succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, March 27, 2004

The Beat Alls episode of the Powerpuff Girls is Brilliant! That is all.

So Good Right Now

Ok, so perhaps I have regressed back to being an undergraduate. But damn it's fun. Last night was April's birthday party and we celebrated by playing beer pong (I am one half of the undefeated champion team!) and flip cup and asshole and some complicated game involving dice and shots of rum. I was seriously wrecked. Sanna and Andy helped me back to Andy's place and settled me into his bed (which was totally sweet). I crashed fully clothed - watch, jacket, everything but shoes. Woke up this morning slightly disoriented for a few seconds, then Anna called and Andy and Sanna heard me talking and piled into bed. We invited Anna over and then decided we needed to wake up Travers so wandered down to his room and all piled into his bed. Then April and Scott finally woke up so it was time for hangover breakfast. Lots of coffee and juice and bagels and omelets and keg stands (!) and good times. Seriously stood in the shower for minutes this afternoon laughing out loud just remembering various high points of the evening and morning. Now it's time for the First Annual Grad School Olympics and Spring Fiesta! Where many margaritas and rum runners shall be consumed on Emory's dime. Does this make me an alcoholic?

Friday, March 26, 2004

I find this mistake very indicative of many of the reasons I both fear and revile Attorney General John Ashcroft:

Attorney General John Ashcroft said that God is mentioned "in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, national anthem, on our coins and in the Gettysburg Address."

Well, he was 80 percent right — but he was wrong on the most important item. The Constitution is the creation of "we, the people" and never mentions a deity aside from the pro forma phrase "in the year of our Lord."

Above quoted from this Times editorial. Although, to be honest, I care perhaps less than I should about the issue at hand in the editorial - namely, whether or not to omit "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. But I love what this guy has to say. Once again, I feel a reminder to Dear Leader might be necessary:

In the summer of 1787, with the Constitutional Convention haggling over the nation's fate, Franklin proposed opening the day's meetings with a prayer, a proposal often cited by public-prayer advocates. But these advocates leave out the rest of the story.

After Franklin's motion, Alexander Hamilton argued that if people knew that the delegates were resorting to prayer, it would be seen as an act of desperation. Then Hugh Williamson of North Carolina pointed out that the convention lacked the money to pay for a chaplain, and there the proposition died. Franklin later noted, "The convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary."

Alongside Franklin's doomed proposal, George Washington's religious fervor is often cited. The father of our country was a regular churchgoer, but what's left out of the story is that he usually left services before Communion. He was a deist who called on Providence, an amorphous power he referred to as "it." Nominally Episcopalian, Washington was also a Freemason, along with many other founders. A semisecret society, Organized Freemasonry was formed in London in 1717 by a group of anticlerical free thinkers dedicated to the ideals of charity, equality, morality and service to the Great Architect of the Universe.

Then there is Jefferson, who inveighed against "every form of tyranny over the mind of man," by which he meant organized religion. In 1786, his Statute for Religious Freedom was approved by the Virginia Legislature through the efforts of James Madison, a chief architect of the Constitution and later an opponent of the practice of paying a Congressional chaplain. This statute guaranteed every Virginian the freedom to worship in the church of his choice and ended state support of the Anglican Church.

But more important than the founders's private faith was the concept that they all embraced passionately: the freedom to practice religion, as well as not to. They had risked their lives to free America from a country with an official religion and a king who claimed a divine right. They believed that government's purpose was to protect people's earthly rights, not their heavenly fates. As for Jefferson, he wrote that it made no difference to him whether his neighbor affirmed one God or 20, since, he added, "It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." (emphasis mine)

How, in over two centuries, have we managed to move so far backward on this issue? How can our own leaders have so little sense of history? How on earth can Ashcroft actually think that God is mentioned in our Constitution?! Might it be, I don't know, critical that the U.S. Attorney General be a little more familiar with our Constitution?!

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Reason #1,362 why Bush's supposed support for American troops is hypocritical

"Disapproval must have registered upon my face, for one of my tablemates said, "Come on, David, this is funny." I wanted to reply, Over 500 Americans and literally countless Iraqis are dead because of a war that was supposedly fought to find weapons of mass destruction, and Bush is joking about it. Instead, I took a long drink of the lovely white wine that had come with our dinner. It's not as if I was in the middle of a talk-show debate and had to respond. This was certainly one of those occasions in which you either get it or don't. And I wasn't getting it. Or maybe my neighbor wasn't.

