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Saturday, May 28, 2005

watch this

Everyone who cares about politics, especially liberal politics, must watch this Frontline on Karl Rove right now. The whole 50-minutes is on that website, and it will fascinate, depress and inspire you. American politics is a dirty, important business, and no one more depressingly represents that than Karl Rove.

CONGRATULATIONS! Another semester done. Have an amazing summer. Posted by Hello

Friday, May 27, 2005

the end of the veep mess

A letter in the Crimson from Faraz Munaim on the veep mess that I hope begins to put this all to rest.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


from The Onion: "Bush Gets Caught In One Of His Own Terror Traps" Posted by Hello

three interesting videos

Amnesty International blasts the US for Gitmo, compares them to Soviet gulags and the disappearing peoples in South American dictatorships. Video here.

Hardball has an interesting (although over-simplified) history of the religious right in the last 40 years and Frist's modern day problems. Video here.

60 Minutes did a piece on the failures of abstinence programs, and the ways the Bush Administration is giving money to what are essentially evangelizing programs. Link here, video at bottom of page.

Enjoy, congratulations if you're done! I am not. Damn you Pinker and your last day final!

Bulworth v.Terminator

Warren Beatty seems to be testing the waters for a run for Governor against the Ahnold. Either that or he's just trying to knock him down a few more pegs so he's a softer target for Angelides. For those of you who don't know, the current Democratic challenger to my Governor is Phil Angelides, the California State Treasurer and father of a Quincy House Junior. Smart man, would be a good Governor. What he couldn't do, however, is pull off the amazingly funny and pointed hit on Schwarzenegger that Beatty did last week speaking at a UC Berkeley grad school graduation:
"cut down the photo ops, the fake events, the fake issues, the fake crowds, the scapegoats, the 'language problems,' the broken promises, the 'Minutemen,' the prevarications and put some sunlight on some taxes.(more in expanded post)
"It's become time to define a Schwarzenegger Republican . A Schwarzenegger Republican is a Bush Republican who says he's a Schwarzenegger Republican," Beatty said. "Can't we accept that devotion to the building of the body politic is more complex and a little more sensitive than devotion to body-building?"
Witheringng! I love it. Beatty's a smart guy and an experienced political operative. Who knows whether or not he'd be a good Governor, but I wouldn't mind a few more of those speeches...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

zing!

Keith Olbermann, who I still remember fondly growing up as the head anchor of Sports Center, nails White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan (watch the video here). While I obviously like Olbermann because of his fairly clear liberal bias, that bias also allows him to cut through a lot of the WH's truth-twisting because he's willing to go against the GOP talking points.

Mr. Olbermann then does a great job of respectfully interviewing a pastor who believes, and put up on his church sign, that the Koran should be flushed down a toilet. His damning proof that it is not the word of God and the Christian Bible is: the Koran says Jesus was born under a palm tree, the Bible says he was born in a manger. Wow, brilliant logic. I think Olbermann does a great job in pointing to the problem of fundamentalism and absolutism like this in his questioning (watch the video here).

I do miss Olbermann on Sports Center, but I love what he's doing at MSNBC.

hmmm...

Well, for the first time Cambridge Common is actually in the Crimson, not just making fun of it or questioning it's factual basis. Nothing much new, just a fairly reasonable accounting of this whole ridiculous Veep controversy. God knows it was a slow news day if something CC was involved in was the lead story. They're really desperate in these slow days of finals (newsflash: students sit in library, take exams). While I think it's good that they wrote about it to clear the air, it seems like there are other things that could have been the lead story that are maybe a little more important:
- Harvard continues to be one of the only Ivy League schools without a Women's Center.
- Harvard continues to sub-contract every possible worker so that they don't have to pay for benefits like medical insurance for their children.
- Harvard continues to invest in companies with holdings in the Sudan.
Oh, I could go on and on. And that's just here at Harvard. Who else has something important that would have been a more appropriate lead story than some lying UC member trying to malign good people?

Monday, May 23, 2005

reasonable people win

Who would have thunk it? The nuclear bomb that would have gone off on the floor of the Senate tomorrow has been diffused by 14 (really twelve with two jumping on when they knew it would happen) Senators working across the aisle. Basically, by agreeing to vote for cloture (end a filibuster) on three nominees- Rogers, Owen and Bryor - and agreeing not to support the nuclear option to end judicial filibusters, this group has apparently ended the entire thing. While this isn't ideal (these judges are pretty far right), it's an important compromise (see the text here) to maintain the filibuster in principle and reduce its abuse. In terms of politics it looks like Frist is the big loser, McCain is the big winner, and the Democrats are a wash.
(some VIDEO LINKS in expanded post)

Alright, first you can watch the press conference (parts one, two and three). It's a haphazard but nice little thing with each Senator speaking for a few sentences. You can also watch Frist try to save face on the floor of the Senate. When I was watching all I could think is "who advised him to do this? He looks desperate!" You can also watch Leader Reid's press conference and speech on the floor. Both are measured but happy.

the conservative divide(s)

It's coming. For years now, the coalition that is the Republican Party has been held together with shrewd politicking and calls for solidarity in the face of the supposed evils of liberalism: moral relativism, pacifism and elitism (or as I like to call them: tolerance, respect for human life and intelligence). The GOP is rampant with contradictions: top-down federalized social conservatism v. bottom-up federalist communitarianism; big government militarism v. small government libertarianism; cautious, isolationism foreign policy v. robust, preemptive idealism; lower taxes on the rich v. um... wait they agree on that. While the Democratic Party is equally internally contradictory, our contradictions have been more pronounced at the top, while the GOP has pretty much kept things together. In the national leadership to this point, all of those different strands have blended into a pro-war, pro-market, anti-tax Goliath that talks up social conservatism in election years, and mostly ignore it in reality. (more in expanded post)

But the fault lines are starting to show. Social (very) conservatives, who claim ownership over George W. because they (wrongly) claim they got him reelected, are cashing in their favor cards. The want Schiavo, they want judges, and they place their goals in the apocalyptic terms of Christians versus the World. But they may be overplaying their hand (I love bad metaphors). In USA Today (yesterday), Trent Lott has to defend his Christian cred to the Christian Right's new leader, James Dobson:
"James Dobson: Who does he think he is, questioning my conservative credentials?" Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said in an interview. Dobson, head of the conservative group Focus on the Family, criticized Lott for his efforts to forge a compromise in the fight over the judges. Lott is still angry. "Some of his language and conduct is quite un-Christian, and I don't appreciate it," the senator said.
When Trent Lott is at odds with the right wing of the Republican Party, you know other people are squirming. And the fact that 6 GOP Senators may (let's hope) jump ship to maintain the filibuster in the face of incredible pressure from the base and the White House doesn't speak well.

