never cared about rankings before, that the class I attended at American was so much better than the classes I sat through at the other schools, that American's facilities and clinical programs are superb, and that the public interest orientation I sensed at American was exactly what I've been looking for in a law school. "You'll be so much more comfortable there," the nagging voice said. Plus, I still hadn't heard about financial aid from American; I hoped that would make the decision for me.

It didn't. American basically matched the financial deal GW offered, which didn't really help. By all accounts, GW is a much stronger school than American, so it seemed I'd need a much better financial deal from American to make it more attractive. Still, I couldn't decide. So I started comparing stats:

  • How long would it take to get from our apt. in Silver Spring to school? Time on train to Farragut North metro station is 25 minutes, plus a 5-10 min. walk to GW. Time on train to Tenleytown-AU metro station is 30 minutes, plus 5-10 shuttle ride to WCL (plus possible wait time for shuttle, which supposedly runs every 30 minutes). Advantage: GW.

  • Student/Faculty ratio: GW = 17.9; AU = 16.7 Advantage: AU.

  • Employment at graduation/after 9 mos.: GW = 96.3/98.6; AU = 82.0/94.6. Advantage GW.

  • Bar Passage rate: GW = 89.9 NY; AU = 69.6 MD. Advantage: GW.

  • USNWR Specialty ranks: GW = #9 Environmental, #2 IP, #6 International; AU = #3 Clinical, #7 International. Advantage: Depends. I'm more interested in clinical-related things than IP or International (I think).

  • Lietner Specialty rankings: GW = 15th in Administrative and Environmental, 17th in Constitutional, 10th in International and Comparative, ; AU = 15th in Critical Theories, 14th in International and Comparative. Advantage: GW, but barely.

  • Especially appealing extras: GW = Legal Activism class; AU = Marshall Brennan Fellowship program. Advantage Even.

  • Employment in Govt/PI/Clerks/Academia: GW = 9.5/3.9/10.7/0.5; AU = 18.7, 5.1, 9.8, 1.2. Advantage AU.

I compared many more variables, of course, but no matter what, the decision seemed to boil down to this:
A) I could play it safe, following the nearly unanimous advice I've received and read (advice influenced in no small part by rankings, of course), and go to GW; or,
B) I could throw caution to the wind, following my "gut" and the romantic siren song of a school that seems to think like I do, and go to American. I'm definitely a romantic at heart, and I've made many big decisions in life by standing on principal and ideals (e.g., graduate school in English). Sometimes it works, but often I've ended up feeling like I'm just beating my head against a wall as I realize that no matter how much I wish the world were different or how strongly I believe in something, the world won't change just for me, and to a large extent it doesn't give a damn about what I believe (e.g., graduate school in English).

I chose "A." My seat deposit is currently making its way to GW through the U.S. Mail. I hope my Future Self will someday tell me this was the right decision. Meanwhile, if you're going to GW, see you there.

Posted 07:06 AM | Comments (2) | law school

April 14, 2003

Threads of Anxiety

I know I shouldn't, but I keep returning to the Princeton Review Discussion Board to see if I can learn anything that will help me make this final decision about where to go to school. Mixed in with the asinine juvenilia (I'm sorry, am I showing my age), the board offers some interesting bits. For example, from "Why did American fall out of T1?" (which, in the interest of full disclosure I'll admit I started) we get this reasonable answer:

yeah, I heard the drop was due to overenrollment. less expenditure per student, and the student/faculty ratio went up, which I know USNWR considers quite a bit. But I kind of think the ratings are bullshit: I have a hard time believing that Pitt, University of Alabama, Maryland, and others are better schools (Pitt gave me a full ride, american gave me nothing, which makes me think quality of american applicants are higher than Pitt, at least) I'm sure its mostly political, and something like 40% of USnews rankings are based on name recognition, which seems kind of dumb to me. I personally think American sounds better than GW if you want to do Int'l law or Public Interest, but if you want a big firm job maybe GW is better? I don't know that for sure, but that's the impression I've gotten from other people on this board, that GW=big firm (although I've heard that students there aren't as friendly as American) good luck in your decision, I'm sure both schools are great, have their strengths and weaknesses, etc.

And from the same poster (confused4321) we get this in answer to the question of whether AU is a conservative or liberal school:

I haven't visited the school, but I "asked a current student" on the admitted students website that question, and he told me that AU is more liberal than most schools because of the people who go for public interest, and that AU in general is more liberal than most law schools. thats all I know

And finally, from "What do you think of George Washington Law" we get this from a 1L at GW:

I've found it both friendly and fun. My classmates are all friendly and I haven't really experienced the mean competitve spirit that is sometimes associated with GW.

This goes for most law schools, but every Thursday there's a bar review. These are lots of fun and they're usually well attended. We occasionally socialize with our professors- last semester two of our professors who are neighbors invited the section over for a picnic, which was nice.

People are certainly focused on school here, but I think most keep a balanced life.

One thing I must say I don't like about the school is the library. It's too small, the computers suck, and it's not aesthetically appealing. I think they'll remedy this in the coming years, but probably not before I'm gone.

I agree about the library—the weakest part of GW for me, as well. Anyhoo, food for thought as the game enters overtime...

Posted 08:18 PM | Comments (2) | law school

Law Schools Phone Home!

Gee, there's really nothing better than an entire Monday (or at least the second half of it) spent waiting for the mail to come and the phone to ring. My calls to AU and GW yielded zilch. AU says try back in the morning and they'll have some kind of offer. I applied in December, kids; can you hurry the f#&! up? ;-)

Today's real ire is directed squarely at GW's financial aid office, which refused to tell me about my revised aid package (after the "request for reconsideration" I sent them last week) over the phone. I tell the woman my name, rank, and serial number, I wait, she comes back and says, "Your reply was mailed on the 11th. It should be in the mail soon."

Me: Uh, you do know the deposit is due tomorrow, right?

Her: Yes, I know that. You should get something in the mail within a couple of days.

