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February 25, 2004

Protecting the powerful at Yale

Something about this story troubles me. As an episode of "sexual harassment," it isn't particularly egregious. But Naomi Wolf has accurately identified the bigger problem: Yale University's unwillingness to act on behalf of the less powerful members of its own community when they are abused by the more powerful.

Perhaps the reason why this story troubles me so much is that many of the rationales for protecting, as Wolf argues Yale has done, those with more power against those with less, are becoming more and more ascendant in our society generally.

Perhaps I'm troubled because I've been reading Richard Posner's attack on the idea of a deliberative and participative democracy in favor of rule by political elites, on the grounds that elite rule is both more realistic and normatively superior to what most of us mean when we say "democracy." Posner asserts, without argument (at least in what I've read so far), that people so consistently act in their own narrow self-interest that any pretentions of laws or political systems to tap into anything more noble is not only doomed to failure, but is also bound to cause more trouble than it's worth. Hence, the only valuable form of "democracy" is one which realizes that the "commercial man" of law-and-economics is the only kind of man that ever really matters.

The practical outcome of this kind of thinking is a thoroughgoing disdain for anything even remotely "aspirational." This is Posner's real target: anything that might presume to rely upon people actually doing, occasionally, what they aspire to do, or dream of doing, in their best moments.

I don't know if Posner is right. He may be. But I think that even if he is, it would be a terrible mistake to give up on the idea of acting as if we believed we could be better than we usually are. I think this surrender of the aspirational leads to institutions like Yale choosing not to side with students against famous professors, on the grounds that boorish behavior will happen anyway--we're all just boors, after all.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: tell someone they're nothing but a consumer often enough, and it will become true. Tell someone they're not interested in politics often enough, and it will become true. Tell someone that nothing can be done about people who choose to abuse their power often enough, and nothing will be done.

Here's some excerpts from the article to encourage you to read the whole thing. The emphases are mine.

In the late fall of 1983, professor Harold Bloom did something banal, human, and destructive: He put his hand on a student’s inner thigh—a student whom he was tasked with teaching and grading. The student was me, a 20-year-old senior at Yale. Here is why I am telling this story now: I began, nearly a year ago, to try—privately—to start a conversation with my alma mater that would reassure me that steps had been taken in the ensuing years to ensure that unwanted sexual advances of this sort weren’t still occurring. I expected Yale to be responsive. After nine months and many calls and e-mails, I was shocked to conclude that the atmosphere of collusion that had helped to keep me quiet twenty years ago was still intact—as secretive as a Masonic lodge. . .

Once you have been sexually encroached upon by a professor, your faith in your work corrodes. If the administration knew and did nothing—because the teacher was valuable to them—they had made a conscious calculation about his and our respective futures: It was okay to do nothing because I—and other young women who could be expected to remain silent—would never be worth what someone like Bloom was worth.

All the women who have come forward want only to fix what is broken. Critics of sexual-harassment standards argue that you can’t legislate passions; true enough. But you can legislate what to do about people who act on them improperly. Powerful men and woman who belittle and humiliate their subordinates manage not to belittle or humiliate their supervisors. Neither men nor women tend to harass upward in a hierarchy. . .

The saddest part? If a Yale undergraduate came to me today with a bad secret to tell, I still could not urge her to speak up confidently to those tasked with educating, supporting, and mentoring her. I would not direct her to her faculty adviser, the grievance committee, or her dean. Wishing that Bart Giamatti’s beautiful welcoming speech to my class about Yale’s meritocracy were really true, I would, with a heavy heart, advise that young woman, for her own protection, to get a good lawyer.

February 23, 2004

Return of the King continues to triumph

The Screen Actors Guild has given the Ensemble Award to the cast of The Return of the King. Last week, RoTK was named the best edited dramatic feature film at the ACE Eddie Awards.

The Oscars are this Sunday.

February 22, 2004

Rule 8(a)

This quiz is actually pretty cool. Thanks to JCA, who is also a Rule 8(a).


YOU ARE RULE 8(a)!