Then you have Pat Buchanan who, while all put kicked out of GOP in 2000, is declaring conservatism dead,and a war a-brewin over the remains:
"The conservative movement has passed into history," says the one-time White House aide, three-time presidential candidate, commentator and magazine publisher. "It doesn't exist anymore as a unifying force," he says in an interview with The Washington Times. "There are still a lot of people who are conservative, but the movement is now broken up, crumbled, dismantled."
It hard to ignore his claim that he lost the culture war, when you see that folks like these are going to be going to dinner with Bush:
“I’m honored to be invited to this event,” Kulkis said. “Republicans bill themselves as the pro-business party. Well, you won’t find a group of people more pro-business than pornographers. We contributed over $10 billion to the national economy last year.”

Cognitive dissonance anyone? And best of all, a Presidential campaign is coming up! How many times do you think Frist or Santorum will hint that McCain is un-Christian?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

a thought from the Editor on UC debating

I've learned multiple lessons this week, and I thought I'd share one of them with you (rather than trying to pass my classes). Since Ian's resignation, Clay's election and Lurie's column, it's been hard not to be involved. Accusations thrown left and right at people who I care about, accusations thrown back, libel, not libel, conspiracy, not conspiracy, coup and cabal, blah blah blah. It's intoxicating, frustrating and in the end, not very important. I'm not going to get into who's right and wrong, I think most people know my take on that at this point. But what is abundantly clear to me is how perceived injustices (however legitimate), whether it's Ian's resignation or Lurie's accusations, can turn into such poisonous debates where no one's motives go unquestioned, no one's integrity remains intact and no one wins. That's the sad thing, after something like this, there's simply no way for anyone to step away clean and happy, confident in some self-righteous victory. We're all guilty of taking our politics and ourselves too seriously, and we're the only people who care.
(more in expanded post)

I'm not trying to say that the UC, or the journalistic practices at the Crimson are unimportant. They're not, both affect thousands of lives in small, but occasionally significant ways. But, regardless of who is right, who benefits from Lurie's OpEd or my post impuning it? We will both claim to personal knowledge of Truth (which hopefully in time will be further established), and point to "the people's right to know," "to be represented," etc. etc. But the people don't give a shit. They just want a hundred a fifty bucks for a dinner they're throwing and an occasional cheap movie. None of them care about the bickering, the politicking, or any of our accusations. As my roommate's girlfriend said, in the end, it's just "entertaining breakfast reading."

So, if everyone wants to keep debating, attacking each other and whatnot, I guess that's your perogative. I, for one, am tired, and need to try to pass Kloppenberg's class.

Good luck on your finals,
The Editor

I'll Tell You What You Want

The Spice Girls have reunited for a world tour. Your inner middle-schooler can die happy.

They said, after all, that they would always be there.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Awwwkward! Posted by Hello

not QUITE libelous (maybe?)

I don't yet have time to write up a good response to Mr. Lurie's astoundingly dishonest OpEd in the Crimson today about the recent VP controversy at the UC, but Cambridge Common readers should know one important thing about it: there was an extensive conversation at the Crimson last night about whether or not it was technically libelous, and whether they could print it. The Crimson's President had to get involved, they had to call a lawyer and they apparently had to rework the piece multiple times so that the dishonest language would not subject the paper to a lawsuit. From dictionary.com:
Libel:1. A false publication, as in writing, print, signs, or pictures, that damages a person's reputation. 2. The act of presenting such material to the public.
I'm not sure that there could be a more clear tacit recognition that the paper was knowingly printing something untrue than the fact that they were worried about getting sued over it.

filibustering with excitement!

Well, here goes nothing! The nuclear bomb is set to go off Tuesday, when Senate Republican's have scheduled a cloture vote to end debate, which would begin the filibuster and result in a series of "interpretations" by the chair (which would be Cheney) that would, if the GOP has the votes, end with a majority sustaining the chairs ruling and effectually ending the filibuster on judicial nominees. The Times has a good article on what the inside politicking regarding compromises, vote counts and public relations is looking like.

Throughout all of this madness, I've been following the Democrat's side of the argument at dembloggers.com, a video blog that has posted various Democrat's speeches from the floor. My favorites have been Chucky Schumer (parts one and two) and an angry Ted Kennedy (parts one and two). If you're bored come next week, I'm sure demblogger will be a fun place to watch it all unfold (on the Dems side, at least). If anyone knows somewhere (other than c-span) with clips of the Republican speeches, let me know!

bored? so are they!

For anyone who's been wondering what all those soldiers have been doing over there in Iraq all this time, an amazing, joyful, strange example.

Friday, May 20, 2005

a lazy continuation

Because I am far too tired to come up with another line of inquiry (or entertaining thought) right now, let's extend the previous one. The question at hand is: why is it that the two top people at each of these five organizations, the leaders of the "establishment", are all white and mostly male and (so far as I know) all straight?

We seem to have hit a snag, in that it has been pointed out that my sample (10 people, one year) is so small that it is statistically insignificant. Unfortunately, seeing as how this is a blog and not a newspaper, I have no plans to start doing actual reporting to try to expand my sample. In fact, in the face of the social science naysayers, I'm going to stick by my claim. Problems may differ from organization to organization, and for different reasons, but it still seems to me that "the establishment" is overwhelmingly white, male and straight. I guess, if we really wanted to start to tackle problems and get into "real" analysis, we could pick one and start to disaggregate the numbers and point to real solutions. Who wants to start?

A fair and balanced screen grab from Fox News. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


In celebration of those CC readers (and contributors) who are currently being huge nerds and waiting for the beginning of the end of Star Wars. You know who you are, let me know how it is... Posted by Hello

A long, loaded question

Alright, so while I hate the idiotic assumptions that people often associate with the simplistic construction I'm about to make, I'm going to do it anyway. Let's say there is an "establishment" in the political community of Harvard. Obviously, that "establishment" has to start with the student government and the student newspaper. But it would seem logical to add to that list the Institute of Politics, the Harvard Democrats and the Harvard Republicans. One might disagree, but let's simply say that those 5 organization represent what we'll call that political "establishment" of Harvard. I use the term "establishment" not in the pejorative sense that an occasionally anti-establishment type like myself might, but simply to say that the role of those institutions is established and none of them are trying to "subvert the dominant paradigm" as one facebook group puts it. This, I contend, is the establishment.