Me: (thinking to myself, 'she's staring at a screen that holds my fate and she's not going to tell me what it says!?') Could you tell me what the letter that is coming in the mail will say?

Her: No, I can't tell you that information over the phone.

Me: (getting snippy) Can you fax it to me?

Her: Hmph. What's your fax number? I don't know if I can get to it. We're very busy. I'll try to do it by the end of the day.

Did she send the fax? No. Does GW seem like a nice place to go to school? No.

Perhaps I'll just ditch the whole law school thing. Who needs all that debt, anyway?

In other great news, check out this poster and welcome to Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. Yay.

Posted 07:41 PM | Comments (1) | law school

April 13, 2003

Do you realize?

Sorry I'm ripping off The Flaming Lips for the title of this post, but did you realize it's almost April 15th? Not only is that tax day, it's also the day that every law school I'm considering wants its deposit. In other words, my little game of indecision (Where should I go to school!?) is almost over. I can't believe the 15th is already nearly here. Where did the time go? Tomorrow I'll make two more hail-Mary calls to GW and American to see if last week's faxes did any good, and then the check will be in the mail. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for lawyers is rising:

The Labor Department says that white-collar unemployment is the highest it's ever been, nearly 9 percent. For lawyers, at 1.2 percent, it's the highest since 1997. While that rate is low in absolute terms (in 2002, 11,000 unemployed out of 940,000), it's up sharply from 0.8 percent in 2001 and 0.6 percent in 1999. In other words, attorney joblessness jumped by half last year and has doubled since the Internet boom's peak.

[Link via Jd2B.] On the positive side, it seems the areas of law suffering the most—tech and other types of corporate law—are areas in which I'm highly unlikely to end up. Besides, this little recession we're in is going to turn around, right? I mean new markets are opening all the time.

Posted 11:30 PM | law school

What's Unreasonable?

If you want to start an interesting discussion, perhaps you should play the devil's advocate. That seems to be what Philip Greenspun is doing when he says public education should not teach "critical thinking" because it's better for the economy to have a nation of mindless drones. [Link via Scripting News.] Judging by the comments, it seems Greenspun's post has become both a test of readers' critical thinking skills, and its own proof that our public schools are failing to provide those skills—many of the commenters seem unaware that Greenspun's post is a parody of the neoliberal view of education. Of course, it's possible that the commenters are merely extending the parody, in which case I'm the one who doesn't "get it." Either way, it's a smart strategy: The argument proves itself. As commenter Mike Owens says, "Johnathan Swift would be so proud."

Another commenter offers this gem from George Bernard Shaw:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

To which I say: Let's all be unreasonable. But wait: Who defines "reason," and what constitutes "progress"? Perhaps what saves us from complete fascist tyranny is that we can never seem to agree on the answers to these fundamental questions.

Posted 10:41 PM | general politics

Making Iraq Safe for Capitalism

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ronald Dumsfeld says Iraqis are now free to do bad things. Lucky for them, they'll also retain their "freedom" to have bad things done to them. Right now, chaos appears to reign in Iraq, but that won't last long for the simple reason that there's a lot of money to be made there. In fact, the amount of money to be made is probably directly proportional to the completeness of Iraq's destruction, because the more the looters steal or destroy, the more "help" the country will need to rebuild. And that "help" will, conveniently, come from U.S. corporations being paid by U.S. tax dollars and Iraqi oil receipts. As Naomi Klein writes:

The process of getting all this infrastructure to work is usually called "reconstruction." But American plans for Iraq's future economy go well beyond that. Rather, the country is being treated as a blank slate on which the most ideological Washington neoliberals can design their dream economy: fully privatized, foreign-owned and open for business.

Some argue that it's too simplistic to say this war is about oil. They're right. It's about oil, water, roads, trains, phones, ports and drugs. And if this process isn't halted, "free Iraq" will be the most sold country on earth.

So what does it mean to say the Iraqis are free? Under Saddam Hussein Iraqis were subject to abuse and exploitation; under a U.S.-installed "democracy" they'll continue to be subject to abuse and exploitation. But while Saddam ruled by physical force, the new regime envisioned by the U.S. will rule Iraq through the same economic and psychological force that controls the Western world. Henceforth, Iraqi citizens will be "free" to drink clean water, eat an adequate diet, get a quality education, and receive adequate health care—as long they can pay Western corporations for these basic human needs. Free markets only give those who own capital the "freedom" to make money. But of course, the looters know this, so they're busy accumulating as much capital as they can before their window of opportunity closes and Western corporations take over—under the complete protection of U.S., er, I mean, "coalition" military forces.

Oh yes, the Iraqis are now "free," but we all know that guns and money will win in the end. If capitalism is such a great system, why does it require such massive military force to succeed? The dream, I suppose, is that eventually the military won't be necessary. Perhaps someday all the world's people will become just like Americans who, as Matt Taibbi explains, are the best subjects in the world:

There’s almost nothing you can’t get away with doing to an American. Take away his health insurance and he’s likely to fall to his knees in gratitude. You can tell him to his face that you’re pulling funding for his kids’ schools in order to bail out some millionaire stockbroker in Connecticut who overbet the peso–and he not only won’t get mad, he’ll swell up with pride and burst out singing the "Star-Spangled Banner." You can even steal his pension and gamble it away in Vegas, and the most he’ll do is sulk a little.

Taibbi paints a cynical picture, but it's no less accurate for its vitriolic condescension. Taibbi's solution is to hit corporate America in the pocketbook with a massive boycott—"a self-defeating gesture, to be sure, but we didn’t get to drink the British tea, either." I wonder what Dumbsfeld would say to that. Oh yeah: "Send in the troops!"