You are Rule 8, the most laid back of all the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. While your
forefather in the Federal Rules may have been a
stickler for details and particularity, you
have clearly rebelled by being pleasant and
easy-going. Rule 8 only requires that a
plaintiff provide a short and plain statement
of a claim on which a court can grant relief.
While there is much to be lauded in your
approach, your good nature sometimes gets you
in trouble, and you often have to rely on your
good friend, Rule 56, to bail you out.


Which Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

The CU football rape scandal

This has been beaten to death. I know. Sorry.

But when I read a great article like this one, what choice do I have?

You can tell by the media tempest that this Gary Barnett character has perpetrated an appalling offense to American society. Indeed, he has.

He has - get this - just gone 5-7. Five and seven! You wonder how a coach could let things slide to such depths.

* * *

Proving again that conservatives become liberals the moment the firmness of their alleged standards threatens the cause - see Rush Limbaugh for details - they would lament the young man's difficult upbringing, assuring themselves he can repent best under the structure of coach Father Flanagan, a good man because ... well, he just went 11-1 or 12-0.

Then, hooked up to the methadone of 11-1 or 12-0, many could begin the strange but true process of discrediting victims.

Who does she think she is, calling the cops on our party? Why does she have to make such a fuss? You know, I hear she's a little crazy ...

Examples abound, but the most shining came from the mid-1990s, from the heartland, the region that routinely congratulates itself as the "normal" America.

Nebraska reigned amid an astonishing dynasty in 1995 - long before it fired a coach because he committed the blatant peccadillo of going 9-3 - when at one wee hour that September, running back Lawrence Phillips dragged a woman down a stairwell by her hair.

Coach Tom Osborne, revered practitioner of virtue, eventual landslide congressman, first dismissed Phillips, then reinstated him to a half-stadium cheering seven Saturdays after the assault.

And you wonder why those of us who didn't vote for Bush get nauseated when red-state voters start preaching about "morality."

EDIT: And here's a Mike Littwin piece that's worth it, too.

February 16, 2004

Return of the King rolls on

The Return of the King was named Best Picture at the BAFTAs yesterday in the UK. It also won the audience award and was named Orange Film of the Year.

Peter Jackson lost out to Peter Weir (Master and Commander) for Best Director.

Look forward to a more decisive sweep for the Tolkien movie on Oscar night, February 29.

Pieces of the Dean puzzle

Over at ambivalent imbroglio, the puzzle of Howard Dean's campaign trajectory gets clearer with the emergence of more little pieces. . .

The best part of the analysis is this summation:

The point is not to pin AJHPV's nastiness on Kerry or Gephardt or any other campaign, but to point out that:

1) Now that Kerry has taken over the "frontrunner" position, he isn't getting any of this kind of nasty treatment from fellow Democrats, and

2) Dean didn't lose "frontrunner" status because his campaign "imploded" or "self-destructed," he lost that status at least partly because his opponents assassinated his character and terrified voters.

As we wait for the definitive history of this campaign to be written, let's steel ourselves for the job we must do: Re-defeat Bush.

February 15, 2004

Creeping privatization of higher education

In Colorado, the budget crunch is pounding the state's system of higher education, and leading some to consider privatization:

Colorado may have to solve a $450 million budget crunch in the next three years at the expense of the state's colleges and universities, a legislative budget writer warned Friday.

* * *

He intends to propose cutting $150 million from higher education in the 2004-05 budget, $200 million in the following year and $100 million in the third year.

* * *

"In order to avoid the problem of the tuition coming in and creating TABOR (Taxpayer's Bill of Rights) problems for us, I would propose that we turn CU first of all into an enterprise."

That action, which also was considered last year, would free the university from current constitutional fiscal restrictions. It also would prevent any income that the school makes from being counted against the state's revenue restrictions.

* * *

Teck originally was looking at "privatizing" the University of Colorado, but he said discussions with CU President Betsy Hoffman convinced him to back off on that. She says the university would lose many of the protections it now has as a state-run institution if that were to occur.

Piece by piece, this country's commitment to ensuring the equality of opportunity crumbles. How bad will it have to get before we collectively say "Enough!"

'Angel' cancelled

Via Computer Guy, it seems that someone over at the WB has been smoking too much crack.

Critics betting on Return of the King

New York Times film critics believe that The Return of the King will win the Oscar for Best Picture, and that Peter Jackson will win for Best Director.

