2.02.2016

Wonder where the name came from? Sudbury Neutrino Observatory:

Simulation of the Sudbury neutrino proportional counters
Abstract:
The third phase of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) experiment added an array of [superscript 3]He proportional counters to the detector. The purpose of this neutral-current detection (NCD) array was to observe neutrons resulting from neutral-current solar-neutrino–deuteron interactions. We have developed a detailed simulation of current pulses from NCD array proportional counters, from the primary neutron capture on [superscript 3]He through NCD array signal-processing electronics. This NCD array MC simulation was used to model the alpha-decay background in SNO's third-phase ⁸B solar-neutrino measurement.
Citation: Beltran, B et al. “Full Simulation of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Proportional Counters.” New Journal of Physics 13.7 (2011): 073006. Web.


1.10.2016

From the Sudbury Town Crier

Didn't this happen like two years ago? From the Sudbury Town Crier:


The lawyer for a Sudbury man accused of murdering his parents has appealed a judge’s ruling that his client has to return to the U.S. Virgin Islands to face murder charges.

Mikhail Young’s lawyer, Stanley Norkunas, is seeking to block Middlesex Superior Court Judge Bruce R. Henry’s Dec. 3 order, denying Norkunas’ writ of habeas corpus he filed to block rendition.

At a Framingham District Court hearing on Friday, prosecutor Dan Brunelli told Judge David Cunis the case had been appealed. Norkunas was not in court, and could not be reached for comment.

Young is still charged as a fugitive from justice in Framingham District Court. Cunis set a status date on Jan. 29 to see where the case stands.

Young, 24, has been held without bail since May.

Authorities say Young stabbed to death his adoptive parents Jane Young, 66, and Kenneth Young, 73, at a resort in the Virgin Islands on May 2. Young that day flew back to the United States. Sudbury Police arrested him at his home on May 4. The couple had obtained a restraining order against Mikhail Young in 2011 following a reported domestic assault.

Virgin Islands authorities obtained a warrant for Young’s arrest in June. Young is charged with two counts each of first- and second-degree murder, as well as several assault and weapons charges. Norkunas filed a writ of habeas corpus in the summer, which is a required move to fight the governor’s warrant to return Young to the Virgin Islands for trial.

A date for the appeal has not been set.

7.04.2012

This Is Great

Al Gore or the Unabomber? (Hat tip MyElectionAnalysis)

Welcome Vagrants!

Welcome all who came to my blog via some random person in Guyana!

Meritocracy

David Brooks has written what strikes me as a very important op-ed today on the topic of social mobility in America which, needless to say, is a very important thing.
The United States is a country based on the idea that a person's birth does not determine his or her destiny. Our favorite stories involve immigrants climbing from obscurity to success. Our amazing work ethic is predicated on the assumption that enterprise and effort lead to ascent. "I hold the value of life is to improve one's condition," Lincoln declared.
The problem is that in every generation conditions emerge that threaten to close down opportunity and retard social mobility. Each generation has to reopen the pathways to success.
...
Economists and sociologists do not all agree, but it does seem there is at least slightly less movement across income quintiles than there was a few decades ago. Sons' income levels correlate more closely to those of their fathers. The income levels of brothers also correlate more closely. That suggests that the family you were born into matters more and more to how you will fare in life. That's a problem because we are not supposed to have a hereditary class structure in this country.
But we're developing one. In the information age, education matters more. In an age in which education matters more, family matters more, because as James Coleman established decades ago, family status shapes educational achievement.
...
In this way these highly educated elites produce a paradox - a hereditary meritocratic class.
It becomes harder for middle-class kids to compete against members of the hypercharged educated class. Indeed, the middle-class areas become more socially isolated from the highly educated areas.
But read the whole thing if you have the chance.
No commentary forthcoming. Sorry (or, you're welcome, depending on your perspective).

The Birds

One of the things that happens when your regional paper is also a newspaper of global reknown is the curious oddity that your local trifles get broadcast and amplified to the world at large. It's not as if this is on the level of a police report, although it's still pretty entertaining to read the editorial's heart-wrenching homage to hawks. I've added bold type to the good parts:
There is no historic preservation district or landmarks commission for hawks' nests. But if there were, the red-tailed hawk's nest at 927 Fifth Avenue, overlooking Central Park at 74th Street, would surely have qualified. Until Tuesday, the nest stood on a 12th-floor cornice with a sublime aerial view of the urban forest in our midst. Since 1993, 23 young hawks have been raised there, sired by a bird called Pale Male. Thousands and thousands of bird-watchers over the years have followed the lives of the hawks in that nest. But this is not an homage to bird-watching - it's an homage to birds.

Aside from being an entertaining read, this editorial is actually quite remarkable, for several reasons. For one, it contains a kind of overwhelming amount of detail, suggesting that someone has been closely observing the nest like on a daily basis for over 10 years. Second, the author of the editorial has, apparently without irony, penned a name on one of the birds. I mean it's either that or the bird named himself. Or the flock named him, and pasted a name-tag on him. Third - most important of all! - a hawk's nest is getting a full editorial! Don't underestimate the editorial as a mere runoff for the cesspool of overly sentimental and trivial humans... This one makes a few strong observations, we can't deny that:
Perhaps residents were annoyed that the hawks didn't do a better job of cleaning up after themselves by using a pooper-scooper or putting their pigeon bones in the trash, the way a human would. Perhaps they simply wearied of the stirring sight of a red-tailed hawk coming down out of the sky to settle on its nest.

I'm not sure what mix of irony and hoakiness is the appropriate mix for interpreting that passage. Although I'm thinking maybe the authors were being serious?
The hawks have gone out of their way to learn to live with us.

I wouldn't have given them so much credit. I would have thought, maybe I'm wrong, that the hawks didn't notice anyone at all - because they're hawks!

This is what you spend your time talking about?

_____,

I forgot your schedule. Are you around before Christmas? I'll email you in January to continue our discussions re: Bush, UFOs, Trivia. Oh, and more important things are totally fine as well.

Adam



Yeah.....

Irony

The New York Times prints an article "How do you prove you're a Jew?" on Jewish marriage, or something, by author named Gershom Gorenberg. Am I the only one who sees irony here? Of all the people who should be preoccupied enough about proving they're a Jew to write an article, Gershom should be last on the list. Aside from that, I have nothing else to say about the article because I don't care about its content one bit.

3.14.2008

First legally blind governor?

I don't know why everyone is calling David Patterson New York's first legally blind governor when his immediate predecessor, Elliot Spitzer, was apparently also legally blind? Yeah I know, feel free to groan at that one.

12.14.2006

The Senate is now in danger of returning to the Republicans again.

Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson was taken to the hospital on Wednesday after becoming disoriented during a conference phone call with reporters. At first, he answered questions normally but then began to stutter. He paused, then continued stammering before appearing to recover and ending the call.

"The senator is recovering without complication," said Adm. John Eisold, the Capitol physician. "It is premature to determine whether further surgery will be required or to assess any long-term prognosis."

Eisold said doctors drained the blood that had accumulated in Johnson's brain and stopped continued bleeding.

Johnson's condition, also known as AVM, or arteriovenous malformation, causes arteries and veins to grow abnormally large and become tangled.

The condition is believed to affect about 300,000 Americans, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The institute's Web site said only about 12 percent of the people with the condition experience symptoms, ranging in severity. It kills about 3,000 people a year.

The senator's wife, Barbara Johnson, said the family "is encouraged and optimistic."

In a statement from Johnson's office Thursday, she said her family was "grateful for the prayers and good wishes of friends, supporters and South Dakotans."

A person familiar with Johnson's situation said surgery began late Wednesday night and ended around 12:30 a.m. Thursday and that the next 24 to 48 hours would be critical in determining Johnson's condition. The person spoke on condition of anonymity out of respect for the senator's family.