Posted 04:44 PM | Comments (3) | general politics

Fahrenheit 911

FYI: Michael Moore's next movie sounds like it'll be incredible—incredibly good, or incredibly bad; it sounds like his goal is to force an extreme response. According to Frank Rich (as republished on Moore's own site):

His next film, titled "Fahrenheit 911," is scheduled for release in the two months before Election Day. It tells "in part the story of twin errant sons of different oilmen," he says, and will stir together the pre-9/11 intersection of Bush and bin Laden family business interests when both had ties to the Carlyle Group. Such connections "may mean nothing," Mr. Moore concedes. But then he recalls Jane Mayer's article in the November 2001 New Yorker about the private Saudi jet that the Bush administration permitted to fly 24 members of the bin Laden family out of the country after 9/11, before they could be questioned in detail by the F.B.I. "Here's one question I want to pose," he says. "What if on the day after Oklahoma City, Bill Clinton, suddenly worried about the safety of the McVeigh family up in Buffalo, allowed a jet to pick them all up and take them out of the country, not to return?" You can already fantasize how Mr. Moore, once he is turned away from the White House, might travel to Kennebunkport to pursue the first President Bush in retirement much as he did Charlton Heston in "Bowling for Columbine."

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble...

Posted 04:41 PM | ai movies

April 12, 2003

Legal Activism

Painting the house, NPR on in the background, and I hear this Wall Street Week bit about problems in the fast food industry. I've been "teaching" Fast Food Nation this semester, so I turned up the radio to see if the speakers had anything to add. They did—all great stuff about the lawsuits against the fast food industry for failing to warn consumers about the deadly nature of its food. Another tidbit: Those "fresh" salads and sandwiches you're buying at Baja Fresh, Panera, etc, may be even higher in calories and fat than a Big Mac meal from McDonald's. Hold the mayo, no kidding! I know a lot of people think its ludicrous to sue fast food companies because they serve unhealthy food, but it's not as simple as that. These cases have piqued my curiosity because they're at least close to what I'd like to do with a J.D.—use my knowledge of law to improve society. How about some lawsuits against automakers for knowingly building and marketing unsafe SUVs? I know, I know. Your first reaction is, "that's crazy!" But dig a little deeper into our SUV nation and you might change your tune.

Long story short: one of the speakers on Wall Street Week was John F. Banzhaf III, who just happens to teach an infamous class called "Legal Activism" at, yes foks, George Washington University.

Suddenly I really, really want to go to GW. I just hope they come through with some more cash.

Posted 11:51 AM | law school

Saddam Conspiracy

Just for the record: The Tehran Times reports that the U.S. cut a deal with Saddam and Co. to end the "war" quickly. This is certainly one way the dots can be connected; there are obviously others.

UPDATE 4-16-03: Salon's coverage of related issues gives a more complete picture of possible links. I'm not saying I believe it, just tracking the story for the record, so to speak...

Posted 09:49 AM | general politics

Is Apple Hungry?

According to the LA Times, Apple is in talks with Vivendi Universal (a mega-media corporation) to buy Universal Music Group for $5-6 billion. The BBC adds a little to the story, and Scripting News links to Tim Jarret's helpful thoughts. It seems this could be Apple's biggest gamble ever, truly a make or break move.

Apparently Vivendi is in a bit of trouble—who knew? It's been talking with potential buyers for lots of its assets for months. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, Vivendi is not the biggest media player, but it's big. Apple couldn't become a mega-corporation, could it? Perhaps I should start learning Linux....

UPDATE: The NY Post reports that Microsoft is now interested in Universal Music, as well. The NY Times says the Apple deal is unlikely.

Posted 09:43 AM | mac geek

Get Your War On

Cartoonist David Rees has been busy working on his subversive/satirical strip, "Get Your War On," including a tribute to Mister Rogers, some good jabs at the whole "freedom fries" thing, and the news that your tv's endless loop of statues of Saddam Hussein falling is the antidote to 9/11! (What do you think—is it working?) But one of my all-time favorite lines from Rees's strip is still the one from last February about The Son of Patriot Act:

You think once they have Benjamin Franklin's body spinning in his grave fast enough, they'll be able to power an internal combustion engine with it?

Doesn't that just explain everything? That's even better than turning turkey guts into oil. Strategery, I tell ya!

Posted 09:08 AM | general politics

April 11, 2003

Tracking the Chaos

Taking a cue from Ditzy Genius, your humble blogger will today experiment with a new feature:

A Few Comments About Things In The News

  1. JD2B (who doesn't seem to have permalinks, dammit! scroll way down to posts from 4/6) points to a shocking "think-piece" printed in the Wall Street Journal that argues that conservatives are not well-represented among law school professors. Comment: Yay! More seriously, the authors' point is that lots of people are left out of higher education, therefore affirmative action is silly. I wonder if they think conservatives have suffered discrimination and other forms of oppression for hundreds of years in the U.S. Probably, they do. I also wonder if they've stopped to consider what motivates conservatives to go to law school. Do conservative law students aspire to become professors? A few do, perhaps, but I'd guess the majority of conservative students aspire to big jobs in BigLaw where they can maximize discretionary income, which means very few end up in academia.

  2. How the Rich Go to War from James Ridgeway. "A list of military men and women who have so far died in Iraq shows that most are middle or working class." I've been wondering if anyone was tracking this. Apparently so.

  3. Get Ready for Patriot II: How much liberty will you trade for the holy grail of "security"? Isn't our freedom what makes us secure, rather than the other way around?

  4. A Warmonger Explains War to a Peacenik: Brilliant. It's incredible how often the reasons for war changed, and how flimsy and fabricated the majority of the reasons turned out to be. Many will say that none of this matters now—we've been to war, it's virtually over, so how we got here is irrelevant. That's only true if we're eager for history to repeat itself. Perpetual war for perpetual peace? No thanks.

  5. I Should Not Be Allowed to Say the Following Things: Tell that to John Kerry. And for you TMBG fans out there: "I should be allowed to glue my poster, I should be allowed to think!"

  6. This is what war looks like: Army Chaplin offers Baptisms and Baths and soldier who shoots child says "I did what I had to do."

  7. You knew the movie "Top Gun" was all about guys w/hardbodies playing with each other, but did you know it was a cautionary tale against homosexuality? I wish I could rattle off movie review blog posts this smart.