Here's hoping they're right!

February 13, 2004

Finally!

A voice of reason in the discussion of the "John Kerry juggernaut."

Christopher Hitchens opposes "barbarism"

I go back and forth about Christopher Hitchens. While I like his irreverency, I often suspect it's just a self-serving act.

These days, he's making hay by taking a 'courageous' stand against barbarism:

I'm a single-issue person at present, and the single issue in case you are wondering is the tenacious and unapologetic defense of civilized societies against the intensifying menace of clerical barbarism. If in the smallest doubt about this, I would suggest a vote for the re-election of George Bush, precisely because he himself isn't prey to any doubt on the point. There are worse things than simple mindedness—pseudo-intellectuality, for example. Civil unions for homosexuals, or prescription-drug programs, are not even going to be in second or third place if we get this wrong.

Why do I get the impression that the only 'courageous' thing about Hitchens' position is his willingness to ignore the barbarism that we risk by re-electing a president who doesn't know what he's talking about?

Why does Hitchens believe that our only choices are between 'simple-mindedness' and 'pseudo-intellectuality'? Well, I'm sure he doesn't actually believe this, but in his strained effort to appear irreverent and iconoclastic, he chooses rhetoric that suggests this non-existent dilemma.

My question is, does this piece display Hitchens' simple-mindedness, or his pseudo-intellectuality?

Barbarism is an obvious risk. Hitchens isn't courageous when he warns against it; he merely repeats a bit of (correct) conventional wisdom. Only when Hitchens tells us that electing a know-nothing simpleton like Bush will reduce the threat of barbarism rather than increasing it can he make any claim to courage. But I suspect, though, that Hitchens is merely indulging in the same kind of pseudo-intellectuality which he claims to despise.

And why shouldn't he? The Slate editors have been "good enough to ask" Hitchens for his opinion because he can be counted upon to cough up controversial opinions on demand.

Well, I suppose from my perspective I ought to thank Christopher Hitchens, if not for saying worthwhile things, then for providing such good fodder for blog entries. . .

Death penalty analysis

In a New York Times article about the possible use of the death penalty against a white Mafia boss, we find this bit of "analysis":

Mr. Massino's case is awkward for death penalty critics. To press for a capital case against him, they would have to abandon their opposition to execution. But if they oppose capital charges in the case of an alleged Mafia chief, they would undercut their argument that the failure to seek the death of mob boss shows the unfairness of the system.

The first statement is obvious; the second is false. Perhaps the author is angling for a regular opinion column.

February 12, 2004

Patient privacy and abortion law

John Ashcroft's Justice Department has issued subpoenas for medical records at several hospitals in an attempt to enforce the ban on "partial-birth" abortions.

Some of the hospitals have challenged the subpoenas in court, with a federal judge in Manhattan demanding that the records be produced, and another federal judge in Chicago throwing out the subpoenas on grounds that they impermissibly intrude upon patients' privacy.

Sheila M. Gowan, a Justice Department lawyer, told Judge Casey that the demand for the records was intended in part to find out whether the doctors now suing the government had actually performed procedures prohibited under the new law, and whether the procedures were medically necessary "or if it was just the doctor's preference to perform the procedure."

The department said in its unsuccessful effort to enforce the Northwestern subpoena that the demand for records did not "intrude on any significant privacy interest of the hospital's patients" because the names and other identifiable information would be deleted.

Citing federal case law, the department said in a brief that "there is no federal common law" protecting physician-patient privilege. In light of "modern medical practice" and the growth of third-party insurers, it said, "individuals no longer possess a reasonable expectation that their histories will remain completely confidential."

Actually, there never has been an expectation that medical histories would remain completely confidential. The question was always, how confidential will they be? Perhaps what the Department meant to say was that in the past, disclosures have been allowed in limited cases for the sake of improving patient care, or for preventing imminent harm to third parties. Here, the disclosures seem not to be for this purpose. Here, the Justice Department is proposing to review the "medical necessity" of the treatments rendered. This does seem to deviate from past practices.