If Johnson were forced to relinquish his seat, a replacement would be named by South Dakota's GOP Gov. Mike Rounds.

A Republican appointee would create a 50-50 tie, and allow the GOP to retain Senate control.

Damn, Putin is good.

12.05.2006




Dear _____,

Do you subscribe to the New York Times? Check out their new initiative called Timespoints (The program is basically a way to earn points from the New York Times by linking all your credit card purchases to a New York Times-affiliated account)

http://timespoints.nytimes.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/TCHomePageDisplay?storeId=10001&catalogId=10001
Another description here:

It's an interesting scheme, from a business perspective. The consumer benefits are obvious. From the NYTimes point of view, the benefit of gaining access to information about a customer's credit card purchases is ambiguous. Do you think it's demographic profiling for the newspaper itself? Do you think the NYTimes is attempting to make more informed pitches to its advertisers? Do you think it is actually selling consumer information to other companies? Is it a business loyalty program of some sort? Your new business education surely enables you to answer these questions and more...

Oh yeah, and I am becoming less busy by the end of this week and would enjoy having that in depth discussion we have not been able to have in a while,

Keeping you on your toes,
Adam


Follow up: paranoid analysis:

However, at the same time I see the potential for mischief here. Like what is to stop the Rewards Program from compiling a private database of ALL of my credit card purchases, and then

1) Selling it to interested buyers who will target me with unsolicited mail, phone calls, and spam of all sorts
2) Selling the information to those who may, at some point, have the incentive to blackmail me with disclosures of my purchases (that Hardcore Geriatrics 37 video being but one of my many incriminating purchases)

You are now an expert in business law, right (I think you took one class in that or something)? Does the law protect me?

The webpage itself is misleading:

"Q: Why is The Times doing this?
A: This program allows our readers to get more from The Times by doing the everyday things they already do - dining out, shopping online and staying at hotels. Our objective is to reward our loyal readers and further enhance the value of their relationship with The Times. We are providing members with a hassle-free way to save on their subscription and also an opportunity to save on some of our other offerings - exhibition-quality photographs, thought-provoking books from our journalists, historic pages and more."


So the Times has its customers best interests in mind and there is no gain to be accrued to its organization... Riiight.
I will post the reply on this site.

11.18.2006

I actually paid attention to this election. The national results have been so completely analyzed that there is surely nothing new I can say. However, too little attention has been paid to the results that have taken place right here in Massachusetts. First, some background:

Our present governor, Mitt Romney, has actually accomplished very little. As everyone knows, he is just more interested in running for president than governing Massachusetts. Romney has cut funding for top Republican 'priorities,' like public safety and criminal justice, while espousing his superior conservative ethical bearing in stark relief to those wacky, degenerate Massachusetts people he oversees. Every once in a while, our governor pulls a 'John Kerry' and completely contradicts or reverses an earlier position on a contentious issue, but no one in Massachusetts notices or cares because his approval rating is close to 20 percent anyway. Or our governor will pull a 'George Bush,' which is the Massachusetts equivalent to bristling atop an aircraft carrier in a flight suit with obvious padding to make your crotch look huge. Here in Massachusetts, our governor struck a commanding pose in the Big Dig conference room emblazoned with pocket protector and holding a laser pointer. Wow, look at Romney - he's Atlas and Big Dig disaster relief all rolled into one! Sadly, though, the reality doesn't measure up.

When the Republicans announced that their nominee this election would be Romney's Lt. Governor Kerry Healey, naturally I had nothing to say...

Much more interesting were the Democratic primary candidates. During the primary campaign, the diversity of choices was magnificent and the policy differences among them veritable. At some point close to the middle, Deval Patrick arose as the inevitable nominee. This was interesting, because Patrick's plan and rhetoric were the vaguest of any candidate's. From the beginning, I was not inclined to take him very seriously. Nonetheless, it became clear that he had a kind of unstoppable momentum over and above the other two candidates, and resisting his train to the nomination was futile.

Why did Patrick beat Gabrielli and Reilly? He had the least concrete things to say. He wasn't an amazing speaker or very charismatic (despite what the die-hards said). His campaigning was not very outstanding either. His overall position on the political spectrum was pretty undistinguished. There can be many theories on how he went on to win, but I won't try to decide between them. I'll just list all the plausible ones that I can think of:

Patrick may have been a better politician. This is plausible, given that Reilly was prone to making blunders, and Gabrielli was, from his very outermost appearance to the core, not a politician at all. Not to hold anything against him: how many medical-school trained investment bankers do you know that would have much potential as a political candidate? Gabrielli, had he won (and if I were eligible, I would have voted for him), would have been a frighteningly efficient and probably very successful governor. Patrick, in his wisdom, kept his campaign vague, ESPECIALLY during the primary season, which must prove to have been a wise move given that entire campaign turned out to be so negative.

Patrick may have had a better product. And by product, I don't mean better SHELL. By that token, Healey would have won, since she has great hair.. Of course I mean product in the doctrinal sense. The message, which was, to be fair, perfectly loud and clear in all its vagueness, advertised a desire to govern by coalition rather than faction, by inclusion rather than division. This message, we may safely say, is during these times a badly needed balm at least, and redemption at its most.

It may have been Patrick's reputed charisma, whatever that is imputed to mean. Whether this came from his inspiring personal story or some exceptional personal quality, I don't really get. What I do know is that people reported finding it an integral and reinforcing part of his total message. Does charisma win elections? Sure. But it's hard to define, so let's instead move on to the next factor..

Patrick is black... This is not to take away from any other factor that led to his success this election, just as arguing that "Patrick is charismatic" is not in any way taken to imply that he offered a bad product. Since he is our state's first black governor, any analysis of his candidacy cannot ignore the fact of his race, just as the voters surely did not. Massachusetts is a leading - if not THE leading - progressive state. At the same time, Boston is STILL a racist place. I'm not going to go much further into supporting this claim other than to point out that race and class still correlate to a regretably close degree in Massachusetts, and, in effect, Boston is highly geographically segregated by race. And its a testimonial to the progressiveness of this state that voters overwhelmingly chose a black governor despite these baser ingrained tendencies.

Patrick was genuine and that's why he won. I just don't buy this one, not because I believe Deval is ungenuine (whatever that means in his case...) but because his Democratic opponent was absolutely genuine. Chris Gabrielli was way too much of a brainiac nerd and a policy freak to care for dissembling before the electorate. In other words, he was painfully genuine, which in his case translated to fully, clearly, and transparently lacking any charisma whatsoever, which I guess made it a liability in his case. The only other possibility is that Patrick was PERCEIVED to be genuine, which I guess was the case because his 'genuine' nature was consistently cited by supporters and commentators alike.

Of course, the foregoing analysis has been completely Patrick-centered. In reality, his opponents may have simply been worse. I mean, Reilly is undistinguished as Attorney General and definitely an insider in a political state that loves spending and behind the scenes brokering, thereby making him a risk. Gabrielli lived literally next to John Kerry, a fact that due to its symbolic significance made him automatically unfriendly and suspect to the powerful Southie-type lobby.

Lastly, the voters may have calculated that Patrick had the highest potential to beat the Republican Healey. What the idea may have been here, I can only speculate. Certainly he was different from Healey. And he did beat her.

Tomorrow I'll give my commentary on the campaign itself...