Posted 06:41 AM | Comments (2) | general politics

April 10, 2003

Faxing for Financial Aid

The key phrase for trying to get a law school to give you more money once you have other offers is "letter of reconsideration." That's what you need to send your preferred school to ask them to "reconsider" your financial aid offer to match or exceed an offer you've had from some other school. At least that's what the helpful woman at GW's financial aid office told me. So fax I did, and the final decision about where I will go to school this fall is postponed once again.

[begin navel-gazing:] I also sent a fax to American's financial aid office to apprise them of the aid offers they're competing against because, well, I really liked American. I know rankings are meaningful and everything, but I still can't figure out how much they're going to matter to someone who would rather cut his fingers off one-by-one with a rusty knife than work for some BigLaw firm. (Ok, yes, I'm exaggerating, but I just can't see ever wanting to work at a firm.) I know the non-profits and government agencies I'd prefer to work for probably care about rankings, too, but ... how much? I know there's no good answer to that question, (see the great ongoing discussion about rankings at who stole the tarts and all the other places Alice helpfully links to) so my approach is to follow the money. If American comes through with a sweet package, I'll seriously consider it. Otherwise, I'll go with GW's rank and reputation and that will be just fine, too. [end navel-gazing]

Posted 10:26 PM | Comments (1) | law school

What was ever good about Ashcroft?

Kaplan sends me this periodic "law school edge" email for some reason I cannot identify; however, a recent edition contained the following little bit of info:

George Washington University constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley backed John Ashcroft's nomination as attorney general, convinced the former Missouri senator would enforce certain laws of the land, such as Roe v. Wade, even though he disagreed with them. That was then. Now Turley is leading the outraged charge against the attorney general for trampling the Constitution. In an op-ed piece, Turley wrote that Ashcroft "has moved from merely being a political embarrassment to being a constitutional menace."

I really don't know what to make of that. I mean, I'm glad Turley's seen the light, but the fact that he once supported and trusted Ashcroft—even for a moment—makes me ... shall we say ... less than eager to take classes from him. Of course, it's always good to know and understand the opposition, and perhaps Turley's position is something I will understand better once I know more about constitutional law.

Posted 10:06 PM | general politics law school

April 08, 2003

Negotiation Question

Current law students and lawyers and law professors: Is it possible to play one school off of another to try to get more financial aid? If so, how would I go about doing this? Do I talk to the admissions people? What do I say? "Hi, I've got a better offer at a better school, can you make your school more attractive to me, please?" Feel free to leave anonymous comments if you're worried about saying something that might somehow incriminate you. ;-) Thanks!

Posted 11:45 AM | law school

Advice from the Trenches

Alice offers some good perspective on how to view the recently released 2004 U.S. News rankings . The best idea she has is to visit the schools you're looking for and to talk to as many random students as possible. I did a little of this, but I wish I'd done more—you can get incredibly good insight about the school this way. Alice also links to this huge list of books you might want to read before law school. Summer reading, anyone?

Waddling Thunder adds a bit of a caution against focusing too much on the strength of a particular specialty at the school you may attend. Also something good to consider.

The above link to the rankings comes courtesy of JD2B, which is also tracking many schools' responses to their rise or fall in the numbers this year. Meanwhile, the Leiter Rankings offer still more information for your consideration.

Posted 11:42 AM | law school

Find What You Were Looking For?

A selection of recent searches that brought visitors to ai:

  1. dog is my co pilot
  2. cost of law school
  3. practice lsat
  4. iraq and currency and march 19 2003
  5. definition of false consciousness
  6. see i don't need to explain why i say things
  7. bush speeches god
  8. regime change begins at home
  9. scientia potentia
  10. download safari v62 new
  11. legal job market
  12. life -the misery
  13. blog pre law law school application
  14. the world is ending when
  15. harvard sucks and princeton doesn't matter

My favorites: 12 and 15. What motivates a search like "Life! The Misery!"?

Posted 11:24 AM | Comments (1) | meta-blogging

April 07, 2003

Mail Call

News from the realm of law school applications:

Thank you for your application to the University of Michigan Law School. While you are without question a strong candidate, we are unable to offer you admission at this time. We have instead placed you on our waiting list for further consideration should space become available.

Ding! Ok, 3/4 ding. I got about the same thing from GULC, but GULC made sure to tell me they've got a priority waiting list as well as just a regular waiting list, and I was on the latter. The wouldn't tell me my rank on the list, but I asked how many people were on their priority list and the answer was a curt, "hundreds." So GULC was effectively a ding. (I've got to remember to send them my thanks but no thanks card.)

Michigan's a little different though. I've heard they really use their list, maybe, and they offer the option to start in May, which supposedly increases your chances of moving from wait list to in list. So, even though L. and I are about to sign a lease for a place in Silver Spring, MD, I've decided to stay on Michigan's list to see what happens. If they offer admission sometime in the next few months, we'll see where things are. Meanwhile, I'll assume I'm going to GW and make plans accordingly.

That means I need to send that thanks but no thanks letter to GM, as well, and I guess BC. BC came through over the weekend with a pretty nice aid package, and I also applied for a 2/3 tuition public interest scholarship that I haven't heard a decision on, so I'm reluctant to tell them no thanks already. Still, I just can't see going there, so I probably should tell them that, but....

And you know, I'm fully aware I'm very lucky to have these choices and decisions to make. A year ago, I'd always dismissed thoughts of law school because I honestly assumed I wouldn't be able to get into any school worth attending. (There were other reasons, too, of course.) Who woulda thunk it would turn out like this?

Posted 07:38 AM | law school

Kids These Days II

Last week The Volokh Conspiracy noted that today's students might be more likely to oppose war because they're being taught to avoid violence in general. Unlike my post the other day, this Washington Post story argues that a lot of young people today are critical of the Bush Administration's policies because the administration seems to be acting like little more than a schoolyard bully writ large. This certainly makes sense, and it's something I've been thinking about since all this talk of war began. (What was it, just nine months ago?) Why do we teach our children one thing about how to deal with problems (talk them out, be reasonable, respect differences and seek compromise, avoid violence, etc), yet stand by complacently while our government engages in all the behaviors we counsel our children against? Is interpersonal conflict resolution so different from international conflict resolution? Apparently so:

Zach Clayton, student chairman of the National Association of Student Councils, wonders whether the interpersonal skills taught in school should even be applied to international relations. "We're quick in third grade to teach nonviolent resolution strategies," he says, "but by our junior or senior years in college we know that countries can't always play paper-rock-scissors."