Completely anonymous disclosures are also commonplace for statistical research and quality-control. But it doesn't seem that the subpoenas are requesting this kind of anonymous release of information. The justice department wants to know the names of the physicians who may have performed certain procedures. If there were reasonable grounds for believing that the physicians were harming their patients, perhaps the disclosures would be justified. But it doesn't seem like that's the case here; the Justice Department only asserts that the procedures might have been the "doctor's preference."

My first impression is that the "Chicago rule" of throwing out these subpoenas is the only defensible one. . .

Thought experiment

Just for a moment, let's try NOT to be realistic. Let's try a thought experiment, and see where it takes us. What is there to be afraid of? After all, we're just letting our minds wander.

Imagine for a moment that you are a Machiavellian-type elite associated with the US government, or with a major American corporation. Your only philosophical commitments are that a) remaining in power is an end that justifies most means, and that b) you believe that government assistance to poor people is immoral, because it comes at the cost of taking money away from people who've earned it fairly.

Now, imagine that this person takes a moment to quietly think about the future. What does he see?

He might see the continuation of the processes of "globalization." Technology continues to knit the world closer together. Multinational corporations continue to purchase the cheapest labor available anywhere in the world to lower their costs of production. As most models of global free-trade predict, the standard of living across all nations continues to equalize.

Since our hypothetical leader is a level-headed realist kind of guy, he realizes that this process of globalization and worldwide laissez-faire approach to markets does not necessarily mean that the whole world will end up looking like Ohio in the 1950s. It's much more likely that Ohio will soon begin to resemble present-day Mexico or Argentina. Most important for our leader, however, is that the American middle-class will likely disappear, and the very rich will get a whole lot richer.

So, says our realist guy, what will happen when the middle-class disappears? Ever since the New Deal, there's been an expectation in this country that there will be some sort of social safety-net for those who fall out of the middle class. As more and more people become relatively "poor" (intermittently employed, unable to afford even a basic education, and without health insurance), the demands on the government for welfare assistance will increase.

Now, we've already postulated that our realist guy doesn't like welfare, because he thinks it's wrong. He agrees with Grover Norquist that the government needs to be "drowned like a baby in the bathtub." So he thinks, we've got to insulate the government from this impending increase in the demand for social services. Paeans to the free market from the Heritage Foundation might not continue to be enough. (Our guy is nothing if not a level-headed realist.)

So our guy is wasting time one day and comes upon a suggestion that running up huge deficits might be a good way to eliminate welfare. Does he scoff, and say "this is unrealistic!" No way, Jose. After all, he's been listening to Grover and the boys over at Americans for Tax Reform for years. What's more, he immediately realizes that he can kill three birds (please pardon the expression) with one stone. Spend like crazy on the military, and cut taxes. This will run up huge deficits by increasing America's power to enforce its version of globalization (laissez-faire worldwide markets) at the same time that fundamentally immoral taxes are being slashed. A budgetary perfect storm.

Our guy may be a level-headed realist, but at this point his balding pate is beginning to sweat from too much excitement.

After he calms down a bit, our realist guy starts thinking about all those disgruntled poor people whose parents used to comprise the great American middle-class. If they can't get a fair shake from the government, where will they turn? And what about all those poor people in whom our imperialist military is continuing to inspire hatred? What will they do?

Clearly, in the absence of a stable, satisfied middle class, the ruling elite will need to take action to prevent violence. Terrorism and other violence common to two-layered societies will obviously be a big problem. How to solve it? The UK Home Secretary has a good idea.

In this guy's idle thoughts about the future, the unlimited ability for the rich to get richer leads to the loss of the middle class and, along with it, the loss of civil rights.

Will our realist guy worry and fret? Not about any supposed loss of "American ideals" or other such mumbo-jumbo. That's nothing but sentimental longing for days of yore, and our guy is nothing if not a realist.

February 10, 2004

"Teamwork training"

The advocates of a systemic approach to reducing medical errors would appear more credible if they didn't water down their suggestions for reform with limp distractions such as "teamwork training":

Among the remedies they advocate are greater use of computers, which can detect dangerous drug interactions and incorrect dosages, enrollment of health professionals in "teamwork training" and more open disclosure of mistakes.