10.06.2006

The Foley thing, aside from being really sick, is just about the best example of bad karma that I have ever seen. Andrew Sullivan, the hands down go-to man in the case of a monstrous election-year Republican gay scandal involving a hypocritical closeted gay politician, abuse of power and church abuse (well, for any one of those, really), may well be enrapturing and ascending to the Creator at this very moment...
"The base of the GOP has been fed homophobia and gay-baiting for years now. It was partly how Rove won Ohio and the presidency. Gay-hating is integral to their machine. Now, the very homophobia these people stoked and used is suddenly turning back on them. Part of me is distressed that the GOP could lose not because of spending recklessness, corruption, torture, big government, pork, and a hideously botched war ... but because of a sex scandal which doesn't even have (so far as we know) any actual sex. But part of me also sees the karmic payback here. They rode this tiger; now it's turning on them. And it's dinner time."

"Three other pages describe Foley's online predation. The GOP is going to have to find another angle to deflect this. They've tried blaming the MSM; they've tried blaming Clinton; they've tried to turn all the victims into pranksters. It's been a worthy display. But in the end they may have to take ... responsibility. Remember that? It used to be a conservative value."


"The silent victims of the closet are not just the closeted gay men and women themselves. The pathology destroys marriages, wounds wives and husbands, traumatizes kids, breaks up families, leads to acting out, sexual abuse and dysfunction. The victims of homophobia are not just gay people. They are straight people as well. And the only way out is through.

If one good thing comes out of this Foley fiasco, I hope it is a clear sign that the closet and its pathologies must end. And only the institution of civil marriage for all can kill it off for good. Gay people desperately need institutions in which to express their love constructively and responsibly. We are just as human as anyone else."


Whichever Democrat invented this scandal is an absolute genius. Here's why:

Hypocrisy - Politicans are all hypocritical, we are taught. Yet contemporary Republicans are supposed to be an improvement on this stereotype; they are straightlaced and devout. Not so. We all know that being a flaming hypocrite is an equal opportunity employer, but I could not imagine a more, well, flaming, example of hypocrisy. Not only is this guy a Republican, not only was he completely in the closet and gay, he was 'chairman of the House caucus on missing and exploited children.' He sponsored a bill protecting children from exploitation. If you're a Congressman, does that make personally exploiting children better or worse?

Sex - Remember when the Republicans got all fake-bent out of shape that 'one of Bill Clinton's trysts with Monica took place in the oval office on...Christmas!' Imagine the excellent opportunities to turn this around: 'One of Representative Foley's internet chats with an underage boy on penises, naked asses, and masturbation took place... during an appropriations bill for IRAQ! The fact that naked asses takes priority over well-armored asses on our troops is an assault on our troops. And, he probably wants gays in the military: underage, gay prostitutes!'

Gay - Just the fact that the GOP is currently so homophobic and yet could be brought down by a gay scandal is quite poetic.

Grandstanding - Republicans arguably won the last couple elections by grandstanding on corruption of leadership and their intolerance to sex scandals. Now, considerable evidence that the leadership not only covered up a sex scandal, but looked the other way, makes this claim ridiculous.

This guy did EXACTLY what Clinton did, aside from having actual sex on the premises. Given that Clinton's scandal was such a winner for the Republicans, this is guaranteed to be a whopping loser for them. Moreover, it seems that he started stalking pages or whatever AFTER Clinton got caught in his sex scandal. It's almost as if Clinton's trangressions gave him the idea... Just a thought. But picture it: "While Republicans were busy shutting down our government and calling in a constitutional crisis over sex, Mark Foley was chatting with your teenager on AIM about penis size." "While Republicans were grandstanding about gays, Representative Foley was turning your kid gay." Ridiculous, I know, but this is the stuff that wins, is it not?

9.10.2006

Associated Press, bringing you the news you didn't know you already knew. These headlines are from today's (September 10th) 'Top Stories' section on Yahoo, presumably because the 'top' number of people already know them and therefore have nothing to gain from reading about them. The complete five listed stories as of 3:00 pm are:

Iran may consider enrichment suspension
Pope warns of tuning out Christianity
Rice: U.S. not entirely safe from attack
GIs hunt al-Qaida in Afghan mountains
U.S. military: Suicide cell in Kabul

Translations:
Iran can always change its mind on its own foreign policy
The pope promotes Christianity
The U.S. is not entirely safe; actually it will never be entirely safe
America is looking for America's "Number 1 wanted man"
Highly sophisticated army intelligence has determined that Afghanistan has a cell of suicide bombers

What is it, obvious day?

It's clear the AP is trying to outdo CNN at running news that people already know. But the AP will lose, because tomorrow CNN is running the entire day's coverage of 9/11, 2001, exactly as broadcast five years ago. Beat that! You can't get more redundant than that. And also, that's just weird.

6.11.2006

____,

I emailed ___ the other day with the intention of provoking him into a blind rage whereby he has no choice but to play me and subsequently surrender to me in tennis. He told me that after all the practice he has been getting in India, he wishes to indulge instead in a match of shuttlecock. It's not what you're thinking you pervert! Shuttlecock is a game where you attempt to bat the cock around until it finds the other person's rough. If you're lucky you can find the cock right over their end, at which point you can really ram it home. Don't pervert this very distinguished aristocratic game with your filthy ideas.

Anyway, let me know you are alive, etc.

your friend,
Howard Hughes

p.s. I think all our pool playing finally came in handy the other day during a competitive family event.

2.18.2006

For how bad it is, the Bush Administration has actually achieved a lot. It's amazing to sit back and reflect on the number of systemic flaws they have duly exposed, without without any intent to do so. The way I look at these things, and I could be very wrong, the biggest problems right now are gross inefficiencies and corruption at the very highest levels of the government apparatus.

Things were not always this way. At one time, federal government had the integrity and the will to get things done, and the state governments and prior to those, the local ward systems, were filled with overwhelming special interests, corruption and stagnation. Not to say the latter has gotten notably better either (and ward systems don't exist anymore), yet under this administration, it is clear that federal government has veered disturbingly toward a kind of boss system as well.

It's pretty clear to me that the administration has been manufactured to make this as palatable on a federal scale as possible. Everyone's suspicion back in the pre-9/11 days that Bush couldn't possibly be in charge has turned out to look correct. Now we know more about how decisions - important decisions - are made in the Bush Whitehouse: An idea has been on the agenda for a while. When the opportunity is ripe, Bush gathers his closest advisers together for a relatively unextensive briefing / series of briefings. Not being a "details person," Bush accepts their briefings without looking any further into alternative views or other information, or intelligence or whatever. I can say that he doesn't look at alternatives because it is a fact the every high-level appointee in that administration has an agenda! With few exceptions, every single appointee has come in with an agenda that is plainly evident from even their surface histories. I have no idea who exactly, but many belong to the Federalist Society. Cheney has been a part of the same group of White House administrators who for over a decade have wanted a toppled Iraq with an American military and contractor presence. Rumsfeld is head-over-heels about the prospect of sleek and stealthy global American military dominance and capability. All these men's advisers and counsels and undersecretaries are in the same boat. I don't think the force of persuasion and coercion of these two groups should be underestimated. The rest of the appointees to the State Department and especially the Intelligence Agencies are either highly screened, or highly loyal. The ones who defect just literally leave, for whatever reason.

The facts have finally come to light that the pre-Iraq intelligence community was dealt with in three ways. The nuts and bolts officials who presented contravening information were literally funneled into oblivion, or if they refused to shut up, threatened or removed. Secondly, the higher-ups on the intelligence community who were ordained to communicated with the Departments were quite simply used. They were exploited to cherry-pick the "right" intelligence. Results-based intelligence inquiries were the norm, and when contrary evidence was presented despite this, it was discriminated against and ignored by the Administration. It's completely known that various department and vice-president officials of various strata said to intelligence officials "give me every piece of credible intelligence that supports this point." Thirdly, officials then pressured the intelligence community to adopt the Administration line, which worked. It's now known that the majority of the intelligence community was not convinced enough to share the Iraq-WMD link claim.