Isn't that great? By the time we're "adults," we've learned to accept that violence is actually a good—or at least necessary—thing. Silly rabbits, non-violent conflict resolution is just for kids!

Posted 07:31 AM | general politics

Big Big Big Media

So is there anything wrong with one company or corporation owning a large number of media outlets? Yes, Houston, I think we have a problem:

In a move that has raised eyebrows in some legal and journalistic circles, Clear Channel radio stations in Atlanta, Cleveland, San Antonio, Cincinnati and other cities have sponsored rallies attended by up to 20,000 people. The events have served as a loud rebuttal to the more numerous but generally smaller anti-war rallies.

The sponsorship of large rallies by Clear Channel stations is unique among major media companies, which have confined their activities in the war debate to reporting and occasionally commenting on the news. The San Antonio-based broadcaster owns more than 1,200 stations in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Regardless of your feelings about the U.S. attack on Iraq, it's not hard to see how the increased concentration of media outlets into ever fewer hands threatens freedom and democracy—in the U.S. and elsewhere. And right now is the time to be concerned: The FCC is currently deciding whether to further reduce regulations that limit media ownership. For more, follow Jeffery Chester's ongoing coverage here, here, and here. Luckily, not all the news is bad. As Robert McChesney and John Nichols report, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps has taken a stand against further media concentration:

Copps has taken the law establishing the FCC literally. "That phrase, 'serving the public interest, convenience, and necessity,' appears 112 times in the statute. So I think Congress was serious about us serving the public interest," the commissioner says. "When you're talking about something like the airwaves, it's not just something of interest between different companies, between the wealthy and the very wealthy, because those airwaves, in fact, belong not to those companies but to the people of the United States of America."

See that? We own the airwaves, and they're worth billions! (insert evil cackle and Austin Powers' patented pinkie salute here) But seriously, take a minute to tell the FCC that you value a diversity of voices in American news and entertainment (click "Broadcast Ownership" button). Ask them to vote to maintain current restrictions on media ownership in order to protect the public interest in a free press.

(You might also note the FCC's feedback page gives you many options to comment on other contentious issues, including how TVs are built, whether phone solicitations should be further regulated (please, please!), digital rights management for TV broadcasts, and more. Just FYI, if you care about any of these issues.)

Posted 07:16 AM | general politics

April 06, 2003

Campaign Finance Reform

Professor Cooper notes that there's something strange going on with the panel of judges assigned to hear the campaign finance reform case. According to the Washington Post, the judges may not be getting along for some reason. While the leaked information about the internal politics of these three judges is interesting, I'm more interested in what they finally have to say about the case itself. I wrote a few law school scholarship and admissions essays on the subject of campaign finance reform—it's a subject near and dear to me because I'm convinced that there's no hope the U.S. will ever have an effective and just democracy if we do not radically change the way we fund political campaigns. The McCain-Feingold bill is definitely flawed, but I haven't been able to follow the pro/con arguments closely enough to know whether it's so bad we should scrap it. It seems we've got to start somewhere, but...

Posted 05:55 PM | general politics

Academic Life

This week's Chronicle of Higher Education featured a personal essay from "Catherine Evans" (not her real name), a tenure-track faculty member in the humanities at a major, "near-Ivy" university. This professor is leaving academia (in the humanities) for a lot of the same reasons I've decided to leave—the work is never-ending, thankless, isolated and isolating, and invades every aspect of your life. Her moment of truth sounds like the future in which I worried I'd find myself trapped if I stayed in academia:

So there I was, caught in a job that made me miserable rather than excited, modeling for my toddler son a disheartening priority of rationalized duty over fulfillment, and apologizing to colleagues for the activities that energized me the most. I thought about spending the next 30 years or so of my professional life as an academic. I began imagining alternatives.

Alternatives are good. L. (who is also leaving academia) and I like to joke about academia as a deep hole and academics as diggers. You start digging when you head to grad school, and the closer you get to tenure, the deeper your hole becomes. And as your hole becomes deeper, you steadily lose your ability to see the world around you; dig long enough to get tenure, and the only part of the world you'll be able to see is the tiny speck of sky at the top of your hole high above you. (Imagine being trapped at the bottom of a deep, deep well.) This is why it's so hard for academics to see alternatives and pursue them—they're too deep in their academic holes. I'm sure climbing out was hard for Evans, but once you start, it certainly gets easier.

(If anyone reading this is thinking about going to graduate school in the humanities, please read Invisible Adjunct's advice and think again.)

Posted 05:54 PM | Comments (1) | life generally

Self Evident

Joining a growing number of artists opposed to the war on Iraq (and the Bush Administration more generally), Ani DiFranco has released "Self Evident" as a free download. A few choice lines:

Take away our play stations,
and we are a third-world nation
under the thumb of some blue-blood royal son
who stole the Oval Office in that phony election.
I mean, it don't take a weather man to look around and see the weather—
Jeb said he'd deliver Florida, folks, and boy did he ever!

And we hold these truths to be self-evident:
Number one: George W. Bush is not president.
Number two: America is not a true democracy.
and Number three: The media is not fooling me.

Ani rocks.

If you want to build your own pro-peace sampler, check out Salon's list of links to other free mp3 downloads from the likes of the Beastie Boys, Billy Bragg, Chumbawumba, and more... (Just one reason you won't regret your subscription to Salon...)

Posted 08:59 AM | general politics

April 04, 2003

Friday Five

There's a first for everything. This week's Friday Five:

1. How many houses/apartments have you lived in throughout your life?
21 (soon to be 22). Those houses/apartments have been in six states (Wyoming, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, California, and Illinois) and one foreign country (Finland). I guess I get around a little.