These are some good suggestions. But that bit about "teamwork training" is nothing but throwaway verbiage.

February 09, 2004

In the good news department...

Peter Jackson has won the Director's Guild Award for The Return of the King.

In the 'Shadowfax gets snubbed' department...

The cinematographers nominated Andrew Lesnie for Fellowship of the Ring (he didn't win), failed to nominate him for The Two Towers, and this year passed him over in favor of the guy who did Seabiscuit.

February 07, 2004

Scholarly death-match

While scholarship is often competitive, in the sense that professors commonly try to outdo one another for honors and recognition, occasionally this competition transforms itself into an actual battle.

(Oooh, you say. Warring professors. A little like celebrity boxing...)

This semester some of us are being treated to the "Hart/Fuller debate" about whether law is completely separable from morality. Hart, a positivist, says that it is, and Fuller, a natural-law theorist, says that it isn't. These two go back and forth over the course of a decade, accusing each other in articles and books of being--initially--mistaken and unclear, and--much later--of being"blind" and "bizarre."

It's fun to follow the debate, even for people who may not give two stones about the connection between law and morality.

This debate reminded me of another war that took place in the '90s about something you might also not care one way or the other about--whether the Hawaiians who killed Captain Cook thought he was a god or not.

On one side, you have an eminence grise of American anthropology, Marshall Sahlins. On the other side, an equally established fixture of the anthropology department at Princeton, Gananath Obeyesekere.

Most people think the first shot was fired by Obeyesekere, when he published a scathing criticism of Sahlins' widely-accepted account of Cook's demise. Sahlins had maintained that the Hawaiians thought Cook was a god, or at least a manifestation of one. They killed him in part because their own rituals mandated that the agricultural god Lono (a.k.a. Captain Cook) be killed by the war god Ku or Makihiki. Obeyesekere accused Sahlins of perpetuating the stereotypical view of native peoples as irrational, gullible, and prone to deification of white Europeans.

Sahlins, of course, couldn't just take this lying down. So he wrote a response which accused Obeyesekere of cultural imperialism in the name of political correctness. By attributing to the Hawaiians an essentially modern, Western outlook, Obeyesekere ignored what was uniquely different about their culture. This, of course, meant that Obeyesekere, not Sahlins, was the real cultural imperialist.

Of course, Obeyesekere had to include a response to Sahlins in an afterward inserted into later editions of his book.

So who won? Since I don't pretend to any knowledge of anthropology, I feel comfortable saying "I don't know." I tend to root for Sahlins since he's at the University of Chicago (and did his undergrad at Michigan), but I don't know how the anthropological community has judged this debate. One thing it has done, of course, is add it to the syllabus in "anthropological theory" courses.

As for Hart vs. Fuller, the general consensus is that Hart won that one. This isn't something I'm particularly happy about, but the reasons will have to wait for another post. . .

(More about Sahlins/Obeyesekere is here, here, here, and here.)

A picture of Obeyesekere (question: would you have the courage to argue with this man?)

February 06, 2004

Culture shock and Ray Thomas

This article is one of the best examples of the political culture in this country that is largely responsible for electing people like George W. Bush and Tom DeLay. Ray Thomas and people who share his views make the "red states" red.

Thomas doesn't only reflect some variation of the political right-wing, as opposed to the political left-wing. This is also a reflection of a "regular guy" culture, as opposed to what Mr. Thomas would call an "elite" culture. If I may be allowed to translate Mr. Thomas' terms into my own, this article reflects an anti-intellectualism which self-consciously rejects almost all of the cultural aspects of my daily life.

That's why it's so good for me to read him, and also why it's so infuriating. The smug bastard doesn't think like me, act like me, dress like me, or talk like me. He certainly doesn't want to understand me. At least, that's the impression his article gives.

But I want to understand him. . .

Here are the interesting questions: Are there any values which Thomas and I share? Is Thomas's anti-intellectualism inherently tied to the right wing? Could Thomas ever be persuaded to vote for the Democrat? Is it possible for me to persuade Mr. Thomas of anything? Can he persuade me of anything?

I'm willing to cut Thomas some slack. Sure, he likes "small government" just like all conservatives; he shares with them a preference for allowing citizens to sink or swim economically. I don't share these views, but I think I understand how reasonable people could subscribe to them.