Proceduraly, the genius of this set-up is that it evades scrutiny. Bush is the head of state, and a kind of hard to ignore one at that, so people and the press naturally put their attention on that. Then, one scandal or another happens and the press immediately turns to a presidential press conference or the press spokesman or Laura Bush or whoever, which then proceed to categorically deny any knowledge, involvement, or culpability in the proceedings. The thing is, it may be true. But meanwhile, these various undertakers in the background, many of whom no one has even heard about, actually enforce the order and do the dirty-work. I think the Vice President's recent terse statement in response to the issue of executive leaks is telling in this repect. He said that the Vice President has the authority to de-classify classified information, which apropo the ongoing investigation, would include the identity of covert intelligence officials. Nevermind the fact that no one knew this, because it was signed into law by the President with little notice shortly into his first term. Or the fact that it is an unrestricted power, or that it embodies an ongoing mandate from the President without any oversight or two-way notification.

The Administration has been able to use existing intelligence agency codes and the absence of whistle-blower laws for intelligence officials to its advantage. These laws, which are designed to protect state secrets and information pertaining to national security interests, are now being used to enforce deep conformity to a narrow definition of these things, which is actually equivalent to the administration agenda, sanctioned by executive powers. Only now are we finally seeing a swelling in those willing to give an inside story. And as more are emboldened by their example, it will not be a pretty picture.

It is truly distrubing the degree to which the Adminstration uses and controls information. Their conduct with intelligence is only one example. They don't appear before the press, except in highly scripted events. Even then, they don't actually give any information. They claim executive privillege at every turn, from confirmation hearings, to indictments, to congressional hearings. The public doesn't get to know anything about national security threats, probably for legitimate reasons, but at the same time, vague warnings about that information are used to justify all sorts of things, from terror alerts to continued policies of war to controversial domestic programs such as warrantless wiretapping and indefinite detentions. Some even suggest that the warnings are used tactically. The wiretapping program is by definition another appropriation of information by the Adminstration, and whether it is legal or not will be eventually settled. Allegations that the program and other surveillance programs involve data-mining, the collection of large, encompassing amounts of information and then sifting through all of it according to certain ordained criteria, would be potentially even more of an information offense, because of the implication that acquisition at the first phase at least is non-specific. The known collaboration in this endeavor of telecom giants, and the majority of major search engines brings the picture of informational hegemony to Orwellian new heights. Finally, the creepy way they enforce a groupthink is a huge form of information control comparable to the others listed above.

However, in this way, the Administration may be prescient. I admit, I have no more acceptable alternative to managing national security in this information age. One way or another, presumably a way equivalent to the existing methods that can remain lawful will be found. In contrast, enemies are not encumbered by the same constitutional considerations, so the pressure will be steep. It also might be the case that the age of global, instantaneous media and information transmission has been ushered in, in which all future Administrations will be wise to conduct their own affairs in a much more secretive and controlled way. This does not involve breaking the law, of course, but it does involve disassembling some of the customs developed so far. This might include things like internal transparency, and much more aggressive use of info-ops. In the global age, any piece of the major media has the power to spoil an info campaign, so instead of being formally enslisted, the media has to be managed.

Next time, I will address the premise, which is how the Bush Administration has unintentionally revealed flaws in an accelerating fashion...

2.13.2006

A lot of talk has been devoted to the notion of the so-called "mainstream media," and how our current media does not live up to this supposed standard. But the understanding that the fact that something inhabits the mainstream discourse makes it newsworthy is flawed. It is indicative of the pathology currently suffered by the media: an obsession with the ratings or popularity of news, the stock price of the holding corporation, and the ability of the content to attract a desired "target audience" to the readership.

In all possible respects, the commercialization of news is a bad thing. First, it only encourages the public's sensationalist instinct. It doesn't logically follow that what people will most like to pay attention to, or pay attention to most immediately, is the same thing as what's important. Secondly, what the advertisers want is increasingly in contradiction to what solid, investigative reporting will entail. This is a consequence of increasing conflicts of interest between regard for the readership and the desire to obtain legislative and regulatory favors from the government, itself following from Big Money politics. Most ridiculous of all, a more mainstream media is sometimes interpreted to entail news practices that "keep up" with the prevailing state of knowledge in the country. I can't think of a more blatant reversal of the role of media than to suggest it ought to be more in touch with what people already believe.

I understand the objection that many will raise, that what is actually referred to as 'mainstream' is a location on the ideological spectrum. This complaint is common, in fact, however contradictory the various incarnations of it may be. Liberals complain that the media is more conservative than liberal, and that it certainly is not as liberal as it used to be. Conservatives, on the other hand, recite the refrain of "the liberal media" without end. Therefore, I don't believe this concept holds water. And if it did, would we want the media to be ideologically allied or ideologically determined in any way? From this light, the criticism seems more like a way to attempt to advance your particular viewpoint than a legitimate critique.

Let's list some of the times the media followed the mainstream line during the Bush tenure. After 9/11, for, oh...a good year and a half, the media publicized, parroted, and lionized everything said by any senior administration official. They let legislation get passed without any deference whatsoever to an opposition view. Did the overwhelming mainstream of Americans support bills like the Patriot Act unwaveringly? At the time yes, but that doesn't mean the dissent shouldn't have been covered. Now that people have changed their minds, we're hearing the dissenting views, 5 years after the fact. Nothing has changed. In fact a lot of the worst stuff was already passed in the first bill. In the Iraq build-up, the same pattern occured. It's not that there weren't PLENTY of contrary views to the assertion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was capable/willing to use them imminently. Many of the international intelligence agencies held this dissenting view and were ignored. Not to mention the wide section of the intelligence community represented by those who have spoken out and the U.N. inspectors. Yet basically no airtime was given to these parties.

2.09.2006

We've heard about the cartoons, seen the effects, probably even seen at least one of them. People are rioting from the West Bank to Pakistan. There are a lot of points to be made out of this series of events, most already tired out. People are calling this the anticipated "clash of civilizations" or saying it's proof that a clash is inevitable. Sometimes I'm tempted to see the situation that way. People see the "Arab street" as a monolithic swath of would-be suicide bombers, throwing rocks at international peacekeepers all day. However, this is not the case. Essentially what you're observing is the precept "the loudest are the ones with the least to contribute." A moderate majority still exists. In everyday life, most muslims live in a way that's consistent with contemporary Judeo-Christian teaching. Most permit portrayal of the prophet, even though in both Islam and medieval Christianity, this was forbidden. A similar situation exists in the West Bank, where (up until now) a majority of the population would negotiate with Israel given the opportunity. (Likewise, an overwhelming majority of Israelis would negotiate with the Palestinian government in exchange for peace. This may no longer be the case with the recently elected government, however.)

The problem is the generation being educated right now. Regime, militant, and zealot-controlled public education and media are the standard in the Arab world. An insane amount of the Palestinian population grows up sympathetic to true radicals thanks to this effort, which institutionally praises self-sacrifice as the highest human calling. We are talking television media, the press, K through whatever they have there schooling, religious education, religious training, "investigative" government commissions and initiatives. It's reasonable to say all these institutions continue to supply people with a steady stream of unequivocal incitements. Iran just commenced an "independent government commission" to investigate the true history of the holocaust. This is despite the fact that the president has already prepossessed their conclusion.

This all ignores the fact that the middle eastern governments are characteristically weak, including Iran (which is Persian, so kill me), Iraq Syria, Lebannon, Saudi Arabia and the PA (or whatever it's called now). That's a good thing, right, because then inherently good-natured people are going to rise up against their oppressive demagogue governments and establish moderate civil society that attends to the people's needs of employment, education, and civic institutions and allows them freedom to modernize or to practice Islam to whatever degree of strictness they want, and all will live in peace. Well, it's not a coincidence that it's also one of Al Qaeda's explicit directives is to topple the governments in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, on top of the tired old rants against the west. I believe those who say it is not a clash of civilizations yet are correct. It is a war within Islam and the Muslim world, first. Through all these institutions which convey ideologies, pan-Arab Islamist movements are attempting to unify the entire muslim world around a single goal of the revival of Islam through resistance to subversive forces like the West.