2. Which was your favorite and why?
For about three months in 1998 (or was it 1997?) I sublet a tiny, one-bedroom apartment high atop the Berkeley hills. It was the top floor of a garage, but it had a huge window and a big deck overlooking Tilden Park (on Wildcat Canyon Road). It faced East, so I was greeted every morning by the rising of the sun before I climbed on my bike to coast downhilll all the way to work (which was near 4th street in Berkeley, if you know the area). It was spring and the mornings were brisk and often foggy, the air heavy with moisture that would wrap around me as I zoomed down from the hills. I I was often nearly dripping when I arrived at work, but the ride as always a great, bracing, wake-me-up—a great way to start the day. Of course, the downside (punny!) was the ride home at the end of the day—uphill all the way (and steep in some places like you wouldn't believe). The ride to work took about 15 minutes, depending on traffic; the ride home took 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how gonzo I was feeling. Those were the days...

3. Do you find moving house more exciting or stressful? Why?
It's generally both. I've done it so much that I think of it as more of a hassle than a stress, but there's always excitement about new beginnings. But it's easy to get excited about moving because it's easy to believe that anything is possible when you move, that everything about your life could become completely different in this new place. It's taken me a long time and too many moves to realize that's not really true. What doesn't change is that you can't escape yourself. As Dr. Seuss says, "Wherever you go, there you are."

4. What's more important, location or price?
It depends, doesn't it? Location is always more important, if you can afford it. ;-) But yeah, I've learned it's a good idea to stretch your budget a bit (sometimes a lot) to live in a place in which you feel comfortable, so I'll go with location.

5. What features does your dream house have (pool, spa bath, big yard, etc.)?
I dream of house in the mountains with a sort of big turret on top of that commands a 360-degree view of the surrounding (breathtaking) landscape. In that room I will write little novels about the human condition. And since I can afford that room in this fantasy, I won't care whether anyone buys or reads my books. Also, my family and friends will frequently visit me in this house, which will be big enough to accommodate a large number of visitors at one time. Some of them will stay months at a time, some will only come for a weekend now and then, but the door will always be open so they can come and go as they please. Yeah, that would be nice.

Posted 09:14 PM | Comments (1) | life generally

Regime Change Begins At Home

The Democratic presidential candidate, decorated Vietnam veteran, and Senator, John Kerry has triggered an outcry from the "you can't say that!" crowd:

During a speech Wednesday at the Peterborough Town Library in New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary, Kerry said that Bush has committed a ''breach of trust'' in the eyes of many United Nations members by going to war while some countries felt there was room for diplomacy.

Kerry said the country would not bridge the gap until it elects a new president. After highlighting his foreign-policy credentials, Kerry appropriated some of the administration's own rhetoric, as well as the words of some antiwar activists, by saying: ''What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States.''

Both Democrats and Republicans are criticizing Kerry, apparently on the premise that you just can't criticize the president during "wartime." Come on! He's running for the office, ferchrissake! For that very reason, just about everything he says should criticize the President. One of the "freedoms" the U.S. is supposedly fighting to protect is our right to enact a peaceful "regime change" every four years. Do those who denounce Kerry for his participation in that process disagree with democracy?

So far, Kerry's standing by his remarks. I doubt I'd vote for the guy, but I'll be even less likely to vote for someone who doesn't criticize Yubbledew (my new favorite name for the guy in the White House). If all we're going to get in a Democratic candidate is someone who says "I support everything Bush does," then we should just vote for Bush in 2004. Come to think of it, let's just call off the election altogether—there's a war on, you know, and elections can be so divisive...

(I can't find complete text of Kerry's remarks, but you'll find a few more details here andhere.)

UPDATE: Joan Walsh has a good piece on this topic in Salon. As she points out, methods Bush supporters use to silence critics are tried and true. It's wonderful when the people who claim to be defending our "freedom" are also those who seem most vehemently opposed to expressions of it.

Posted 02:36 PM | general politics

April 03, 2003

Mixing Prayer and Politics

I completely missed this while I was traveling last week, but Breaching the Web has been keeping tabs on our congressional representative's latest inanity: legislating a day of prayer and fasting for divine protection of U.S. troops in Iraq. (See BtW here and here for her comments.) What are these people thinking? As if the invasion of Iraq hadn't caused enough global trouble, now the U.S. government has put an official religious stamp on the campaign, raising all kinds of ugly potential for this to be called a "crusade" against an Islamic nation. Are they trying to start World War III?!?

Posted 05:03 PM | general politics

The Second Superpower

Could the united voices and actions of the citizens of the world ever seriously challenge the hegemony of the U.S.? That's the question at the heart of The Second Superpower by Jonathan Schell, the cover story of the current issue of The Nation magazine. Schell argues that the massive global outcry against current U.S. foreign policy constitutes a second superpower that is already reshaping geopolitics. Meanwhile, James Moore, a Senior Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law, has just published a similar argument in The Second Superpower. Both pieces are almost utopian in their idealism, but they nonetheless offer serious food for thought. Moore's piece especially contains more provocative observations than I can address here, but one in particular resonates with me as I consider what I might want to do with a law degree. Moore writes:

Deliberation in the first superpower [the U.S.] is relatively formal—dictated by the US constitution and by years of legislation, adjudicating, and precedent. The realpolitik of decision making in the first superpower—as opposed to what is taught in civics class—centers around lobbying and campaign contributions by moneyed special interests—big oil, the military-industrial complex, big agriculture, and big drugs—to mention only a few. In many cases, what are acted upon are issues for which some group is willing to spend lavishly. By contrast, it is difficult in the US government system to champion policy goals that have broad, long-term value for many citizens, such as environment, poverty reduction and third world development, women’s rights, human rights, health care for all. By contrast, these are precisely the issues to which the second superpower tends to address its attention.