So here's the loaded question: why is it that the two top people at each of these five organizations, the leaders of the "establishment", are all white and mostly male and (so far as I know) all straight?(more in expanded post)

Now, before you try to answer that question let me warn you of a few things: I am friends with the leaders of all five of those groups, and I followed (and even participated in some of) their elections. In all five cases, out of the people running for the offices I believe that they were each undoubtedly the most qualified candidates. But, of the ten Presidents and Vice Presidents (or comparable second in command at the Crimson, the Managing Editor), only two are woman and all are white and all are straight. So, rather than asking why it is that people elected these 10 in particular over others (I would argue it's because they were the best suited people who ran for the job), it might be more interesting to ask: why were there not more women, more people who are not straight, and people of color in positions where they could have been qualified?

Now, I admit, I'm conflating a lot of different problems in very different groups. For instance, the opponents of those who were elected in the cases of both the GOP and the IOP were either both women or led by a woman (all four of whom who had significant institutional qualifications). The question of female representation seems in many ways to be a fundamentally different one than that of ethno-racial diversity. Heteronormativity (sorry, big word: it means structures or behaviors that assume heterosexuality) seems to be even more difficult to address in some senses. In addition, while both the President and Vice President of the UC are white men (in both the old and new form of the Glazer administration), the Council itself is actually a fairly representative body in terms of women and people of color (I don't know about sexuality), largely because of proactive work done to encourage underrepresented groups to participate. Maybe in the case of the UC, then, if that representativeness continues future candidates will have the qualifications regardless of their gender, race, sexuality, etc. But, I see little evidence of that kind of effort or diversity in the ranks at any of the other four groups: the Dems, the GOP, the IOP or the Crimson.

Why is it that until the last year in the UC, and continually in each of these other four establishment groups, whites, straight people, and men continue to dominate at what is supposed to be such a liberal and tolerant institution?

Two more caveats before you start to answer this question or consider it. First, the biggest mistake I think people make in the process of answering these questions is playing the blame game. The language of blame seems inadequate in the sense that those who benefit now should be "blamed" for the problem. That does not, however, mean that they are not a part of it and have responsibilities to do something. Second caveat, I do not think that people should consider this problem and, if you agree with it simply say "ok, next time I'll vote for a woman/a person of color/someone not straight etc." Support of someone who wouldn't otherwise be considered may occasionally be necessary to correct such problems (see: affirmative action), but it seems like a wholly inadequate response to what might be more complicated causes. Alright, that's my long, loaded question.

Who's got answers?

filibuster stage is set

The Dems seem to be doing a great job of setting the stage as Frist begins. They're starting the whole thing by making offers to confirm other people, to try to work things out, etc. It makes it clear that Frist is forcing this, whether you agree with him or not. Watch the video!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

a little local stuff

While we often forget it, we do live in a state with its own fascinating and important politics. With the spirit of getting us thinking, three story summaries from a great MA political blog Blue Mass. Group:
A story in the Herald that, to me, sums up very nicely what's at stake in the gay marriage debate.
  • Two men in their 70s: "This has given us peace of mind. The legal benefits are so important at this stage in life. Now if something happens, we can be involved in decisions about health and death and inheritance."
  • Two middle-aged professionals with two adopted sons: "the first year of marriage has meant better benefits on a family health plan and a sense of belonging in [their] Jamaica Plain community."
  • And some interesting statistics:
    • More than 6,100 marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples in Massachusetts.
    • Approximately 32 percent of female same-sex couples have children, compared to about 15 percent of male couples.
    • Roughly 36 percent of the 17,000 gay couples in Massachusetts have married.
(more in expanded post)
Gerry Leone, former First Assistant US Attorney to Michael Sullivan, has taken a private sector job so that he can run for Middlesex DA (which he could not do if he were still a US Attorney). Leone has a long and successful track record as a prosecutor and will be a strong DA candidate (I confess some puzzlement as to why being Middlesex DA is so preferable to him than being First Assistant US Attorney, but he obviously thinks it is). I also confess some puzzlement as to why Jarrett Barrios is determined to quit his Senate seat to run in a crowded field for Middlesex DA, but there's no accounting for taste.

There are murmurings here and there that US Rep. Michael Capuano has not ruled out running for Governor after all, despite his earlier statement that he wasn't interested (which followed a rather public flirtation with the idea). Anybody have the inside scoop?
It's a good blog, I recommend it for locals dems/liberals.

Because Two Feet in the Mouth are Better Than One

Today (yesterday) the Crimson Ed Board again opined, not just once but twice, on the recent resignation of Ian Nichols and his replacement by fellow CC contributor Clay Capp. As usually happens when the Crimson Ed Board attempts to tackle Undergraduate Council goings-on, the end result was a mix of shortsighted recommendations, rhetorical innuendo, unnecessary "sexing up" of less than sexy facts - in short, putting a foot in one's mouth. Today however, we get two feet, as freshman CrimEd Adam Goldenberg, perhaps better known for his concern about the lack of an "abstain" option in the December elections, makes the premature and quite egregious call for Capp's resignation; thereby swallowing an entire leg.

Following the "fisking" format used in my previous post on direct election reform, I'll address the opinions set forth in today's Crimson. As with most fiskings, it may run a little on the longer side. (more in expanded post)

First, it should go without saying that since I am a contributor on CC, that I personally know and am friends with Clay Capp. I've known Clay for several years now and consider him to be a good friend. The same can be said about my relationship to Jason Lurie, Aaron Chadbourne, Faraz Munaim, Ian Nichols, and any number of other candidates, both actual or would-be, for the Vice-Presidential race. Except for Crimson Reporter Liz Goodwin, who was nominated at the UC meeting but declined - I can't claim to know her very well at all.

I'll take each piece of writing in turn - first the Crimson Ed Board's opinion and then Goldenberg's. Ready? Go.

The selection of the council vice president is a matter too important to be left to a small group of representatives—subject to immense internal political pressures—at the end of their respective terms. The council must change its rules so that the vice president’s selection adequately reflects the needs and interests of the 6,500 term-bill-fee-paying undergraduates to whom the council is ultimately responsible.

A few things here: first, it's kinda strange that the Crimson Ed Board, who just endorsed abolishing separate elections for President and VP in favor of allowing the President to hand-pick his runningmate, essentially says that allowing the UC to vote for the VP is some how not democratic enough. Ironic, don't you think. Nice to see that their concern for the most democratic method of choosing a Council VP doesn't get in the way of their recommendation that the UC adopt a less democratic method of election. Useless inneundo? Check.