It is scary, but from the perspective of Arab muslims, the case is awfully compelling. Unemployment might be very high, you might be lacking basic human resources. The government as a rule does not work for the people. Of course this varies by country... If you have an education in history, you probably know that Islam had been a great world civilization and empire until the Crusades. If you know modern history, you know that Europe and America have divided and exploited the Middle East for over a century. Geopolitical division, direct occupation, military and financial interference in internal politics, and reciprocal patronage with dictators who neglect their peoples, you name it. If you don't have the internet, although the number of users is surging, the news you hear every day probably goes something like "Zionists / the West _________ (fill in the blank)" The prominent person in your area is probably a firebrand cleric who spreads even more insidious and inflammatory rhetoric. So you think, "Our governments neglect us, our states are continually played off against each other militarily to keep all of them weak, and the news (some of it truthful, but distorted) says that the West continues to attack us and plot to take our resources." Suddenly the group espousing a pseudo-fascist solution based around the shared heritage of Islam doesn't sound bad.

2.07.2006

My commentary on the Supreme court: Alito has been confirmed, Roberts breezed through, third spot pending. Now, Bush and the Federalists have 5 out of 9 Justices predisposed to rule in their favor on issues of importance to their aims. 4 out of 9 are proud Federalist society members (Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito), a group which promotes a radical view of executive power, congressional oversight, and foreign policy objectives. There are many more shadier beliefs originating with current or past members of the group, but no reason to necessarily associate them with any of the sitting justices.

The abortion issue is a sham. These selections had nothing to do with abortion, and the debate shouldn't focus on it. Roe versus Wade may stand, or it may not. It may be worn down to a point of impotence (no pun intended), as everyone was fearing when Alito's internal Reagan whitehouse documents were released, it may be revised, or it may be flatly overturned; or most likely it will be left alone in large part due to the principle of starae decisis and limits on its application will be imposed according to according to a narrower interpretation of other statutes and perhaps the Constitution also. The point is, you shouldn't care. The Administration doesn't choose Supreme Court nominees because they suspect they will overturn the right to an abortion. I'm sure they marginally care about abortion, but it's just meant to be manipulative. This is pretty much the same deal as "let us raise your taxes, and we'll stop boys from kissing." There is no hard evidence that either new Justice will commence rolling back civil rights or abortion or gender rights, despite what the stupid sensationalist media says. However, the evidence is clear as anything, in that both Justices talked about it extensively in their respective confirmation hearings, that both have extreme and reformative views of the nature and extent of government.

The evidence is all out in the open, and people just aren't paying attention to it. Remember Alito defending the point that the unitary executive is actually a misunderstood and not radical approach? There are doubtless many breeds of this "theory" - although it's not so much a theory as it is a movement. Some embody the sentiment of America's beloved president Nixon, right after he resigned, when he said "If the president does it, that means it's not illegal." (There's a reason he became a consultant on foreign policy and not the Constitution) Others suggest that the range of things the executive does is limited in some way, but once those boundaries are established, activities should be unhindered by Congressional oversight. This seemed to be the kind of view Alito was articulating, but who knows.

The next logical question to ask is, who sets those boundaries? Well, in the short-term the executive can do whatever it wants, short of impeachment or the unlikely creation of some kind of new investigative agency. Ultimately, anything can come before the courts, and they have the final word. So, assuming that the executive does everything in the distant expectation that it will ultimately be supervised by the Supreme Court, we can clearly say that a careful Executive does everything that he thinks the Supreme Court won't strike down. There are three years left in this Administration and the president and his staff already have a good idea of how at least four of Justices will rule on major hotbutton issues of government. Scalia, Alito, Thomas and (I think) Roberts, all believe in presidential signing statments, which essentially says they think the role of the Executive is not to execute the laws passed by Congress but to execute AS WELL AS interpret the laws passed by Congress. Then, all three (with Roberts being the perennial wildcard thus far) are proud "textualists" in their interpretation of Constitutional matters. They take literally that clause in the Constitution (whatever it says exactly...) that the Executive has unlimited power to protect the American people in wartime. Ok, so we are in a war on terror for until they say it's over, so I guess the president the president has unlimited authority and that settles the wire-tapping debate. Isn't textualism fun! Alito and Roberts' views on privacy are instructive. I believe it took Alito a few days and several hours of hectoring by Democratic senators before he acknowledged a Constitutional right to privacy. Roberts' answer I believe was something to the effect, "I believe there is a Constitutional right to be left alone." That's interesting, because one, neither is a very emphatic supporter of the right to privacy, and Roberts' answer reflects only a small part of the concept of privacy. Isn't that interesting given the new information on legally questionable undertakings of the Administration which is now being legally predicated on a generic grant for use of force against Al Qaeda.

Ultimately, the wiretapping program itself is not of great consequence to this issue. With the amount of overt attention and scrutiny alreayd being paid to this, it seems unlikely that it will go before the Supreme Court. I'm not a lawyer, but from my assessment it seems illegal. At any rate, the entire notion of Executive authority and control in foreign policy is being radically questioned. I'm greatly concerned by this, because as anyone knows foreign affairs is going to be THE KEY focalpoint for many years.

10.27.2005

New Rule: The New York Times has to stop spinning stuff! Check out this grossly distorted headline: Miers Failed to Win Support of Key Senators and Conservatives. Why can't the Times just accept the White House talking points like everyone else, and leave it at that?

"Harriet Miers's decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the Constitutional separation of powers..." Mr. Bush said he would announce a new nominee "in a timely manner."

End of story. The Senate hasn't voted yet, so how could you ever claim she lacked support?


  • 'Let's move on," said Republican Sen. Trent Lott (news, bio, voting record) of Mississippi. "In a month, who will remember the name Harriet Miers?"'
  • 'Sen. Sam Brownback (news, bio, voting record), R-Kan., a potential 2008 presidential nominee who is courting conservative activists, said he had been "feeling less comfortable all along"'
  • 'Another Republican moderate, Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, said this week that he needed "to get a better feel for her intellectual capacity and judicial philosophy, core competence issues." He added, "I certainly go into this with concerns."'
  • 'Senator David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican who opposes abortion rights...said he continued to question whether Ms. Miers had developed "a consistent, well-grounded, conservative judicial philosophy" and wanted "writings that predate the nomination" to clarify her views.'
  • 'Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, called Republican sentiment toward Ms. Miers's nomination "a question mark."'
  • 'Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a Judiciary Committee member, acknowledged that senators who had met with Ms. Miers were telling colleagues that they had been unimpressed. "She needs to step it up a notch," Mr. Graham said.'
  • 'Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska... called Ms. Miers "an accomplished professional" but said of the Supreme Court: "We want an elite group of individuals. I'm not so sure I want my next-door neighbor, as much as I like him or her, to be on the Supreme Court because they're nice people."'
  • 'Several groups like Concerned Women of America are calling for her withdrawal.
    ''We believe that far better qualified candidates were overlooked and that Miss Miers' record fails to answer our questions about her qualifications and constitutional philosophy,'' said Jan LaRue, the conservative group's chief counsel.'
  • '"I would like to see the nomination withdrawn. If I were in the Senate today I would vote against it," Buchanan said. "My guess is, she will not be confirmed, and she will be withdrawn."'
  • 'The Weekly Standard, a bible for dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, on Sunday called the choice of Miers "at best an error, at worst a disaster" which should be reconsidered.'
  • '"I think it was appropriate. She was not -- I didn't think, a lot of people didn't think -- really qualified. I think we all have to have some sympathy for her because she was thrust into a position as a nominee she shouldn't have been put in, and as a result, got rather beaten up in the press and elsewhere," said Judge Robert Bork, failed 1987 Supreme Court nominee.'