In other words, Moore's argument is that the "second superpower" of the people of the world (not their governments) might work together through international law, NGOs, and simple global majority to circumvent the actions of their corrupt, money-controlled governments. I agree completely that the U.S. political machine is run by money and that this makes it difficult for those who "desire a superpower that speaks for the interests of planetary society, for long-term well-being, and that encourages broad participation in the democratic process" to enact policies to accomplish their goals. In this respect, Moore's idea of the second superpower suggests that social progressives shouldn't even bother with something like law school because all a J.D. will do is entangle them within a corrupt and broken political system. However, another way to look at this might be that social progressives who do go to law school should specialize in international law so that we will be better positioned to promote the needs and policies of the people of the world.

Considering the difficulty I'm having choosing a law school (it's looking more and more like it'll be GW, though), there's no way I'm going to pick an area of the law to specialize in at this point. However, international law will certainly be in the running.

UPDATE: Credit where it's due—thanks to Scripting News for the original link to Jim Moore's article.

Posted 04:52 PM | general politics law school

April 02, 2003

With Buns Glazing

If you'd like to take a few minutes to fall on the floor laughing, head over to the Capitol Steps website and scroll down to download the April Fool's 2003 edition of "Politics Takes A Holiday" (it's a Real Audio file). Then listen to at least the four minutes from the 7:00-11:00 minute marks to learn that Saddam Hussein is a sadman, and that the President of the U.S. is named Yubbledew. A rough transcript follows, but trust me, you've got to hear this to truly appreciate it. Your money back if you don't laugh out loud.*

Well ladies and gentleman, let me tell you the story of that two-bit dictator of Iraq, that butcher of Baghdad, that madman, Saddam.

Let me try that again.

Gadies and lentleman. Yank thew. Let me stell you a tory about that boo-tit ictator of Diraq, that bagger of Butchdad, that Sadman, Madam.

Just whip your flirds and you'll have the gang of it here.

Now Madam has weapons of ass manihilation, which is why he's gettin' his ass manihilated right now. And it's all thanks to our yearless feader, the yesident of the Pru-es, Yubbledew. Now Yubbledew may have a QI in the dingle sigits, and he may not be able to frick pance on a wap of the murld, but Yubbledew is bowing into Gagdhad with buns glazing! He has a core wabinet full of more-wongers, like Ronald Dumbsfeld. Yeah, he's a nun-gut, mm-hmm. And there's Chick Deney -- there's a wight-ringer. Oh, but what about all the neace-piks and the smot-pokers and the laming fliberals? Well they wouldn't [unintelligible] if Hussolini, Titler and Mojo harachuted into Pollywood.

And then there's Blans Hix, alias "Clinspector Iew-so," that [unintelligible] couldn't find a fluke if one humped him on his bed. And let's not forget, the french from the Stench, [unintelligible], what a mile of perde. We oughta give those flogs a good frogging.

But at least there's one noreign fashional who's all trot to hot, Bony Tlair. He's yandsome, he's houng, and he's really hung-go! Plus he keeps a liff upper stip in the Tibbish brabloids. So now the ranks are tolling, and the flanes are plying, and we're dropping bambs in Bogdhad -- also dredatory prones and muise crissles. We've unleashed Awk and Shaw. (Awkandshaw? Wasn't our last president from Awkandshaw?)

And where's Madam? Well, he's probably biding in a hunker, or bunkered down in his head. It's kinda tard to hell with all those dody boubles. And he might gattack us with ass. That's 'cause it's Stesert Dorm, Twart Poo, "Thirld War Wheeee!"

Well Gadies and Lentleman, I guess the storal of my mory is this: When all is dead and son, the A. S. of U. will be the vig bictors, and you so what they knay: To the splinner goes the woils... Yank Thew!

*This warranty void in all fifty states and international territories, as well as any other spot on the planet earth. As always, the truth is, YMMV. Yank Thew.

Posted 06:45 AM | general politics

April 01, 2003


Yesterday ai received a record 56 visits. That's a pretty small number as web pages go, but I belong to the "one reader is better than none" school, and 56 is even better than one, so no complaints here. Thanks to everyone who has followed ai for some time, and to those of you who are just visiting for the first time. Your visits and comments make ai fun to write, and -- I hope -- enjoyable for you to read, as well.

Another milestone: The little iBook on which ai is produced has been running constantly, without hiccup, shut down, or reboot, for 41 days! Does your Windoze laptop do that? ;-)

Speaking of laptops, GW sent a scary little packet of materials warning of the dangers of coming to school with anything other than the "GW Law School notebook" computer (kindly customized by Dell). No other school I've applied to has come on this strong with the "Windoze only" pitch. Not a good sign.

Posted 10:22 AM | Comments (3) | law school meta-blogging

Kids these days...

It probably comes as no surprise to most teachers that Generation Y trusts the government and supports the war. According to Neil Howe, the coauthor of "Millennials Rising" and a social policy advisor in Washington:

"These are kids who are taught to think of themselves as being the sole purpose of community life in America," Howe explains. "They've been surrounded by kinderpolitics, the idea that politicians are constantly saying, 'Do it for the children.'" The recent list of governmental reforms for kids is endless: The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Labor, Treasury, and Justice Departments, and even the EPA have passed laws benefiting young Americans. "These kids have been taught, throughout the late '80s and '90s, that government is constantly trying to do great things for kids," says Howe. "Why shouldn't they like government?"

So despite all the cries about problems with our schools, the U.S. educational system must be working just fine, after all—it's creating lots of good subjects (not to be confused with bad subjects, of course). I'm sure King George is pleased. I wonder what these kids think of the Iraq body count.

This is actually one of the reasons I'm leaving teaching (at least here and at least for now). To make a gross generalization, a majority of students (at least at this university) simply seem to lack the ability or desire to think critically about anything. And yes, I see the irony in this: If students are so lacking in critical ability, that only means my role as a teacher becomes that much more important. However, I've become cynical about the ability of college instructors (or professors) to really teach critical thinking within an institutional and cultural atmosphere that actively discourages students from thinking critically. I've said this before and I'll say it again: I'll forever be glad and thankful for the thousands of great people who continue to teach at our public universities, but I no longer feel that I should be one of them. I hope I'll be able to do more good at a policy level than I've been able to do in the classroom.