What's harder to understand is Thomas' disdain for education. He isn't entirely disdainful of thinking per se. He proudly announces that he's learned to "think for himself," but in Thomas' world one learns to think by listening to Rush Limbaugh and staying out of college. "Probably the best reason I'm not a liberal dupe is that I didn't go to college."

I wonder what the analogue is on the left to folks like Mr. Thomas. It might be the pot-smoking hippies, but although some of these people aren't formally educated, I don't think that they reject the ideal of formal education with the same vigor that Mr. Thomas does. Which leads me to wonder: is there some special affinity between right wing politics and anti-intellectualism?

I don't believe there is, but Mr. Thomas does shake my confidence...

Read this and think

Like it or not, this reflects what many Americans believe.

And though it's hard to find, there is some truth there somewhere.

(More later...)

February 05, 2004

First, do no harm

What difference does it make when doctors turn from healing the sick to "enhancing" the healthy?

Those who say it makes no difference have to explain why most of us feel that there's something fundamentally different about a plastic surgeon who helps patients with congenital malformations or traumatic disfigurement, and one who sets up a clinic on Fifth Avenue to do botox injections and tummy-tucks. On one very basic level, the former is a healer, and the latter is a . . . ?

What? Still a doctor, yes, but not the same kind of doctor.

As the technology of genetic manipulation advances, it's very possible that we might not need the services of the healer anymore. All physicians will instead be "enhancers," wielders of the new technologies of immortality and beauty; salesmen for the 21st century biomedical-industrial complex.

Doctors are already getting a lot of practice with this latter role. The ads you see encouraging you to "ask your doctor" about Viagra and Celebrex have helped to reduce the physician from his old role as trusted counselor and healer to that of marketing representative for Pfizer. "Come on, Doc, gimme the pills I saw on TV and I'll walk out of here a satisfied customer."

Is this the kind of doctor who is capable of counseling us about the implications of designer babies? Upgrading your IQ? Modifying your genes in an attempt to achieve immortality?

Sherwin Nuland, a surgeon and frequent contributor to The American Scholar and other literary magazines, has a review of Shirley and David Rothman's new book, The Pursuit of Perfection: The Promise and Perils of Medical Enhancement. One of his suggestions is that we take a more rational approach to the new biomedical technologies, and that includes relying on a wider array of perspectives when considering the question, "is this good for us?"

I wonder whether it is true, as the Rothmans claim, that "there is no holding back the enterprise." It is just possible—now for the first time in the history of modern science—that the moment has finally come when society might reconsider whether the curiosity and enthusiasm of scientists alone should determine the direction of research into certain technologies. As biomedical investigation moves into the forms of enhancement that will affect personality, intelligence, memory, organic structure, and longevity, perhaps we ought to make use of our experience with those strangers at the bedsides, and bid them visit not only the clinic but the laboratory too.

(Thanks again to Political Theory Daily Review.)

February 03, 2004

Ok, people. You're not banned anymore...

I was wondering why I wasn't getting any comments over the past few days. Turns out, it's because there was a glitch with my list of banned IPs that essentially banned everyone.

So sorry. If you're not a spammer, you've been unbanned.

Comment away!

February 02, 2004

Judge Stephen Reinhardt answers 20 questions

Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit, interviewed by Howard Bashman:

Finally, after reading Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, I reject any suggestion that I am in any way comparable to Judge Bork. I would not nullify the Bill of Rights by allowing Congress to overrule the courts' constitutional decisions by a majority vote. And, unlike Judge Bork, who once analogized the Ninth Amendment to a text covered by an "ink blot," I believe that each and every part of our Constitution has meaning that binds federal judges. Liberalism is still a part, a critical part, of the American mainstream; those who reject fundamental constitutional principles, such as judicial review, are not.

The Decembrist on fire

Responding to David Bernstein, Mark Schmitt of The Decembrist demonstrates that liberals can actually articulate their values for themselves instead of relying on the pejorative labels that the conservatives hand them: "...liberalism is not about throwing money at problems. It's about trying to solve public problems by public means."