At the end of the slide show, Bush displayed two pictures of himself with troops and noted these were his favorites. The final photograph was a shot of special forces soldiers--with their faces blurred to protect their identities--who were posing in Afghanistan where they had buried a piece of 9/11 debris in a spot that had once been an al Qaeda camp. Bush spoke about the prayer the commander had said during the burial ceremony and noted he had this photograph hanging in his private study.

So what's wrong with this picture? Bush was somber about the sacrifice being made by U.S. troops overseas. But he obviously considered it fine to make fun of the reason he cited for sending Americans to war and to death. What an act of audacious spin. One poll recently showed that most Americans believe he either lied about Iraq's WMDs or deliberately exaggerated the case to justify the war. And it is undeniable that in seeking public support for the war he made many false assertions that went beyond quoting intelligence that turned out to be wrong. (I've written about this in many other places. If you still don't believe Bush mugged the truth, check out this short guide.) As the crowd was digesting the delicious surf-and-turf meal, Bush was transforming serious scandal into rim-shot comedy. "

(excerpt from David Corn piece)

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

$10 each to the Kerry campaign, 34 million friends, and MoveOn. Well worth slightly fewer beers tonight.

Personal Responsibility

"Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you."
RICHARD A. CLARKE, former counterterrorism chief.

More like this, please.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

date/non-date dilemma solved

Because I know you all follow my social life with such rapt attention. (/sarcasm) latest e-mail from boy includes line referencing "a girl I've been dating." So, worst case senario, I made a new friend with whom I have a lot of fun. A little disappointing, but hardly a bad thing.

The O.C.

Sure, it has high school boys sleeping with their ex-girlfriend's mom and every other plot line you'd expect from 90210-meets-Dawson's Creek on crack, but tonight's episode also featured one of the Hilton sisters (I never can remember which is which) claiming to work on a thesis on magical realism in literature and stating that Gravity's Rainbow is Thomas Pynchon's masterpiece! Brilliant!

From a Times article about South by Southwest:

"There are major companies who are trying to keep their businesses afloat," said Jay Boberg, president of MCA Records, in one of the conference's panel discussions. "And there's everybody else. Everybody else is doing great."

Saw some first-hand evidence of that last night when Matt and I ventured into East Atlanta to see Broken Social Scene. Sold out show on a Tuesday night, three bands, all with over-lapping members/friends. Just this big group of people who enjoy making music together. Was lovely to witness. The lead singer for BSS stumbled onstage around midnight with two declarations - 1) I'm drunk! and 2) we're playing until at least 2 am! Though I have to admit the legs are a little sore from standing for 4.5 hours straight, it was fucking amazing. Yay for live music.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Food for Thought

David Brooks floats an interesting theory about the role of religion in society. I don't entirely agree with that he has to say (for starters, if we're going to talk about theology as a class in school we need to go way beyond the New and Old Testaments and the Koran). Nevertheless, it is an interesting way to frame various political events. Especially since I tend to fall into the former category described here:

"According to Chappell, there were actually two camps within the civil rights movement. First, there were the mainstream liberals, often white and Northern. These writers and activists tended to have an optimistic view of human nature. Because racism so fundamentally contradicted the American creed, they felt, it would merely take a combination of education, economic development and consciousness-raising to bring out the better angels in people's nature.

The second group, which we might today call the religious left, was mostly black and Southern. Its leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., drew sustenance from a prophetic religious tradition, and took a much darker view of human nature."


"But the more interesting phenomenon limned in Chappell's book is this: King had a more accurate view of political realities than his more secular liberal allies because he could draw on biblical wisdom about human nature. Religion didn't just make civil rights leaders stronger — it made them smarter."


"Whether the topic is welfare, education, the regulation of biotechnology or even the war on terrorism, biblical wisdom may offer something that secular thinking does not — not pat answers, but a way to think about things.

For example, it's been painful to watch thoroughly secularized Europeans try to grapple with Al Qaeda. The bombers declare, "You want life, and we want death"— a (fanatical) religious statement par excellence. But thoroughly secularized listeners lack the mental equipment to even begin to understand that statement. They struggle desperately to convert Al Qaeda into a political phenomenon: the bombers must be expressing some grievance. This is the path to permanent bewilderment."

The book he's referencing is "A Stone of Hope" by David L. Chappell.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Up is Down

The Center for American Progress has some interesting documentation of Bush's "war on terror" (or, as the case is increasingly appearing to be, lack thereof). I realize that we can't jump into a time machine and prevent 9/11, and yes, there is a certain amount of 20/20 hindsight happening here. But nonetheless, is it so outrageous to expect the Bush administration to step up and say, yes, we goofed. We made some bad intelligence decisions that seemed ok at the time, but in hindsight, were a mistake. Oh wait, that would be expecting personal responsibility from the childish administration that's only interested in scape-goating and misdirection. Silly me.

"The Bush Administration actually reversed the Clinton Administration's strong emphasis on counterterrorism and counterintelligence. Attorney General John Ashcroft not only moved aggressively to reduce DoJ's anti-terrorist budget but also shift DoJ's mission in spirit to emphasize its role as a domestic police force and anti-drug force. These changes in mission were just as critical as the budget changes, with Ashcroft, in effect, guiding the day to day decisions made by field officers and agents. And all of this while the Administration was receiving repeated warnings about potential terrorist attacks."


"4/6/00 – DoJ Budget Goals Memo: Official annual budget goals memo from Attorney General Janet Reno to department heads dated 4/6/2000 detailing how counterterrorism is her top priority for the Department of Justice. In the second paragraph, she states, "In the near term as well as the future, cybercrime and counterterrrorism are going to be the most challenging threats in the criminal justice area. Nowhere is the need for an up-to-date human and technical infrastructure more critical."

5/10/01 – Ashcroft New DoJ Budget Goals Memo: Official annual budget goals memo from Attorney General Ashcroft dated 5/10/2001 (directly compares to the 4/6/2000 Reno memo). Out of 7 strategic goals described, not one mentions counterterrorism, a serious departure from Reno."

Budget documents available from the link above show "...that Ashcroft was planning to ignore the FBI's specific requests for more translators, counterintelligence agents and researchers, mentioned above. It additionally shows Ashcroft was trying to slash funding from counterterrorism and grants and other homeland defense programs before 9/11." Even post 9/11 budget documents indicate that Ashcroft was providing significantly less funding for counterterrorism efforts than the FBI requested.

I'm not saying that Ashcroft made the wrong decisions at the time (although personally I think he did, I am clearly not an intelligence or security expert) the point I'm trying to make is that this party line about receiving faulty intelligence and trying to blame anyone other than themselves for the current mess we're in is complete and total hogwash. It should be criminal that the American public is continuously fed this lie.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Andy and Travers stopped by my place this morning (ok, afternoon) and it made me really happy, even though I was still pajama-clad and had only been awake for about 20 minutes. Then a few minutes later April and Scott knocked on the door. I had forgotten how much I like it when people spontaneously show up to visit. Since practically everyone I know lives at Clairmont it just makes more sense for me to go there than to ask everyone to come here, but I miss playing hostess. So it was a good way to start the day. Then I went to the Urban Market where I looked at rooms full of things I couldn't afford, and bought a small bday gift for April and a new bright red vase for me. Too bad I can't really afford flowers to put in it. The two roses by the window will have to do this week. My current poverty level should be motivation to do my taxes, so I can hurry up and cash my refund check, but so far that has not been the case. In fact, I have yet to do much of anything productive today. Well, I did attend my NOW meeting and I did make food for the next few days. So I suppose I haven't been entirely worthless. Just mostly. Also, received e-mail from Brian today saying his wife had been matched for residency here at Emory, so the two of them will be moving to Atlanta soon! I hadn't quite realized how much I miss that kid until it occurred to me how happy that news made me. I think I'm a better student/researcher when I have him to bounce ideas off of. I blogged a long time ago that I felt like he was my first really satisfying professional relationship and I guess I haven't really found that since then. So it'll be good to have him around to nag and make fun of me again. All right, enough procrastination. I must read more papers about influenza or how the 2005 budget will affect medicaid or figure out how to run this SAS macro. One of those things must be accomplished by 9 pm.