From on High

I retort. You decide.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Sing it

I don't know why this is so funny, but it is.

Another Card for the Wallet

Do you have your Iraqi Culture SmartCard? Worth taking a look at even if you're not heading to Baghdad any time soon. Make take a few minutes to download. (From the University of Military Intelligence)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

America, the Naive?

I found this commentary from a BBC correspondent to be quite astute if somewhat unfair. The main point of the piece reminded me of the hilarious movie Team America: World Police.

In addition to being hugely funny, that movie exposed what I think is a defining feature of American culture: the need to create a sort of nostalgia for the present. As the movie seems to imply, we do this by constantly affirming and re-inventing a movie-hero image of ourselves. A narrative of liberty, justice freedom, and equality serves as a rousing and idyllic soundtrack to an American reality that is both darker and more complex than any idealized self-conceptions would suggest. Americans are therefore prone to believe that every moment is “historic”, that each victory is a triumph of good over evil, and that all setbacks are merely rocky patches on the inexorable path to a happy ending.

While it’s certainly easy to look upon this quality of the American protagonist with skepticism and even disdain, I would argue that there is value to this aspect of our culture. If Europe even had a soundtrack to its recent history, it would be hard to extract a common melody or a unifying theme; the nations of that continent have not effectively mobilized in pursuit of a common or over-arching moral purpose since World War II. The BBC author may be correct that Americans “want to believe in miracles” and that their “heads are in the clouds”. But isn’t that eminently better than to believe in nothing, and to have your head firmly planted in the sands of pragmatism?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Reading this blog in the year 2253?

If this guy's prediction is right, then the number of future posts on this blog may be infinite. If that's not an argument for sticking with mortality, I don't know what is.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Truman Democrats

Supporting my assertion in an earlier post that Bush will be remembered as "Trumanesque", here is an interesting analysis by Tom Donnelly in today's Weekly Standard.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Intelligent Reform?

Interesting column by Dick Posner in today's NYT regarding the new position of National Intelligence Director. I tend to agree with him after my summer stint at the Department of Homeland Security.

The Ivory Tower Huddle

One of the most thought-provoking lectures I have heard at law school was one I attended yesterday by Harvard Law School Professor William Stuntz. Stuntz, an evangelical Christian, spoke both about the current political climate and his own experience as a religious believer in the midst of the largely secular academic environment. The main thrust of his speech was a to advance a seemingly unlikely prediction: that evangelical Christians will soon align with the political left as issues like abortion and gay marriage recede in importance and are replaced by topics of economic and political justice.

While I didn’t find Stuntz’s forecast particularly believable, I did find two aspects of his talk extremely interesting. First, I was intrigued by the following statement:

“Evangelicals and academics tend to view one another as something between bizarre and evil. Although, I can tell you: my church friends think my academic friends are bizarre. My academic friends think my church friends are evil.”

I myself am very moderate politically (I’d call myself a Tom Kean/Rudy Guiliani New Jersey Republcian) and far from an evangelical (went to Church for the first time in over a year on Christmas eve). Yet, I have frequently noticed and spoken out about the staggering lack of ideological diversity that exists here at Yale Law School. The School obsessively and reflexively resorts to the mantras like “diversity”, “tolerance”, and “anti-discrimination.” Yet its actions often embody precisely the opposite of these words. Although great strides have been made to attract a faculty that “looks different” in terms of gender and race, the overwhelming majority of them still think the same. I know more than a few students who carefully keep their more conservative viewpoints “in the cloest” because they are petrified that they will be ridiculed or looked down upon by their professors and fellow classmates. I know of not a single Professor who openly and consistently advocates conservative views (I can think of dozens who advocate liberal ones).

Which brings me to the second interesting point of yesterday's lecture: Stuntz described a phenomenon known in religious communities as the “holy huddle”. The phrase is basically a pejorative term that evangelicals use to refer to other evangelicals who associate only with other believers, never challenging or questioning their own viewpoints. Stuntz suggested that preventing such huddling will be crucial to lessening the divide between red and blue states.

Based on my experience here over the last two years, it seems that evangelicals are not the only ones who need to quit huddling. Professors at Yale Law School and in ivory towers across America have been engaged in their own version of the “holy huddle” for years. Within their “ivory tower huddle”, it is considered the highest form of heresy to question any of the three assumptions that make up what I will call the “holy trinity of the ivory tower”:

  1. If there is a problem, the government should fix it.
  2. If the government doesn’t create a solution, then the courts should impose one.
  3. Anyone who denies 1 and/or 2 is either a) unintelligent or b) heartless.
I would hypothesize that the reason George W. Bush’s defeat was such a devastating defeat for many of the "progressive", educated types I interact with daily is because it effectively dismantled the first two prongs of their holy trinity. For these knee-jerk liberals who view the courts and government as the only legitimate outlet for social change, nothing is worse than the prospect of handing off control of your only political outlets to the enemy (ie the ignoramuses who occupy America’s Red States). For the rest of us thoughtful moderates, liberals, and conservatives however, neither an election nor a change in political leadership could ever signal such a truly tragic defeat. That's because we realize that the true source of America’s greatness and the best instrument for social change is not this country’s institutions or politics, but rather its people.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Res Ipsa Loquitor ("It Speaks for Itself")

In pursuance of objective number 2 of my mission statement, I will occassionally post absurd and otherwise funny things uttered by the illustrious students and learned pedagogues here at the Yale Law School. Names will be omitted to protect the innocent. Here are two recent examples:

First, in a class discussing a statute known as FACA (pronounced Fah-ka) and its relevance to a recent Supreme Court case, the Professor asked:
"What in the FACA led the district court to hold that the provisions of the statute applied?"