Instead, The Times insists on peddling cheap rumors like "Coincidentally or not, Ms. Miers's withdrawal, ostensibly over the principle of separation of powers as it relates to White House papers, is the very scenario that some conservative commentators have suggested as a face-saving ploy for the nominee and the White House." If one were cynically deranged like Times reporters, one could even infer that Bush was so assured he would announce a new nominee "in a timely manner" because he had known Harriet Miers was going to resign, and perhaps fail from the beginning. And that makes me sick. Like the White House would ever use a Supreme Court nomination for political purposes... Just, look at how they gleefully report the remarks of that fake-Republican senator, Arlen Specter "...Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, remarking that Ms. Miers could benefit from a "crash course in constitutional law."

Look how they quote their own senator Charles Schumer "The selection process, said Mr. Schumer, should include discussions about potential nominees with the Senate. "One of the real reasons for this mistake was there was no real consultation," he said." Quit cherry-picking, Times. You might as well interview someone from the Times itself. Of course that's what he's going to say, but what about ultra-liberal Leahy and Majority Leader Reid, who said Miers was promising. You make me sick New York Times.
New Rule: What the Middle-East conflict needs is a good comedian-statesman-diplomat-therapist, like a Henry Kissinger but with better empathy skills. And more comedic talent. All right, maybe he's a poor start.

Obviously the first thing on the agenda is to get the Israel issue solved. Or that what everyone always says, anyway. For one, although the U.N. is a hideously hypocritical, bordering on powerless entity, the conditions in the occupied territories have been declared a human rights violation about 537 times (check that - it's called U.N. Resolution # 537) at least some of those sanctions are appropriate. I think the wall is a necessary measure, but it has cut off and dismembered numerous Palestinian (and Israeli) communities, through no reason other than the farther east the wall extends, the more security Israel has, and the happier Israel's expansionist extremists will be. The IDF has done bad things, and this happens with any army. However, the objection is legitimate that army occupation of the territories period is the real issue here, not the behavior of the army in general. This is a complicated issue, because military occupation of the adjoining territories is proper in war. It's arguably a necessary security policy when those territories have no centralized power capable of controlling and eliminating rogue and extremist terrorist organizations that would otherwise take over the area. Nonetheless, the effects of fifty years of occupation are undeniable. Like all other arab peoples, Palestinians have their own national identity and aspirations, which actually reached maturity in the 1960s with the newly minted Arafat and the PLO of all things, before it assumed its current non-negotiation stance. The inability of these aspirations to reach fruition to even the slightest extent is no doubt a terrible humiliation for Palestinians. Poverty, which has as much to do with Israel as ongoing non-existent infrastructure, also has negative effects. And of course, no one likes living under military occupation.

Don't get me wrong, I believe the way the Israeli army conducts itself is still incomparably better than the way an Arab army would if the situation were reversed. But the situation in the territories is becoming a worse and worse human rights problem, and a legitimate grievance. I most of Israel's hardliners are even realizing this. A solution to the problem is complex, but I think most mainstream people are currently putting their bets on a push for democracy and control in the Palestinian Authority, and a simultaneous disengagement from the West Bank. Of course, I am not counting on any of the West Bank settlements being relocated before or after then. And the wall will probably stay up for a while. But it's different when the Palestinians have their own sovereign nation. Then, instead of dividing its constituents, Israel is exerting its sovereign right to build a wall on its territory wherever it wants to, just like I have the right (well, if I own a piece of land) to erect a wall between me and my neighbor's house, as long as the nice part of the wall faces outward. (actually the law, check it out if you don't believe me...)

The Palestinian issue is a huge bugaboo and, I would argue, prohibitive barrier to any steps toward reconciliation between the West and the Arab world. We all know it's exploited disproportionately by leaders in Arab countries. For instance, just yesterday, Iran's hardliner president stated that Israel's existence was an affront to Islam, put in place by the West to oppress Islamic states. This is a common meme in Muslim countries. Of course, the speech concluded saying that Israel must be wiped off the map, and any Islamic state that negotiates with it is committing treason. The name of the conference was "A world without Zionism." You have to give credit to extremist Islamists: they don't beat around the bush.

Two summers ago, the Egyptian "media" made real press by asserting that all terrorist attacks around the world were perpetrated by Zionists. I'm not kidding about this. Of course this is really just manipulating definition. But it's also an even more ludicrous extension of the idea, also popular in Egypt for a time (and in the U.S. as well), that Israel perpetrated the 9/11 attacks - or less extremely, knew about it days before the fact and failed to notify the U.S. Of course, every one of these allegations is untrue. The establishment of Israel, which was in effect granted by the British, was hardly more divisive than the arbitrary division of nation-state boundaries in an area of the world that has always been a territory of the prevailing world empire. This should go without saying but, Israel is not an affront to Islam, any more than Arab nations are an affront to Judaism. Both arguments can be made from each respective religion's holy book, and this is just silly. The allegation that Israel (and only Israel) carried out the 9/11 attacks is an insult to the intelligence of Arabs everywhere.

After this is accomplished, the Middle East and a few western countries ought to enter some serious therapy to work out these issues with the mysterious entity known as "The West." What is "The West" and what did it do? Is the West the victors of WWI and particpants in the Sykes-Picot agreement? Or is the British, who were assigned the Mandate of the area under that agreement and it is fair to say are fully responsible for granting the state of Israel existence? Is the West the United States, which tacitly supported all of these historical steps, and is currently by far Israel's biggest financial and political supporter? Maybe if we could figure out what "The West" is, and what it did, we could take steps to act constructively about it. Of course, the West is a real entity and it did do real things, but the point is people need to think in a little more complex way about these issues.

There's more to say, but I'll have to say it later.

10.25.2005

New Rule: No more books on Bill Clinton, unless they're by Bill Clinton. Seriously, I'm not even a Bill Clinton fan. I support this simply because of the stupidity of the people who continue to write "first-hand account," insider, or "expert" exposes, 5 and 6 years after the fact. One autobiography and a couple biographies are really enough, aren't they?

Here's a great list just suggested to me on amazon.com, by JamesNYC248, "an impartial Canadian." First of all, at least get your username and description consistent... That's one line and I'm already confused. But enough ranting.

Our impartial "bi-citizen" has compiled a fittingly impartial list; all 25 books are full-blown critiques of Clinton released within the last 3 years! Ok The most obnoxious one I have seen is the most recent, solemnly inspired by Clinton's recent 60 Minutes interview entitled, cleverly, "Because He Could." I think we all remember something about this:

"Because I could" is the explanation Bill Clinton finally gave for Monica Lewinsky. Because HE can, Dick Morris ridicules the man he advised for twenty years. I don't know if Clinton enjoyed himself, but Morris is certainly having fun. The writer's own voice enriches the experience, not because he's a master narrator, but because he sounds just like the smarty-pants you'd expect. We hear that Bill has a temper, and was only briefly poor. Morris tells how the president copied a typed speech by hand in order to get credit for it. (Everybody knew he didn't type.) The thought that Clinton might have copied out his entire 957-page memoir by hand in order to get credit for writing that gets Morris laughing so hard that he loses his place.