That's right. And as for Bernstein's assertion that Bush and Nixon are domestic policy bosom-buddies:

The shorter version of Paul O'Neill's complaint in The Price of Loyalty, after all, is "I thought this would be the Nixon or Ford administration, but it wasn't." What liberals dislike about Bush is the very same thing that O'Neill disliked: reckless incompetence, Karl Rove running policy, nihilism on a grand scale.

Here's the difference between Nixon and Bush: When Nixon left, his successor could proclaim that "our long national nightmare is over." With Bush, we'll be feeling the consequences for generations.

The eventual Democratic nominee could do worse than try to emulate Mark Schmitt a little bit.

Colorado getting fatter...

Sure, Colorado is the least obese state in the nation, but that doesn't mean it isn't getting fatter all the time:

And Colorado can no longer count on a cavalry of buff rock-climbers moving in to hold down the average. Population growth in the future, demographers say, will be increasingly driven by "natural increase" — the children of people already here, many of whom are more apt to reach for a soda than a snowboard, as national health studies show.

They want it both ways

I'm talking about the Super Bowl producers and CBS, of course.

They love the publicity of the Super Bowl, and fight every year for as large an audience as they can get. So, naturally, when Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson take advantage of the astronomical publicity to boost their own headline values, it seems a bit greasy for NFL Executive Vice President Joe Browne to issue such a phlegmatically disapproving statement as, "We were extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced halftime show."

Come on, Joe. That's part of the game. Everyone, including Jackson and Timberlake, just wants the ratings...

February 01, 2004

Ayn Rand and good music

I can't stand Ayn Rand, but she has a crazy habit of showing up in songs I like.

Most famously, she inspired one of my favorite songs from my youth: The Trees by Rush:

There is unrest in the forest, There is trouble with the trees, For the maples want more sunlight And the oaks ignore their pleas.

The trouble with the maples,
(And they're quite convinced they're right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light.
But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made.
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade.

There is trouble in the forest,
And the creatures all have fled,
As the maples scream "Oppression!"
And the oaks just shake their heads

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights.
"The oaks are just too greedy;
We will make them give us light."
Now there's no more oak oppression,
For they passed a noble law,
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe, and saw.

In a slightly less successful effort (lyrically, at least), Rush also did the Ayn Rand-inspired Freewill:

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice. If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill; I will choose a path that's clear I will choose freewill. Etc., etc.

Yeah. Free will is only a "clear" path for rock-star adolescents and Ayn Rand. Nevertheless, Ayn Rand keeps showing her ugly face in good songs. These days, I listen to Kid Rock. Imagine my surprise to find you-know-who in the lyrics to Where U at Rock?:

And I'll be the long haired wizard with the lazy eye Ask the ladies and they'll tell ya that im crazy fly I'm steppin' to the mic like a soldier bro I hate to sound like a dick but I told ya so hoe Old Crow and a soul full of desperation I'm rockin' up on the mic with no consideration For your church or your family Ayn Rand couldn't stand me so she banned me I'm like a dandy lion Jack You can cut me down and then I'll pop right back And attack from the back like a great white I'm not down with the scrappin' but I'm down for the gun fight Behind my back talkin' shit But when I front your ass you wanna act like a little bitch Keep on and you get your ass smacked Kid Rock's in the house that's where I'm at

I think I'll have to go read the elvish lyrics in the soundtrack to Return of the King. Just paranoid, I guess...

Another chance to withhold documents

President Bush is apparently creating a blue-ribbon panel to study intelligence failures surrounding the Iraq debacle.

Any intelligence failures that occurred are far less troubling to me than the political failures that led Bush to lie to the American people in order to whip up support for an unprecedented pre-emptive war against a nation that the Administration knew was not an imminent threat to the United States.

Even if this panel is a good idea, we have to worry that George Bush will hinder its work in the same way that he has hindered the 9-11 commission by refusing access to necessary information and refusing to turn over notes. So far, Bush has not shown that he's willing to trade an iota of undemocratic secrecy for any amount of truth.

If it sounds like I don't trust Bush, it's because he's given me plenty of reasons not to.

My travels in the USA

This pretty much gives you the right flavor. The Southern states have been seen only from I-10.



create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide