succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, December 17, 2005

John Spencer (aka Leo McGarry) died yesterday.

Weirdly, in between repeated mashings of my snooze button this morning, I kept dreaming that I worked for Josh Lyman. But was way less annoying than Donna.

One of my favorite 'When I Grow Up' fantasies involves me working as a public health policy wonk (it's ill-defined how I find this job...working for a think tank? or the District Health Department?). My brother is working as a chief of staff or speech writer or something for a senator (or maybe even the president?) and I drive him nuts because through him I know all the right people to pester and I have a tendency to storm in to offices dramatically and rant a la Mary-Louise Parker/Amy. Of course, I could never actually have this job because I have such a short period of tolerance when it comes to actual politicking. Alas.

In other news:
Books Completed - Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. As usual, I wish I were attending Carrie's class while reading this much to discuss!
Books started: White Teeth by Zadie Smith (much overdue, the hardback has been sitting on my shelf for years)
Books contemplating taking home for break: Zodiac by Neal Stephenson (because it's good to include one book you can finish in an afternoon), A Compact History of Everything by David Foster Wallace, and "The Sex Side of Life" Mary Ware Dennett's Pioneering Battle for Birth Control and Sex Education by Constance M. Chen; the last two because I can't decide if I'll be in more of a math geek or public health/feminist geek mindset over reality I know it will be no small feat just to get through half of White Teeth...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

He may have seen me naked, but I'm no one special

Sometimes the truth hurts. And sometimes it sets you free. Ok, that cliche nearly made me vomit. But I've had one too many glasses of wine to care. So therapy this morning was awesome. Seriously, we should all be in therapy. At least, that's my opinion. I had one of those A-Ha! moments, a moment that makes several other aspects of my life and personality make sense. The whole thing is cliche - it goes back to my early childhood, to my relationship with my mother...and it explains half the entries in my journal since high school. Which is...nice. And hard. Of course. So my task for the holidays is to notice when I need or want things. Not to even begin to think about acting on them. But to be aware and acknowledge them. Maybe I should start a new blog? Needing and Wanting. Wouldn't that be amusing? /dripping sarcasm

Holy Shit. Might this be a sign of the apocalypse? Nevertheless, I have to say I'm pleased.

"It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong," Bush said during his fourth and final speech before Thursday's vote for Iraq's parliament. "As president I am responsible for the decision to go into Iraq. And I'm also responsible for fixing what went wrong by reforming our intelligence capabilities. And we're doing just that."

Of course, I'm skeptical of his rosy outlook on intelligence reform, but it's about damn time someone took responsibility for something. Baby steps.

Monday, December 12, 2005


The basic difference between Dems and Repubs? (a West Wing quote, of course)

When the President's got an embassy surrounded in Haiti, or a keyhole photograph of a heavy water reactor, or any of the fifty life-and-death matters that walk across his desk every day, I don't know if he's thinking about Immanuel Kant or not. I doubt it, but if he does, I am comforted at least in my certainty that he is doing his best to reach for all of it and not just the McNuggets. Is it possible we would be willing to require any less of the person sitting in that chair? The low road? I don't think it is.

I've tried to wrap my brain around the appeal of the everyman, the plain talker, the Joe Schmo president...and I know I'm a member of the ivory tower intelligentsia, so clearly I'm biased, but it's just a position I will never understand. Why wouldn't you want the person with his/her finger on the button to be smarter than you?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

My uncle and his youngest son created this website, from which you can order 'gift-quality' lumps of coal for anyone who needs a little reminder that they have room for improvement. And someone has used their site to send two lumps to the President! Here's what my uncle says:

A customer of Two Lumps of Coal has requested that we send a bag of coal to the President of the United States, George W. Bush, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Washington D.C.
With this customer's permission, you are invited to periodically use this UPS tracking code at the UPS website [see note below] over the next few days to monitor the progress of our customer's gift from America's heartland to inside the beltway. Who knows where it might end up? Fort Detrick ? Cheney's 'undisclosed location'? A Homeland Security dumpster?
No matter the odds, we will press on with our mission. Once committed, we will not retreat. It may be like watching paint dry; it might interesting.
We have requested that an adult! sign for the package.
Of course, per Two Lumps of Coal privacy policy, we will not release the name of the customer to the recipient unless the gift recipient requests that information.

Tracking Number: 1Z0743R3A891051038
Click here to track if UPS has received your shipment or visit on the Internet.

Egads! This morning I found myself agreeing with Andrew Sullivan! What's next?

Charles Krauthammer apparently wrote a treatise last week about why torture, in some specific instances, is defensible. Andrew Sullivan then wrote a response in The New Republic. Sure, if I were a responsible blogger I would go read the 4,000 word Krauthammer essay and however-long-Sullivan piece, but, well, I'm a grad student. So instead I'll rely on the excerpts in the Times. Krauthammer puts forth the cliched scenario of a bomb in a major American city and a terrorist in captivity whom you must make talk to find out the location of the bomb! He posits that "...there are circumstances in which, by any rational moral calculus, torture not only would be permissible but would be required." [emphasis mine] First, what the hell kind of 'rational moral calculus' reaches that conclusion? And second, history is full of examples of the plain, simple fact that torture does not produce reliable intelligence. Senator John McCain is just the most local version of this fact (although he did provide his name, rank, and serial number, beyond that he provided captors with the names of the Green Bay Packers instead of members of his squadron). All torture does is motivate victims to provide the information they think is being sought, and there is no way to determine the truthfulness or accuracy of that information. Worse yet, our current inability to present a believable, uniform opposition to torture harms what might actually help us to gain useful intelligence - our "...reputation as a repository of freedom and democracy." (Here's where I agree with Sullivan and it freaks me out) Sullivan points out that "what minuscule intelligence we might have plausibly gained from torturing and abusing detainees is vastly outweighed by the intelligence we have forfeited by alienating many otherwise sympathetic Iraqis and Afghans, by deepening the divide between the democracies, and by sullying the West's reputation in the Middle East..." Sullivan also draws a parallel with civil disobedience, which I'm not sure I entirely buy, but still makes an interesting argument - he leaves open the possibility that there may be times when torture is defensible (a possibility I still contest) but that precisely because it would mean breaking the law and suffering the consquences, it would make it an all the more defensible act. That should a president ever feel that his conscience demands he disobey a law, he must still be subject to the consequences of that action.

In other surprising reactions to today's newspaper, stupid Kristof actually made me laugh with this little bit about Bush meeting St. Peter:

"Frankly, Mr. President, here in Heaven, I say 'Merry Christmas,' but others prefer 'Happy Holidays.' Gandhi prefers it. And a Jewish rabbi told me that his family felt more comfortable with that as well..."
"But St. Peter, that's just one rabbi..."
"Whose name is Jesus."

Yeah, yeah, it's a cheap, easy shot, bringing up that pesky fact that Jesus was Jewish. But it still makes me chuckle.