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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

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