Second, a particularly bold student recently raised his hand after listening to a professor's explanation of a matter of legal doctrine and said: "Your logic is completely indeterminate and largely irrelevant."

What the FACA indeed.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Shades of Grey
So Tile A and Tile B in this picture are the same shade of grey. Don't believe me? Download the picture and use the zoom function to check.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Change in Career

I've always had a natural talent for whistling. I can whistle pretty much any song with both accurate pitch and good sound quality. Since I was young, this has been a source of great amusement for my mother and a huge annoyance to my sister. I always assumed that there was no such thing as a "future in whistling." Well I was wrong: I think I'm going to drop out of law school...

Friday, February 04, 2005

Bush kisses Lieberman after a bold speech. How could anyone not like America's Uncle Joe? The country would benefit if more politicians from both parties took his statesman-like approach to foreign policy:

Pelosi - face of the Democratic party
**WARNING**: This year's Democratic Response contains graphic depictions of plastic surgery accidents. Parental discretion is strongly advised. The views expressed during the response are solely those of the politically desperate and do not reflect the opinions of most Americans.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A Good Day

If George W. Bush has a barometer measuring good and bad days in the Oval Office, I’m pretty sure there are two things that should invariably push its needle strongly into the “good zone”:

1. The New York Times comes off of its editorial high horse (read: high chair) and calls something Bush advocated “remarkably successful”.

2. An Arab leader openly and seriously considers erecting a statue of Bush in the heart of a major Middle Eastern city.

If your presumed haters are giving you praise, you must be doing something right.

Well, both of these things occurred this week, shortly after 8 million Iraqis went to the polls to vote in democratic elections. The NYT was, of course, sure to lead its editorial with the doom and gloom caveat that many Sunnis were broadly “disenfranchised”. (The effectiveness of that word seemed significantly diluted by the fact that they used it four years ago to apply to grannies punching butterfly ballots in Palm Beach). Nonetheless, they mustered their highest form of praise and conceded that the elections sent a “message that all but the most nihilistic of the armed insurgents will have to accept”. (Leave it to the Times to seek nuance by dividing head-lopping insurgents into levels of nihilism).

Hell surely froze over again as Ali Fadel, Baghdad’s mayor called Bush a “symbol of freedom” and mused that he might install a statue of the President in one of the city’s major thoroughfares. This is the President whose father’s evil and grimacing likeness serves as a doormat in Baghdad’s Al Rashid Hotel.

I had been thinking before Sunday that George W. Bush would go down in history as a combination Woodrow Wilson and Lyndon Johnson. Iraq was looking increasingly like a Johson-style quagmire fueled by a lofty but naïve set of Wilsonian principles. Bush, like Johnson, seemed callous to the mounting casualties, and his pronouncements of “promoting freedom” and “ending tyranny” sounded increasingly hollow given conditions on the ground. Having supported the war from the start, I was preparing for the possibility that the effort to make Iraq safe for democracy might go the way of the League of Nations.

Eight million purple fingers later, however, things are looking a lot better. Rather than compare him to Wilson and Johnson, historians may in fact compare Bush to two more flattering examples of Presidential leadership on the world stage: Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. It was Truman’s no-nonsense approach that laid a sturdy foundation for our long slog in the Cold War and aggressively positioned America as freedom’s defender. It was Reagan’s steely resolve that finally finished the commies off and precipitated the fall of the Berlin Wall. As that century showed, articulating democracy’s aims and actually achieving them are two different things, often decades apart. If all goes reasonably well in Iraq, however, Bush may end up having done both in just eight short years.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Your Fearless Leader

"Watson, can you hear me?"

My roommates strongly urged me not to do something as incredibly toolish and self-important as start a blog. They fought valiantly to convince me that spewing my inane thoughts into the black shadows of the Internet would negate any redeeming qualities I may have once possesed and infirm my already challenged social status. They lost. I hereby plant my flag firmly in the soil of blogdom. Boldly, I forge ahead, intent upon uniting humanity and raising the moral discourse of our nation by achieving the following six humble objectives:

1. Win the War on Terrorism.

2. Derive a mathemetical proof that Yale Law School is an absurd fiction propagated by a vast alien conspiracy.

3. Cure cancer, AIDS, chronic toe fungus, and flat-footedness. (The latter two are of special interest to me)

4. Restore New Jersey to its proper place as America's favorite state.

5. End global warming by uncovering the location of the snow-globe wielding monkey who controls the world's weather.

6. Bring evildoers to justice, wherever they may lurk.

I look forward to advancing these common goals together with you, my fellow Americans. Our deadline is June 1st 2006. We must work together, because whether the next century will be one of hatred or harmony, poverty or prosperity, toil or triumph will depend on us. We must succeed. Otherwise the terrorists will have won.