In a demonstration of my students' active aversion to critical thought, one of my students sent an email the other day expressing his "disappointment in [my] subtle inputs on [my] antiwar feelings." The email continued:

I understand everyone has their beliefs, and I respect that, but you are going against the most important idea taught to teachers like yourself. Your classroom behavior as a teacher is always supposed to be neutral regardless of you beliefs [sic]. You assumed this responsibility when you chose to become a teacher and you are breaking that critical rule. If you feel the need to offer such an opinion in the classroom setting, it is imperative you also explore the otherside. [sic]

My first reaction to this message was that my student must have confused the job of "teacher" with that of "journalist." My second reaction was to rush to my "Big Book of Critical Rules for Teachers," but I couldn't find it anywhere. I wonder where my student got his copy.

But all kidding aside, what bothers me is that this message came from an intelligent senior at a major American public university. [1] Worse, this student is expressing a commonly-held view: Teachers ought to be neutral; they ought not advocate for one position or another on a given issue, but especially on important social or political issues. This perspective is closely imbricated with the overall rightward-shift in U.S. educational policy over the past 20-30 years, culminating most recently in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) which dramatically reduces the authority and autonomy of teachers in the classroom. [2] Although the NCLBA does not govern college-level education, such policies are explicit expressions of our society's disrespect for and distrust of teachers at all levels, tightly proscribing what is and is not allowed within the classroom.

I understand the anxiety Americans feel about what happens within classrooms. Education is a powerful tool, and that tool can be used for good or ill. However, I am not Voltaire's Pangloss and this is not the best of all possible worlds. It would be irresponsible for teachers to pretend otherwise.

We've reached a very scary place as a culture if we're going to say that college teachers must pretend neutrality on all issues. For that's what "neutrality" or "objectivity" or whatever you choose to call it really is—a pretense. Asking teachers to be neutral is asking them to occupy a hypothetical ideal that does not exist. Even teaching "both sides" of an issue means taking a biased position that promotes the view that there are, in fact, two valid sides. The truth is more likely that there are dozens of valid sides, but what's important is that teachers who argue for "both sides" of an issue are taking a political stance on that issue.

This is probably the most pernicious aspect of this whole "pro-neutrality" attitude, because what this student seeks is not even some myth of neutrality, what he's demanding is to be protected from the discomfort of having to face or seriously consider arguments and ideas with which he disagrees. This is much like the phenomenon Sam Heldman has observed about people in the Deep South [link via Cooped Up]. Heldman writes:

There are many people down there -- a huge number, I would say, based on my experience -- who don't know when they're saying something that constitutes a position on a disputed issue of politics or morality. And when it is pointed out to them that they are in fact doing so, they get very uncomfortable and often get defensive. I think that it is attributable to the fact that they so rarely hear dissenting opinions. At otherwise perfectly lovely parties, even when everyone is on his or her best behavior, you will hear off-hand comments (for instance) about how the trial lawyers are ruining this or that aspect of society; and when I or someone like me will disagree, as affably as I know how, the response is as though I had (as the old saying goes) farted in church -- the dissenter has done the wholly inappropriate thing of bringing up politics in such a nice gathering, when those who merely voice the majority political view didn't even realize that they were bringing up politics at all. You see this sort of thing at Instapundit sometimes -- he acts shocked, from time to time, when people accuse him of making a political statement, when from his point of view he was just having a pleasant conversation about obvious truths. This is not a universal trait among Southerners, of course. Some people know full well that, by being in favor of the honoring of the Confederate cause, they are working to further an extreme political position. But others are simply unaware that, by joining in the "honoring", they are taking a position with which a reasonable person could disagree.

Heldman's observations perfectly describe the majority of the students I've taught—they're constantly taking political positions on things, but because they voice what they think is the majority opinion, they don't realize they're taking a political position at all. And when a teacher makes them aware of their politics by raising the "other side" of the issue, they act shocked, offended, even angry. Heldman is also correct that students react this way to new ideas because they so rarely hear dissenting opinions. This is especially true when the subject is war, since my students' knowledge of current events comes mostly from 5-minute encounters with CNN and/or the 1-minute news briefs that occasionally interrupt the music and advertising on their favorite radio station. In other words, all they hear about the war are endless loops of Bush bellicosity and great sentimental pieces about the courage and "staying power" of American troops.

Is this what a "free" society looks like? Is censorship better when it comes from the people rather than from their government? And if war doesn't wake Generation Y from its "trusting" stupor, what will? [3]

[1] It's probably neither here nor there, but this particular student also happens to be going to law school next fall.

[2] The NCLBA was the product of a republican administration, contradicting the republican party's traditional advocacy of smaller federal government and increased state and local autonomy. However, it's perfectly in keeping with the push by this administration's Justice Department and DEA to override California state law with regard to medical marijuana. I'm sure this case will provide some good discussion in future Constitutional Law classes covering the separation of powers. At any rate, republican education policies are just one are in which the parties traditional rhetoric contradicts its actions. For more on this, I highly recommend Educating the "Right" Way: Markets, Standards, God, and Inequality by Michael W. Apple. (As a footnote to a footnote, I recently completed a brief review of this book for an online journal. I'll post a link if and when the review goes public.)

[3] "Trust" is probably not the best word for Generation Y's attitude toward the government and the world. Better words might be "fear" or "laziness." Students may be afraid to challenge or criticize their government because to do so would be to acknowledge that they may not, in fact, live in the best of all possible worlds. Criticism implies problems, flaws, imperfections, and these are things my students actively deny. This might also be laziness because it's simply easier to trust that everything will work out for the best. Yet, the cost of this laziness can be great in the end. See Candide.

Posted 09:27 AM | Comments (4) | general politics

about   ∞     ∞   archives   ∞   links   ∞   rss
This template highly modified from The Style Monkey.