Second, why would it not be good for the current Council to select the new VP? According to the Crimson, it's because the current group of reps, even though all lame-ducks, are subject to "immense internal political pressure." Yes, little did you know, but your UC reps are weak-willed tools with backbones resembling chocolate eclairs who fold at even the slightest hint of disagreement. Right. Of course, the Crimson neglects that this is the same Council that just shot down, not once but twice, the keystone legislation of the reform report - direct committee election, which was strongly favored by the current administration and the Crimson.

The Crimson neglects the rather obvious argument that, having served with the candidates for an entire year, maybe the current reps are very well suited to evaluate each candidate on their merits. If the election were to have been put off for the summer, next year's Council, which nearly always has 60% turnover, would have been tasked with electing a new VP. Why would we think that these novices would have anymore will to fight the system than the current reps who have nothing to lose, especially those who have already announced that they will not be returning? Unncessary sexing up of the situation? Check.

Oh, and thanks for bringing up the "term-bill paying" point. Which brings me to this sham.

The closeness of the 22-20 vote is worrying particularly because it amounts to 22 students choosing a vice president responsible to 6,500 undergraduates, and for the term-bill fees that those undergraduates pay each year. That a victory this narrow can determine the person to administer students’ money is unacceptable.

Really Crimson Ed Board? Is that how you feel? How do you feel about the Council internally electing its Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair, who together control 67% of the Council budget? How do you feel about the internal election of the Student Affairs Chair and Campus Life Chair, who together control approximately another 31%? How do you feel about a 15 person committee controlling the entire rules, procedures, and grant decisions for the quarter-million dollar grants fund? Surely, you might say, because each of those reps was first elected by the student body in their respective houses. Right you certainly are. But what about Clay Capp and the Vice-Presidency? How much does he control? Zero. The same amount as the President, Matt Glazer. Capp arguably has slightly more control than Glazer, seeing as Glazer can only vote to break a tie. Capp at least has a vote on legislation - the same influence he had as a rep from Kirkland. "But the Vice-President is on the Executive Board!" you might say. Yes, and so is the Campus Life Chair, the Finance Chair, the Student Affairs, Chair, the Secretary, and the Treasurer - all elected internally.

And please, it's "unacceptable" that Capp's narrow election allows him to "administer" student funds (as if he hasn't already served as Treasurer)? I recall Ian Nichols being elected by 50 votes out of 4,000 - 50 votes that he certainly would not have had without an engineered Crimson endorsement that, as every member of Council could attest, trumped up Ian's record. Clay Capp received more votes than any other VP candidate ever except Ian Nichols. Ian Nichols is now gone. How is it that Capp doesn't have a legitimate claim to have student support? Did that support somehow vaporize in the aftermath of an election, participated in by the current electorate, held only five months ago?
In the future, if the council vice president resigns too late in the year for proper full elections to take place, the council should internally elect an interim vice president, to serve until the soonest convenient time at which a student vote can take place
I've already addressed this in part as to why internal elections in the fall would be bad, but let me extend that to the entire campus. It is equally problematic to allow either outgoing seniors or incoming freshmen, both comprising 25% of the electorate, to choose the new VP in campus-wide elections. Let's not pretend that asking a bunch of bright-eyed first-years to vote on a slate of upperclassmen only days after arriving on campus embues any future candidate with some sense of legitimacy. Like novice Councilmembers, the freshmen would be singularly unqualified to make that decision - namely, because they don't really know what's going on. It's equally problematic to allow outgoing seniors who have weeks left in their Harvard experience to choose a new VP, since their decision would be binding for an entire semester on first-years who will be more disproportionately impacted by that decision. Short-sighted recommendation? Check.

It seems then that the current system is not illegitimate, but a good faith compromise. It allows the elected representatives of the students, who have worked with the candidates first hand, to make a decision.
As council vice president, Clay Capp can claim little more than a tenuous mandate. Capp, who failed to win the position in last December’s elections, won the post by the narrowest of margins against an opponent who is to graduate in three weeks.
I think I already covered this above. Look, you can't move the goalposts in the middle of the game because you didn't get your way. The system that was used has been in place long before anyone reading this was at Harvard, maybe even high school. It has never been used before. Clay won under the rules in place. Clay has just as much a mandate as any other narrowly elected officer. And, to be frank, the vote for Lurie likely represented the frustrations of many would be candidates who had sought support for the position in vain. Simply, Matt Glazer thought that Clay was the best for the job. He said that only months ago. Why should he change now? That he stuck to that opinion did not force out candidates, it just removed what they saw as their only way of winning the election.

The executive board, lacking a clear and strong mandate to govern, should now be highly self-critical and especially careful in the decisions that they make about spending student money.

What does the Exec Board have to do with this? What does the Exec Board expenditures have to do with this? How does the Exec Board, 5/7 of the voting members being internally elected, not have a mandate to govern? Does Glazer's record win no longer count? The Crimson Ed Board is taking its ball and going home. Nevermind all the argumentation that came before it - the CrimEds are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. You hear that UC Exec Board! Be careful when you spend student money.

Now on to Goldenberg. I'll cut it short since Goldenberg echoes the points in the editorial, but has a few problematic things.

Capp holds the second most important seat in Harvard’s student government as a result of an undemocratic selection process, a reality that will not change with the modification of UC protocol called for by this newspaper....

Capp’s selection is illegitimate not only because of he was chosen by a deeply flawed electorate, but also because he was not subjected to scrutiny from the student body....

As President Matthew J. Glazer ’06 continues to push his agenda for council reform, it would be sadly hypocritical for his right-hand man not to relinquish the power that he now holds as a result of the very kind of procedural mishap that the council ought to fix. And though he is by no means bound to go beyond the council bylaws as they currently stand, Capp should seize the chance to demonstrate real commitment to the student body by choosing the honorable course, and by putting his fate in the hands of his peers.

I've already addressed this, but once again, Clay Capp has withstood scrutiny by the student body more than any other candidate that could have been out there save Ian Nichols. That the Crimson continues to hammer away on this is amazing given that the election clearly was as democratic as it could have been made under the circumstances. Protocols were followed down to the letter - even Secretary Matt Greenfield (then acting VP) officially signed every single ballot. This was not a procedural mishap - the Council followed that it had to. Wouldn't it have looked questionable to have changed the rules? What candidate would Goldenberg have then alleged stood to gain from a campus-wide election in the fall? Probably still Capp.