Let me try to translate that sentence by sentence. Ok: Clinton's super-important adviser got the brilliant idea to write yet another book besmirching the former president after seeing an interview on national television. Because he can makes lots of money doing it, DICK MORRIS ridicules the man he advised for probably NOT twenty full years. This book was a tedious and cold-blooded exercise in character assassination, but it sure was fun! Our writer is a self-promoting jackass who wants you to know he is really smart. He reveals things already admitted to directly by Clinton himself, in his own official autobiography, even (it's unbelievable to me that someone promoting this book hasn't at least read the first 200 pages of the autobiography they are ostensibly rebutting). One time, the president cheated on a test! And, Dick Morris, who is smart in all other areas of life, has never heard of dictation for books, so Clinton must have not written his own biography either. That's fraud! Or cheating! Or something!

Perhaps I should sharpen this rule to: you shouldn't write biographies if you're not a biographer. I'll say one more thing on the topic. On the back cover, there is a series of false dichotomies. The first one is:

"the poor little boy from Hope...or the privileged fortunate son of Little rock, Yale, and Oxford, England?"

Are we to believe that it's impossible to be both poor and through hard work and ability win scholarships to Georgetown and then Yale and Oxford? Regardless, I'm not going to waste the resources to read more than the front and back cover, so this book could reaaly be a fine piece of work. (not)

Here's another interesting book written by a "non-partisan" military commander. On the cover, someone thought it would be really clever to PHOTOSHOP what looks like a JOINT into Clinton's mouth. See he really is a tree-hugger, and that's why he endangered our military. And it explains the cigar thing too.

"This is certainly not the first anti-Clinton book, but it is different in that Patterson does not seem to have a political ax to grind. In fact, at times, he appears apologetic about having to write about his ex-commander in chief. Yet, in the end, this retired soldier felt his last act of service should be to share his experience with his country."

Hmm. Does the fact that Amazon explicitly pairs this book with "How Liberal Democrats Undercut Our Military," written by the same author, count as evidence to the contrary? Publishers Weekly summarizes:

In Patterson's account, Clinton emerges as a careless, disingenuous frat boy, mercilessly hen-pecked by the domineering Hillary, whose tirades leave him looking like a "beaten puppy." He presides over a chaotic administration focused on spin and fund-raising; he fondles an Air Force One stewardess and ogles Patterson's wife in the Oval Office; he loses the nuclear launch codes; and he cheats at golf-which Patterson views as "not just a peccadillo but symptomatic of the way he approached life." Patterson also asserts that Clinton "directly and severely harmed this nation's security." Clinton debilitated the military, Patterson claims, by downsizing it, trying to remove the ban on homosexuals and put women in combat roles, "gutting morale" with pay freezes and "rudderless" peace-keeping missions, and turning it into an "armed social services agency." Worst of all, Clinton was soft on terrorism and missed a chance to get bin Laden with cruise missiles. Patterson raises important issues, but he seems most often affronted by what he sees as Clinton's belief that he "was privileged to conduct himself at a much lower code of conduct than the men or women he would repeatedly order into harm's way."

No, no political ax to grind there.

One could similarly satirize this account by inserting the word "Bush" wherever Clinton appears, with 2 exceptions. Honestly, if someone gave me a copy of this account and told me it was about Bush, I wouldn't think twice. To be honest, objectively, I think it describes him better. Maybe, then, the new rule should be: don't criticize people for things you couldn't do yourself. Of course, this still leaves plenty of people to bring light to the sacred critical role of our democracy. In addition, facts are still facts, to be gathered and disseminated by all. It just means that random editors from Vanity fair, and the guy who got too creative with Photoshop, are not, automatically, included.
Another three months, another update. I haven't had time to follow the latest supreme court nomination process all that closely, but I have some thoughts to get down nonetheless.

I posted the last commentary on Harriet Miers about an hour after the news came out. Since then, I have been able to appreciate a few different perspectives on the nomination. I have to admit, what made me most curious to consider some of the pro arguments was the fact that Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid along with Senator Leahy and some other Democrats openly and admittedly espouse optimism about this nominee, and admit they were intimately involved in the deliberative process with the President that ended up selecting her. Here is their stated rationale: We thought it would be good to have someone who was not another appeals court judge on the bench, who could bring a more pragmatic and real-life perspective to the overly groomed and often cloistered group elites that currently inhabits it. I found this curious.

For one, and I say this completely non-judgementally, I had never thought of this concept before. Obviously, from the beginning, because of the very nature of our democracy, regular-man roots often embodied in a populist philosophy was considered an asset in elected officials, particularly those in prominent positions such as the elected posts of the executive branch. This is because a sense of familiarity and sympathy can be a huge factor in gaining votes. However, it never occured to me that this could be an asset in the judicial branch. One, judges aren't elected, so the previous analysis doesn't apply. Two, judges don't don't represent or lead the people. They are specialists in a sense, and their expertise is to interpret the law. Considering factors such as background only seems to increase the legislative function of the judiciary, a trend the Republicans in particular professes they wish to reverse. That's like saying "we want someone with everyday experience on the Board of Governers at the Fed." She might know nothing about macroeconomics, but at least she knows what it's like to pay prime rate for a mortgage.

The second thing I found interesting is that Miers doesn't particularly possess the characteristics they are referring to. The narrative is all messed up. She's been touted as a private sector nominee. Yet she was Bush's personal attorney (that's real everyday experience), was appointed to the lottery commission by Bush, and subsequently to the city council. And of course, she comes fresh out of five years working at the most typical of private sector jobs - the White House personal attorney! First, she was chief secretary, and now she is White House Counsel. The extent of her legitimate private sector experience is working with a metropolitan law firm, which probably puts her well below the experience level of any other nominee in history.

The obvious conclusion is: 2 counts bullshit equals hidden agenda. It's possible that Democrats have finally been able to engage a level of political subterfuge superior to anything the Republicans were able to recognize. A resignation is obviously bad for Bush; a withdrawal is even worse. It would take some fairly astute political anticipation to predict that Miers would simultaneously worry harcore social conservatives because of her lack of a clear record supporting the causes they want, and intellectual conservatives that tend to inhabit the thinktanks because of her obviously nonexistent qualification.There is another possibility. It is possible that some Democrats honestly thought Miers was the best possible pick, to which I would respond, what is their problem?

The mix of opinions on Miers is very strange. On the one hand, she's an easy objection to people who have either the legitimate concern or pretext to care about level of qualifications. Personally, I couldn't care less that she went to school in Texas, in contrast to the objections made by some. What concerns me is that throughout her considerably active career, she has never done anything even remotely remarkable or groundbreaking. All of the memos and documents being released from her public and private work show a diligent but completely pedestrian worker. More disturbing, her writen legal opinions and advice, dating back for more than 10 years, oftentimes do little more than summarize the original legal question, using a few legalistic words like "prudent" and "just" in the process. Intellectual conservatives in particular had hoped for an earth-shattering thinker and communictor, in the mold of Scalia, to further entrench the legitimacy and convincingness of the conservative legal and social agenda for generations to come. There's also the small issue that she doesn't have any expertise in constitutional law. Bush staffers argue that she has learned while in the White House. Well that's great. I'm sure she has gotten a really complete and balanced education on constitutional law exclusively while working in the Bush White House! That's like learning how to Not Torture People at Guantanamo.

This is what makes the Supreme Court the Supreme Court, and not some state court; their final domain is the Constitution, not just statute. Not to mention, everyone agrees it takes several years for even the most seasoned legal minds to adjust to the job once seated. Even Stephen Breyer has admitted it took him many years to fully grasp the workings of the job, and he's known on the court as "the professor."

Then you have the social conservatives who are disappointed that Bush didn't have the balls to make a flagrantly political appointment of an avowed conservative political activist judge. Arguably, this is what Bush could have done if his political coalition was stronger and not undermined by the war in Iraq, the willingness of the mainstream to recognize his inability to manage the war - not to mention the pending criminal investigations of his two second in commands. Since the two ELECTORAL pillars of the current Republican party are reform social conservatives and intellectual neoconservatives, we can see why mainstream Republicans (or anyone not from Mars, for that matter) are opposed to the nomination.

