Archive for the 'Brilliant Ideas' Category

What I’m reading, and a few predictions.

I don’t read much, mainly because my job is so reading-intensive. After reading all day, the last thing I want to do is read for pleasure. Sometimes I lament that I miss out on great books that would keep my mind sharp because of this dilemma. In any case, here is what I am reading right now.

The Bluebook Blues, by Judge Richard Posner (Yale Law Journal). Best quote: “A grim capitalist logic thus drives the malignant growth of The Bluebook.” I’ve always been impressed by Posner’s writing style, and this is no exception. He also happens to be right on this one. The Bluebook is insanely overdone, and hopefully they heed his advice to simplify it.

State of the Union, President Obama. Best quote:

“We do big things. The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries later, it’s because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.”

This is one of the most beautifully written speeches I’ve heard/read in recent memory. First he flips the script on the hackneyed but required phrase “the state of our union is strong.” Well done. I bet the person who wrote that speech was particularly proud of that. Another memorable moment was when described how technology would create benefits in everything from firefighting to medicine:

“This isn’t just about — (applause) — this isn’t about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.”

Wow. It felt like watching a new episode of The West Wing.

A couple of things that I noticed regarding the speech. First, the military generals did not clap when Obama spoke of the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” However, they did applaud other times, indicating that it was not just a matter of decorum when they did not applaud. I am not sure whether the generals failed to applaud because it is decorum not to applaud when the discussion is on the military, or because they are against the repeal. I am guessing the latter, which is disappointing.

Justice Scalia was again notably absent from the speech, as was Justice Alito (of “not true” infamy). Scalia’s absence troubles me and I believe that Scalia has reintroduced partisanship to the Supreme Court to a greater degree than any other recent Justice. In addition to his absences the State of the Union speeches, his opinion in Bush v. Gore and his public appearances at Tea Party meetings, his opinions have become more obviously partisan. In the legal industry, it is canon that federal judges should remain non-partisan (in fact, it is implicit in the Federal Judges Code of Conduct.” More recently, Justice Roberts decried partisanship in the selecting of federal judges.

I disagree with Justice Roberts, and I do not believe we should continue to observe the fiction that Judges should not belong to a political party. If anyone truly believes that Scalia makes decisions using an “originalist” approach, they are kidding themselves. Judicial decisions (including Supreme Court decisions) appear increasingly to have been made along party lines. Judges (including Justices) remain political appointees of a partisan President, confirmed by a partisan Senate. If we abandoned the illusion that judges do not “belong” to a political party, I think our judicial system would be more intellectually honest.

I think that the major networks should not be allowed to give commentary before and after the speeches. Pundits and journos should not be allowed to tell us what to think about the President’s speech. I think that the opposition response should be done away with; there is no entitlement to a rebuttal. The introduction of the “Tea Party response” makes this slippery slope embarrasingly obvious.

Predictions

1. The Groundhog will see his shadow, and we will have six more weeks of winter. Obviously, the guys behind the groundhog have an interest in a high accuracy rate, and we all know this winter is going to continue to be brutal.

2. Gabrielle Giffords will run for President in 2016. (I predicted this a few days after she was shot).

3. Paul Ryan is running for President in 2012. I recently remarked that this guy looked like he was created by the Illuminati (Oh yeah, and if I die now, it was definitely murder). He’s the anti-Obama.

4. Paul Ryan will have to fight Michelle Buchman for the Republican nomination. Maybe they split the ticket. The ascendancy of the Tea Party is nigh, like it or not.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

I just read a story at the Washington Post about a man who chronicles examples of New York City law-enforcement officers breaking the law.  Calling himself “Jimmy Justice,” usually targets illegally parked traffic cops blocking fire hydrants, double parked, or in no-parking zones.  You can read the article here.

This man is a hero.

Unsurprisingly, this “infuriates” James Huntley, the president of the Communications Workers of America Local 1182, a union which represents the city’s traffic cops and sanitation workers.

“Sometimes we do have to make U-turns. Sometimes we do have to park here and there,” Huntley said.

Us too, DICK.

In my view this video vigilante is doing the city a public service.  When citizens witness law enforcement openly flouting the law, it causes distrust of law enforcement, encourages people to break laws they think are unfair or are being unfairly enforced, and ultimately, erodes their faith in the rule of law.

Typical of a union president, Huntley openly threatens Jimmy Justice, and presumably anyone else with similar intentions:

“We can have him arrested for menacing or stalking,” Huntley said of Jimmy, signaling a possible new confrontation in the streets.”

The union president’s response is especially slimy.  Rather than admit to a problem and take steps to remedy that problem, he decides that the only solution is revenge.  Where he could have taken the high road and garnered newfound respect for traffic cops, by his response he ensured the continued loathing of all traffic cops by New York’s citizens, even by those of us who do not have cars.

The Odyssey Years

Published: October 9, 2007

 

There used to be four common life phases: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. Now, there are at least six: childhood, adolescence, odyssey, adulthood, active retirement and old age. Of the new ones, the least understood is odyssey, the decade of wandering that frequently occurs between adolescence and adulthood.

 

The Way We Live Now

During this decade, 20-somethings go to school and take breaks from school. They live with friends and they live at home. They fall in and out of love. They try one career and then try another.

Their parents grow increasingly anxious. These parents understand that there’s bound to be a transition phase between student life and adult life. But when they look at their own grown children, they see the transition stretching five years, seven and beyond. The parents don’t even detect a clear sense of direction in their children’s lives. They look at them and see the things that are being delayed.

They see that people in this age bracket are delaying marriage. They’re delaying having children. They’re delaying permanent employment. People who were born before 1964 tend to define adulthood by certain accomplishments — moving away from home, becoming financially independent, getting married and starting a family.