Indeed, the Crimson's editorial last week on Ian Nichols' departure mentioned the upcoming election and made absolutely no mention of how those elections should be conducted. The Crimson Ed Board knew what was going to happen. They knew the process. They cared so much about how that process was to play-out and felt so deeply that, of all candidates, Clay Capp shouldn't have the Vice-Presidency, that they made zero mention of it before the election. I can't help but wonder whether if some other candidate than Clay Capp won the election if we'd even be having this debate. Seeing as how the Crimson wouldn't have had to scramble to save face if Aaron Chadbourne were elected, I think the Ed Board just may have had a different opinion. Just maybe. Now for some real chutzpah and the close of this missive.
Capp—elected by the members of a council that has been marinating in its own notorious internal politics for eight months and not by the student body to which he is responsible as vice president—cannot claim any real kind of mandate.
First, the internal composition of the body that elected Clay has absolutely no bearing on whatever mandate he had. This is a pathetic rhetorical flourish.

But more importantly, Mr. Goldenberg, it is interesting, indeed asinine, that anyone associated with the Crimson should ever dare use the language that you did in describing another organization's internal politics. "Marinating in its own notorious internal politics for eight months?" Pot meet kettle. For 132 Guards. May you fare well in the Crimson's internal elections, Mr. Goldenberg, a true model of good-spirited, heartily democratic, and conflict free elections.

Monday, May 16, 2005

the latest on the Downing Street Memo

One reader has already complained, but I'm not going to stop writing about this story until it's no longer important. We've been following it since before anyone was writing about it widely, and will follow it until everyone stops doing so.

It is, after weeks and weeks, finally getting cable news coverage. Watch this very well done piece and interview by Keith Olbermann.

Krugman picked it up today, and took it to a more general liberal argument (and a comparison to Vietnam that I think is kind of silly, but that's beside the point).

And, as one reader already pointed out, the Crimson ran an OpEd about it.

Is there any cohesive conservative response at this point? I've yet to see one written or said, which to me points to two things: 1. the administration is hoping that this will go away and knows that if it responds it will become a huge story (I don't think it's going away guys) and 2. they don't have a good enough argument to quickly but the whole thing to rest.

today's column: "A conversation with an activist"

My last column of the year, "A conversation with an activist" is in today's Crimson. You can read it here. I'd love to know what people think, so comment away.

What's the matter people? Cat got your tongue? Share your thoughts!

ALSO: I know this is annoying, but Cambridge Common is celebrating 3000 visitors today! That's keeping our general pace of 1000 a week. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

UC Direct Elections Reform Update

At today's UC meeting, a move by several proponents of the direct election reform to reconsider the legislation failed to command even a majority. It needed a 2/3 vote for reconsideration.

The legislation was the focus of a recent Crimson editorial and a lengthy rebuttal by your's truly. There was also a vociferous debate over the UC General list all weekend long.

It is yet unclear whether the bill's proponents will bring legislation to the last UC meeting of the year, which is tomorrow afternoon, calling for a referendum on the subject next September before the UC General Election. Such legislation would require the same 2/3 vote for consideration, so it is likely that for all intents and purposes that direct election reform is dead, at least for next year's elections. (more in expanded post)

There is a chance, however, that the reform may be brought forward again sometime next year. UC President Matt Glazer and now Vice-President Clay Capp (also a CC contributor) are both on record as supporting the reform and many of the legislation's staunchest supporters are expected to be up for reelection in the fall. Many of those who have led the charge against the reform, however, will not be returning to Council next year, including Treasurer Faraz Munaim and seniors Jason Lurie, Justin Chapa, and Laura Settlemyer. The bloc of freshman representatives voting against the legislation also face the traditional challenge of winning a UC seat in the fall as new sophomores in their respective houses.

Given the high turnover between each year, it is possible that a UC made up of a majority of new members may weigh the benefits of direct election reform differently than this year's Council - especially if novice representatives are presented with an Executive Board united behind the reform. Expect to see the issue to come up again sometime next fall, when the chances for a reversal of this year's decision will be high and the obstacles against consideration low. In the fall the legislation will not face a 2/3 vote for reconsideration since it will be a new Council term.

In UC politics, as in sports, there's always next year.

open thread

Because Jamal and I have been fairly busy this weekend, I figured I'd open the floor up to you, the reader, with a question: what was the biggest political story at Harvard this year? Obviously, Harvard politics is a big category, that includes a few dozen types of organizations, a relationship with local, national and international politics, and a unique dialogue about it all. So when people look back and say "what will we remember about politics at Harvard during the 04/05 school year?" what will the answers by?

the story gains legs

A few weeks ago, it was a non-story. "More of the same!" the White House said. "Just another liberal attack!" They dismissed it, but it wouldn't go away. A congressman got a letter together demanding an explanation. Bloggers started to push the story hard. But the dismissals continued. This guy on Crossfire said "We had an election on this in November, and the President was reelected, so who cares?" On this old CC post, one reader said it was "revisionist history" and claimed that since it was from the British, so "who could trust it anyway?" (eliciting a long, hilarious and strange response) But unfortunately for all of those people, the story has gained legs, because it is not more of the same, it is not British intelligence (it's the summary of a meeting) and it is not going away. Like the war or not, a lot of us want a damn explanation.

Learn about The Downing Street Memo here.

Wanna see Senator McCain lamely dodge the question? Click here.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Texas Ban on Sexy Cheerleading Fails

Last week, I informed readers of the Texas House of Representative's move to ban "sexy cheerleading." It appears that the bill has stalled in the Senate and will not be heard this year.

Apparently, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders influenced at least one Senator's decision:

"My wife loved that bill," said state Sen. Kim Brimer, R-Fort Worth.

Brimer said his wife "lobbied me hard" to support it, then he reminded her that seductive cheering is not always a bad thing.

"I told her we had the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders coming to Arlington. I'm not going to offend the Cowboys in any way," he said, referring to the team's decision to build a multimillion-dollar stadium in the city.

So, for at least one more year, the epidemic of sexy cheerleading in Texas will continue unabated.

Reform: It's What's for Dinner

Today the campus was treated to a Crimson editorial that excorciated members of the Undergraduate Council for opposing a recent part of the reform package presented by the UC Reform Commission (UCRC) that would have allowed representatives to be directly elected to the UC's three committees rather than to the general council body. The general gist of the editorial was that this reform is so monumentally important to the campus that if the UC refuses to pass the Bylaws amendment providing for the reform to move forward (there has already been one vote that defeated the reform 13-18, and passing it would require a 2/3 vote) that the legislation should be put to a campus-wide referendum next fall.