I personally am hoping that she is not withdrawn, so that the process can proceed to the confirmation hearing. From my perspective, no matter what happens this event might be entertaining. Though it's a reasonable assumption that Senators will accept a fair degree of line-drawing when it comes to personal views and/or views on specific issues, however not as permissively as during the Roberts hearing, they will surely be much more demanding when it comes to demonstrating her judicial philosophy and understanding. Contrasting with Roberts, who has a long record of service both publicly and privately, Miers is not even responding adequately to questions seeking to get a preliminary assessment of her legal perspectives. Charles Schumer noted after his meeting that she was unaware of some important legal precedents. Meanwhile, Patrick Leahy (her "special" advocate - not even sure what that means) and chairman Arlen Specter, who is probably the most judicious and moderate person in the senate), unequivocally stated that Miers' responses to the PRELIMINARY questionnaire were "from inadequate to insulting." So if she is able to articulate her legal philosophy during the senate confirmation hearing, that will be interesting because I don't have the faintest idea what it is. And if she doesn't articulate any legal philosophy during the hearing...well, that will be a spectacle at the very least, although very pathetic.

Honestly, I doubt it will get that far. Of course, this brings up the interesting question of what was the reason, be it rationale or more manipulative purpose, for the nomination to begin with. I'll put down my thoughts on that when I have some more time.

10.03.2005

I was all for the Roberts nomination and confirmation. I think he could end up being the best chief Justice to serve in a long while. This last nomination is nothing short of absolutely hilarious though. I thought Dave Chappelle's Killing Them Softly was the funniest thing I've seen all week, but this tops that. All kidding aside, this is sad. I can't even talk about Miers' legal philosophy because she doesn't have one; she has never served as a judge! Everyone was always quick to point out in the Roberts nomination process that nothing he produced in his years as an advocate, be it lawyer, consultant, or aide, should be interpretted as evidence of his views. The exceptionality of client-advocate relations is a basic premise of the legal tradition, and its truth is undebatable. Yet not only do we have nothgin BUT a client-advocate record for this nominee, the record manages to raise lots of disturbing questions even with the client-advocate provision.

Ms. Miers was George W. Bush's personal attorney in Texas. Miers is currently president Bush's top legal aide as White House Counsel. She has served as a legal aide to his campaigns in the past. The extent of her public service has been serving one term on the Dallas City council. The best part is that as the White House counsel, Miers led the search for the nominee to replace O' Connor, consulting with senators from both sides to try to gather a list of names of possible candidates. Needless to say, I doubt that one of the senators floated the response "well how about you Ms. Miers?" So not only is this a complete stealth nominee, its kind of another example of Bush appointing someone who is an unabashed loyalist in the context of all the ongoing allegations of cronyism. Bill Maher's comedic gag "does Bush know more than 3 people?" has become a serious question.

It has been suggested that Miers is a trailblazer for women in the legal profession, and that this reflects on her level of qualification to serve on the Court. What you don't get from the catchy soundbite is this just means she was one in a first wave of female lawyers, and a part of the larger first wave of female professionals of the time, for that matter. That's commendable, but not relevant. Afterall, Clarence Thomas was a trailblazer of sorts as an African American in the judicial profession, and he still voted against upholding affirmative action.

This candidate is so obviously going to be blocked by the senate it's not worth wasting more time on it. The more pertinent question, and the one that would take a far more astute level of analysis, is what purpose does the nomination serve? I'm not qualified to comment, above giving my initial thoughts. It's possible that the quick blocking of this choice will serve as political leverage for the next, real Supreme Court nominee. We shall see.

8.30.2005

I was just browsing through the Times book review's archive, which unfortunately tends to have self-indulgent and uninformative soliloquies posing as book reviews. But it's still hard to believe some of the stuff they print there sometimes. I'm beginning to feel more and more like this is a slanderous, petty, and borderline idiotic section. For instance, the review of the latest Hillary Clinton biography. Let's just start it off strong:
Monica Lewinsky is fat. Bill Clinton has long been a member of the clean-plate society. Evelyn Lieberman, the former White House deputy chief of staff, is reputed to be ''a little overweight.'' Mrs. Clinton herself has long battled a tendency to beef up, but in perhaps the most astonishing revelation in the book, ''several of her Wellesley College classmates, who played sports with Hillary, described how she looked in a T-shirt and shorts,'' and according to them, ''she had a tiny waist, slim legs and ankles, and small buttocks.'' When coupled with the fact that the young Hillary Clinton was referred to by classmates as ''Sister Frigidaire,'' and by White House staff as ''the Big Girl,'' and that Hillary's tubby husband Bill gave a high-level position to Janet Reno, the implication is clear. Hillary Clinton does not merely view the world through the asexual, unmaternal, left-leaning eyes of a poorly groomed woman who was surrounded in her youth by manipulative pinkos who were playing for the other team. At some level, Hillary Clinton feels most comfortable in the company of fat people.
The obvious conclusion is that Hillary Clinton, in a ploy of Machiavellian subtlety, deliberately overcame her small buttocks and thin ankles and put on a few pounds in a cunning attempt to curry favor with fat voters. And in a nation that is looking increasingly chunky, this alone could insure her victory in the 2008 presidential elections.
Are there any other revelations in the book that are worthy of note? Yes...
You did not misread that. If 'worthy of note' means "off-base, trite and worthy of the interest of the tabloid community" then, well, I would have to agree. As much as I would love to have a great paper based out of New York to read every day, this paper has too many idling narcissists who have little important or useful to say. Unfortunately, the book review is really like a navel-gazing club consisting of people who have written books themselves editorializing on the most recent books of others.

Note: This doesn't apply to the actual reporting, which still is probably some the best out there, when it wants to be. When it does not choose to report on something, the Times is remarkable for its omission. Like half of the news will just be left out. Most selections chosen are somehow in the interest of the "New York crowd," whatever that means. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just not at all a complete news source.

Not to single out the Times. News media in general are on a steady decline. I personally find reading political editorials more painful than listening to the politicians themselves, which is pretty bad. Investigative journalism (you know, that thing where they like visit places and find out things other networks haven't already covered) is fast becoming a wistful thing of the past. With the exception of maybe CNN, our modern day "partisanship," with all the all the intellectual dishonesty and acrimony that entails, has become the rule. I'm aware of the argument that "Bush and his partisan cronies have caused this." I seriously doubt that. But even if it is true, it turns out that things are even more regretable than they seem. This is simply because even with all of its left-leaning tendencies intact, the news media have done a truly risible job of covering and printing the stories that could have fatally exposed Bush's failings. The press loved the Clinton fiasco, whoever goes down in the process be damned. But because the Bush White House is much better a covering up and containing sensitive information, we heard about the CIA outing scandal for about a week.

Update / rebuttal: But the Times does investigative work on the most important things, like when it tried to unseal private documents regarding nominee Judge Roberts' adoption records. I mean sorry, this one's really dumb. And kind of offensive. What could the paper think it could gain from this? 1) Not that I'm experienced in this matter... but I would guess that accessing a private individual's private records on a matter such as adoption is... what's the word for that - oh yeah, illegal! At least one of Roberts' personal attorneys said, "Sources familiar with the matter tell FOXNEWS that at least one lawyer turned the TIMES down flat, saying that any effort to pry into adoption case records, which are always sealed, would be reprehensible." 2) If the Times succeeded and obtained the documents somehow, without attracting public attention and censure, I think the story would have been at best laughed at as a frivolous piece of wasted resources. 3) Normally, when a newspaper starts investigating a topic for a story, it has a certain rationale in mind... I'm finding it very difficult imagine in this case what that would be.