In 1960, roughly 70 percent of 30-year-olds had achieved these things. By 2000, fewer than 40 percent of 30-year-olds had done the same.

Yet with a little imagination it’s possible even for baby boomers to understand what it’s like to be in the middle of the odyssey years. It’s possible to see that this period of improvisation is a sensible response to modern conditions.

Two of the country’s best social scientists have been trying to understand this new life phase. William Galston of the Brookings Institution has recently completed a research project for the Hewlett Foundation. Robert Wuthnow of Princeton has just published a tremendously valuable book, “After the Baby Boomers” that looks at young adulthood through the prism of religious practice.

Through their work, you can see the spirit of fluidity that now characterizes this stage. Young people grow up in tightly structured childhoods, Wuthnow observes, but then graduate into a world characterized by uncertainty, diversity, searching and tinkering. Old success recipes don’t apply, new norms have not been established and everything seems to give way to a less permanent version of itself.

Dating gives way to Facebook and hooking up. Marriage gives way to cohabitation. Church attendance gives way to spiritual longing. Newspaper reading gives way to blogging. (In 1970, 49 percent of adults in their 20s read a daily paper; now it’s at 21 percent.)

The job market is fluid. Graduating seniors don’t find corporations offering them jobs that will guide them all the way to retirement. Instead they find a vast menu of information economy options, few of which they have heard of or prepared for.

Social life is fluid. There’s been a shift in the balance of power between the genders. Thirty-six percent of female workers in their 20s now have a college degree, compared with 23 percent of male workers. Male wages have stagnated over the past decades, while female wages have risen.

This has fundamentally scrambled the courtship rituals and decreased the pressure to get married. Educated women can get many of the things they want (income, status, identity) without marriage, while they find it harder (or, if they’re working-class, next to impossible) to find a suitably accomplished mate.

The odyssey years are not about slacking off. There are intense competitive pressures as a result of the vast numbers of people chasing relatively few opportunities. Moreover, surveys show that people living through these years have highly traditional aspirations (they rate parenthood more highly than their own parents did) even as they lead improvising lives.

Rather, what we’re seeing is the creation of a new life phase, just as adolescence came into being a century ago. It’s a phase in which some social institutions flourish — knitting circles, Teach for America — while others — churches, political parties — have trouble establishing ties.

But there is every reason to think this phase will grow more pronounced in the coming years. European nations are traveling this route ahead of us, Galston notes. Europeans delay marriage even longer than we do and spend even more years shifting between the job market and higher education.

And as the new generational structure solidifies, social and economic entrepreneurs will create new rites and institutions. Someday people will look back and wonder at the vast social changes wrought by the emerging social group that saw their situations first captured by “Friends” and later by “Knocked Up.”

The greatest thing I ever read.

Elegant in its simplicity. Brutal and unassailable in its logic. I am talking of, of course, about the Ladder Theory. The Ladder Theory is, in the author’s own words, a “theory of adult male/female interaction,” first conceptualized in 1994 in Exeter, California.

It is flawlessly accurate. I encourage you to read through to the end, especially the discussion of “ladder theorists” in “Consequences of the Ladder” and also “Answers to Common Criticisms.” Upon reading Ladder Theory, I immediately became a disciple. Hopefully, with enough study, I can aspire to “ladder theorist.” Go read it for yourself and post your thoughts here. Also, while you’re at it, check out his Beethoven Theory as well.

What I Stand For

1. Better consumer protection from dangerous imports.
2. Net Neutrality.
3. A flat income tax.
4. Leave Iraq.
5. End Guantanamo.
6. Allow stem cell research.
7. Tighter immigration policies and a secure border.
8. Universal healthcare.
9. Congressional term limits.
10. Legalization of marijuana.
11. Repeal of the PATRIOT Act.
12. Telling people where you really stand, even if it doesn’t poll well.

Dharma

I am a big believer in peaks and valleys. Sometimes my arc is rising, sometimes it’s falling. It is sort of like in Swingers how when one guy is riding high, the other guy is in the dumps. When Jon Favraeu’s character finally comes around, its Vince Vaughn who is eating shit. And just when you think it can’t get worse, it does. Life is never too busy to give you that last extra kick in the nuts.

And I mean that literally. As in my right ball hurts. I think it might be my Aeron chair and its lack of support in the crotchal region. Some might say, “Ewwww! Too much information!” To those people, I say a hearty “Fuck you.” What the fuck are you doing reading the obsessive rants of a prick so self involved he has his own blog anyway? Either love me, or leave me alone.

I also mean it figuratively. The fact of the matter is, everyone lets you down in the end. Including, without limitation, everyone you love, and everyone that loves you, even if those groups aren’t mutually exclusive (and they never are). Lawyers: sorry for that last bit about without limitation. I couldn’t resist. Only fucking lawyers talk like that.

Anywho, the only thing that cheered me up today was HBO’s The Flight of the Conchords. It is the funniest goddamned show I have seen in years. Even after I emptied my bladder I had to tie my cock in a knot just to keep from pissing myself with laughter. You can watch the first episode at HBO, here. The whole thing is brilliant, and though my favorite part is the first song, another scene made me laugh just as hard at myself:

“It’s just that I think she might be the one.”

“Sally?”

“Yah.”

“What makes you think that?”

“You just know. When it happens to you, you’ll know.”

“You said Michelle was the one.”

“Yah, she’s the one.”

“You said Claire was the one.”

“Yah, she’s another one.”

“So you get more than one one.”

“Some people are lucky, I’ve had a few ones.”

Anyway I’m out. Choke on my fucking brilliance.