Having already seen Golis heartily endorse the reform, I felt that it's necessary to give the other side of the debate. Sometimes "reform" isn't a positive goal. Below I'll "fisk" the Crimson editorial and explain why the direct election reform could be bad for the Council and the campus. It'll be a long post, but for those interested, I highly recommend it - if I may say so myself. (more in expanded post)

First, I'll say upfront that the legislation isn't totally bad. I don't think that its sponsors have any alterior motives - I believe that they truly have the best interests of students in mind when they propose this reform. That being said, this is something that reasonable people can disagree over, and I happen to disagree with the "reform minded" members of Council (nevermind that I agree with almost every other proposed UC reform) who support the direct election scheme. That being said, let the fisking commence.
The UCRC’s proposal is an excellent solution to the UC’s long-standing problem of filling less desirable committees with uninspired, unwilling reps. Its failure ensures that students interested in participating primarily in one committee of the UC will continue to engage in a crapshoot every fall.
The benefits of the reform are obvious. Many candidates run for the UC seeking an appointment to a particular committee; only after elections do they find themselves planning Springfest or interviewing grants applicants. The UCRC’s solution is clear and effective: make sure that the only individuals who serve on each committee are committed, by forcing candidates to run for one specific committee rather than a general UC seat.
There's no doubt that there are membes of the UC who do little work beyond showing up at meetings, and even then some don't show up very often. The problem with these reps is likely that they just want an office - they are resume padders who are using the UC to enhance their viability for the next big step beyond college and leadership positions always look great. The problem with the proposal is that it assumes most candidates run to be on a particular committee than the UC as a whole. My experience with this has been the exact opposite. While most incumbents know which committees they would like to be on, most new members of the UC (and there's roughly 60% or greater turnover every year) just want to be on the UC. It's only after election to the UC and some experience that candidates discover that they may not like their committee assignment.

I don't buy the argument that election to a single committee may make some more committed. If there are indeed UC committees that are "less desirable," then doesn't it follow that the most hotly contested races with the most qualified and serious candidates will only be for the most desirable committee(s)? Doesn't that leave open the rather large probability that the "less desirable" committees will attract less qualified and less committed candidates who simply want to hold a position, if they attract candidates at all? It's likely that many committee elections will go uncontested and still continue the problem of uninspired reps. The problem is a cultural one that is pandemic to Harvard extracurriculars. If you hold a position and someone else will do the work for you, then why go out of your way to do extra work? Changing the format of election does not change this culture - it just changes the way that members of that culture get on the UC.
The UCRC’s proposal would also allow candidates to run much more focused and substantive campaigns than is currently the case. As it is now, candidates often make three sets of vague and stale promises—without knowing exactly which committee they will be elected to, how could they do anything else? Under the proposed reform, student voters would benefit from specific discussions of the issues related to each committee, and, in turn, cast better informed ballots.
I remain unconvinced that this will result. Candidates can now promise to work for legislation that would fall under all three committees' jurisdictions and actually accomplish those promises. The institutional barriers to actually doing work in the UC are incredibly low. No one is going to turn away a committed UC rep who wants to write a position paper on greater flexibility in dining hall hours simply because that rep is on FiCom or CLC. There are several members currently on the UC who have brought bills through other committees than their own. What separates these reps from the rest of the Council? They also happen to be some of the most committed and hard working reps. Given that the UC has a ridiculously low rate of "killing" legislation, it's likely that any substantive work done by a rep will be passed and acted on.

Direct election changes none of this. Instead, it only limits, in theory, the promises made to one committee's jurisdiction. This changes nothing about the candidates' abilities or dedication to actually to put their pledges into action, and it certainly doesn't change candidates running on "stale" ideas - instead of a breadth of stale ideas, voters will get numerous stale ideas all relating to the same committee. The kicker is that the institutional barriers to working in other jurisdictions will remain low, giving candidates incentive to still make promises in other areas. Thus, we'll still have the same problem that the Crimson identifies, but we'll simply have a different system. Again, the problem is the culture of candidates, not the system. Changing the system doesn't necessarily change neither candidates' fondness for lame ideas nor their willingness to do work outside of committee.

The obvious rebuttal to this is that it's a lot to ask for a rep to step outside of their committee and dedicate more time. Why not? Shouldn't we be asking our reps to make good on their promises? Shouldn't we expect our reps to do more than simply meet the bare bones requirement of showing up to meetings? The answer is yes, but the truth is that few reps actually do work. Most CLC and FiCom reps rarely do work outside of their weekly committee meetings. CLC members are not frantically scurrying about wondering how they'll fit in time to do reading while planning the next movie night. Their projects are infrequent and any time-intensive work is limited to a single occasion, such as taking tickets for a UC shuttle to the airport. We should demand more of our reps. Changing the system is a strawman fix that allows the appearance of reform without holding reps responsible for the current problems created by their lax attitude towards Council work. I say this only because it's a poor excuse to point to the system as the problem when the system allows them to work in any area they so desire - so long as they are willing to put forth more than the minimal effort.
Some have claimed that the reform would make it far more difficult for sophomores entering the Houses to get elected, but this is certainly not the case. As it stands, sophomores often beat junior and senior incumbents, and there is no evidence to suggest that the reform would alter this fact.
I don't see how this is up for debate. There are more than twice the number of junior delegation chairs (top vote winners) than sophomores. Clearly, sophomores would be at a disadvantage in each house no matter what committee they ran for. Remember, it's not what you know, it's who you know; and sophomores know few house members only weeks after moving in. The Crimson will point to the success of Blake Kurisu and John Voith knocking off Jack McCambridge in Winthrop in the fall elections. This is the exception rather than the rule and it's clear that Jack didn't campaign hard.
Further, even if it were true that the reform would force sophomores to seek election to less glamorous committees, the end result would still benefit the student body. Those sophomores who were seriously dedicated to the UC and its mission would still run and serve on other committees, gaining experience and demonstrating their merit to their electorates.
This is an argument for the current system. Essentially the Crimson is saying that if sophomores can't win the committee they want, they should run for a committee that they don't want because it will give them experience on other committees. That's the current system. A sophomore wants to be on SAC but comes in second to the sitting SAC incumbent junior? Fine. Spend a year on FiCom or CLC, get UC experience, work on SAC stuff anyways, and then clean up in the election as a junior when the now SAC incumbent senior decides not to run and get on SAC. If this is what sophomores are supposed to do with the new system, then why change from the old system? Why denigrate current freshmen and sophomores concerns that this will happen?
For many within the UC, especially younger members, this vote was about naked self-interest. If all the freshman present at the UC meeting last Sunday had skipped out, an 18-13 vote against the reform would have been tied at 12-12. Since these freshmen supposedly have the most to lose from this reform, the vote tally regrettably comes as no surprise. But shouldn’t UC reps vote in their constituents interests and not in their own?
This is shameless "sexing" up the argument. Maybe for a few people this played a role, but it's hard to argue why freshmen who are going to be running in completely open houses next year voted against the reform. It can't be self interest. More likely they are indeed concerned about their constituents' interests - current freshmen not currently on the UC who will want to run as sophomores in the fall.

It's spurious to change the vote count as well. 12-12 wouldn't even be quorum. Beyond this, it would have taken a 2/3 vote to have passed. Given a bloc of 18 members opposed to the reform, this is extremely unlikely to have passed. It would have taken nearly every other member of the UC, present or not, to vote for the reform.
The Harvard student body demands two things from its UC representatives: accountability and enthusiasm.
Umm...I think most students could care less how enthusiastic reps are so long as they are doing their jobs. I think students value efficiency over enthusiasm any day. But hey, that's just me.
Committees should not be able to blame the entire UC for passing poorly planned expenditures that their members bring before the council. More work needs to be done in committees to vet proposals beforehand. To ensure this level of accountability, UC reps must be fit—both in expertise and inclination—for their committees, which in turn must be encouraged to end their reliance on the full council to make all the tough decisions on the merits of each bill.
Committees don't currently blame the UC for their poor decisions. Obviously, even though the UC may have passed a bad bill, the blame lies with the committee tasked with carrying out the provisions of that bill. If advertising shuttles to NYC is poor, and then the shuttle loses money, CLC will get blamed, not members of FiCom and SAC. So the change doesn't fix that.

Amen, more work needs to be done in committees to vet proposals. We can do that within the current system.

I agree that UC reps should be "fit" in knowledge and dedication - which is why I'm uncomfortable setting up a new system that encourages the loss of institutional memory. If a veteran SAC freshman who runs as a sophomore in a house loses to a junior with no UC experience for the SAC election, the UC does not gain from that loss. Similarly, a sophomore veteran CLC member who wants to challenge a junior SAC incumbent for their SAC seat the next year creates the same problem. As a future junior, the CLC rep has an advantage against a senior who has, in theory, a smaller base of support than the now junior. The junior wins the SAC seat, but the UC loses a two or three term SAC incumbent who knows the ins-and-outs of University Hall and knows administrators personally.

The current system allows the switching of committees for incumbents. In the above scenarios, all reps are re-elected (or elected, in the case of sophomores) and have the ability to remain on their committee of expertise even if they finish third. This preserves expertise and institutional memory - something the direct election reform actually could work against.
If even this compromise won’t move bill opponents to change their votes, the UC must submit the question to a student referendum
As an institutional precedent, this would be terrible. Should UC members frustrated by the failure of a piece of legislation take recourse to the student body? If the legislation is serious enough and directly affects the student body, say a termbill increase, then yes. In this case, UC members are clearly the most informed as to how what is essentially an internal operational reform will change the institution. To the rest of the campus, this will likely appear to be an esoteric part of UC operations that they have little interest in. Students don't care how UC reps are elected (for the most part) - they want they UC to deliver grants, advocacy, and services.

While the aims of the direct election reform are admirable, I remain unconvinced that the Council will see the benefits that supporters are touting. I see the problem as a larger cultural issue that is a mix of apathy, free-riding, and, in a few cases, resume padding. The reforms proposed do nothing to change this and will still exist if the reforms are passed. Instead of addressing the root cause of the problem, the reform will create the appearance of change when in reality nothing has happened. To use a crude analogy, this is Prozac reform - it'll make people feel better but there's a lot more to do to address the foundational problem.

A step in the right direction would be for the UC to reform its attendance policy, which allows members to show up for an initial roll-call and then leave for the next two hours and then return for final roll call. Such a policy allows minimal involvement. Furthermore, the UC should get serious about expelling members who violate the attendance policy and contribute little effort. It's rare for even the most lazy UC members to get expelled after missing too many meetings. These are hard reforms to make though because here UC members actually do vote out of self-interest. Over 50% of reps have been warned at least once - meaning that if they miss one more meeting they will be expelled. Thus, they have no interest in holding themselves to a higher attendance standard when doing so would immediately and directly lead to negative consequences.

If you've made it this far, thanks. There's far more to the debate than "naked self-interest" and far more to the equation than reform=good.

Friday, May 13, 2005

gay watch!

Enjoy this segment: Gay Watch, on Spokane Mayor James West. Stewart: "How many times do the anti-gay force guys have to get caught in gay trysts before everyone realizes, they're all gay?"

touche, ed board

Today, the Ed Board proves that my calls that it was "grasping for legitimacy and respectability" were a little overwrought. I don't retract my previous statements about the Nichols debate, but clearly they've got enough smart and hard working people that they're still producing good, thoughtful and important work. Today's OpEd on direct elections to the UC was right on, not only in its discussion of the issue, but in it's targeting of the problem: the ambitions of current UC members are holding this back because they worry it threatens them in their seats. This one is a must read for people interested in UC reform.

UPDATE: from reading debate on this issue and talking to people I no longer think that many reps are voting on this out of pure self-interest. It may be true, but I have no evidence of it and there are many other good reasons. I definitely recommend Jamal's post, it's very thought-provoking.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

new VP

As I'm sure many Cambridge Common readers already know, the UC elected Clay Capp to be its Vice President today. It was a complicated affair, and I'm sure there are a lot of people who will want to discuss a lot of different angles of this. I am very intimately involved in the whole thing (Clay is a close friend, Glazer is my roommate, I ran their campaign in December), so I've yet to really figure out what it is I'd like to say about it at this point. While I process it all, congratulations Clay (who occassionally contributes to CC), I am confident that you will be a great Vice President.

By the way, the Crimson has a web update article here.

awww, childhood!

I suspect that many of us remember The Chronicles of Narnia fondly from our childhoods. I can still remember my dad reading them all to my brother and me. In December, Disney will be releasing the first full-length film. The teaser trailer has just been released, enjoy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Crimson Ed Board: revisionists grasp for an argument, legitimacy

It is quite rare indeed that you can actually watch an organization or group of people so thoroughly grasping for whatever legitimacy or respectability they once had on an issue as clearly as you can from reading today's Crimson editorial on the UC VP's resignation. Having endorsed what is now widely understood to be a disastrously bad Vice Presidency, the Ed Board is trying to rewrite history so that people won't figure out the truth: the Crimson made a huge mistake endorsing Ian and is trying desperately to save face. For anyone who knows anything about UC politics or what has happened in the last six months, the OpEd was silly, dishonest and dumb. Good lord, where do I even begin? I guess I'll just start at the beginning.(more in expanded post)

The premise of the entire article is, well, wrong. The whole thing is premised around the idea that the problem was one of interpersonal conflicts of style and personality:
The decision by Ian W. Nichols ’06 to resign on Sunday as Undergraduate Council (UC) Vice President was the best possible outcome for both the UC and the student body at large. As expected, Nichols turned out to be a contrarian Vice President, with a vision for the Council that did not line up with what the rest of the UC Executive Board had in mind.
I'm sorry, what exactly was his alternative vision? Why is this the first time anyone is hearing about it? When, do tell, exactly was there this clash of visions and styles? I've never, ever, heard of there being conflicts of opinion on the Exec Board or the UC of this type. Hell, I'm not sure Ian went to enough Exec Board meetings for that to even happen.

Next, as Jamal has pointed out at the end of what is undoubtedly the most hilarious string in Cambridge Common's long and illustrious three week history, is the idea that "UC representatives should remember that the student body voted a split ticket into power for a reason." Maybe I'm the only one, but to the best of my memory Ian won by 50 votes out of 4000, yes 50, because the Crimson endorsed him! As Jamal also points out, I'm not sure the Crimson wants to get into the conversation of why exactly the Crimson endorsed him.

Finally, the huge extent to which the Crimson skims over the issue of Ian's gross negligence and lack of effort points directly to the way that they are trying to save face to the student body who remembers that they endorsed him in December. Only three sentences in a five paragraph OpEd address the actual source of conflict and the reason that he resigned: his complete and utter lack of effort. The first two sentences, toward the beginning of the OpEd:
He failed to communicate effectively or forge common ground with his peer officers on the UC, and he missed Springfest, an event organized in the past by the Vice President and an event for which Nichols himself voted to allocate funds.
This is laughably dishonest and incorrect. It's not only "traditionally organized" by the veep, Ian agreed to organize it. The idea that him promising to be the lead organizer of an event that cost students tens of thousands of dollars, then neither organizing nor attending it, should be criticized in the context of "tradition" or that "he voted for funding" intentionally skims over the more painful, obvious reality.

If the Crimson were honest with its readers and really wanted to regain whatever legitimacy it once had on the issue of UC politics it should have said: "We endorsed Ian in December under unprecedented circumstances thinking he was something he was not. We made a huge mistake that we now regret, let's hope that whoever is elected as the replacement vice president does a better job than Ian did." But, unsurprisingly, they didn't say that. Instead, they tried to revise history and obscure the fact that they made a huge, embarrassing mistake.

three for one: the daily show, cable news and blogs

That's right reader, you get all three in this post! (don't get too excited)

The Daily Show has a hilarious bit on how cable news has started to do segments on "the blogosphere" with people reading off of other people's blogs. Everyone in the mainstream media is still trying to get a handle on what this whole "blog" thing is about, and in the process they continually look like huge asses. Hilarious.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

filibusta-move

(I am way too proud of that subject, cause it's really not actually funny)

In honor of the Dems great 25 hour filibuster in front of the Science Center (I'm sure it'll be in tomorrow's Crimson, you can check out updates on demapples), a few thoughts.

First, a video clip from 1994 from CBS news on the filibuster to give some context.

As Jamal and I have previously discussed and eventually agreed, neither side in this fight is really in the right. What the Dems did today and yesterday, while in support of what I think are overly obstructionist efforts, do show exactly what the filibuster SHOULD BE: an act of public defiance that subjects the individual to public scrutiny and pressure, allowing the fate of the issue to be decided in the realm of public opinion. I don't know enough about the Senate to know how to get it back to that, but as you learn in the CBS clip, it's really gotten out of hand.

links and random stuff

Over the last few days of light blogging, I've been collecting links of random and entertaining things. I thought to myself earlier today: "you'll never post all of it, just delete the stuff." But, because I'm totally brilliant like that, I figure I can just put all of these random links and things on ONE POST! I know, amazing. So, without further ado:

Arriana Huffington, stealing Cambridge Common's idea, has launched the mother of all blogs: the Huffington Post. This thing has got it all: a bazillion different VIPs blogging (from Hollywood celebs to former Presidential candidates to comedians and professional talking heads), a news section that attempts to balance out Drudge's "breaking news" red headlight thing, and a massive group blog where it all comes together. Interesting, ambitious stuff. (more in expanded post)

Next, a few things about the religious right. First, an AMAZING clip of Pat Robertson that does more to show the true motivations and mentalities of him and some members of his wing of the party than anything I've ever seen. Also, a fascinating story about a religious leader kicking out members of his congregation because they voted for John Kerry. Finally on the religious thing, a great article(registration required, email me if you aren't registered and want to read it) in the New Republic about the Frist Filibuster thing:
Frist's cry of religious bigotry is particularly ironic: What could be more religiously bigoted than claiming that anyone who disagrees with you must not be a true person of faith? How audacious--and repugnant--of Frist to claim that his political constituents have a monopoly on devotion to God. Many Senate Democrats are themselves devout Christians. And Democrats routinely win the votes of about half the nation's Catholics, over half of its religious Jews, and nearly one-third of its evangelical Christians.
The last, and best: a random guy is traveling the country having dinner with strangers. He sees the project as artwork that brings up the importance of conversation, the individual and meeting people. Robert Putnam eat your heart out!

Monday, May 09, 2005

2000 visits

Cambridge Common has hit another meaningful (why? I have no idea) mark: 2000 unique visits. Not bad for only two weeks. Thank you for reading, thank you even more if you have contributed your thoughts to our dialogue. I have had numerous conversations with friends and acquaintances in the real world about conversations we've had in this world, so hopefully we are, in whatever small way, contributing to campus dialogue.

A question for you, the reader: what would you like to hear more about? What lines of discussion have most interested you? Most bored you? What do you wish was covered that isn't?

You know what to do (hint: hit the comment link below).

Sunday, May 08, 2005

breaking news (no, seriously)

Ian Nichols, the Vice President of the Undergraduate Council, has just resigned. The Crimson has a short article. I am as biased about the situation as it gets. My roommate is the Pres. and I ran the campaign for him and Clay (who writes for CC) in the fall. I have watched as Ian continually shirked his duties, leaving them for other members of the UC leadership to take on, burdening what were already tremendously busy lives. He was put in charge of running Springfest, and not only did he not take part in the organization, he was on vacation and out of touch for the entire weekend.

More on this later, but for now, let us just celebrate that we will be getting an actual vice president in the next week.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

and again

Well, it's looking like the only think I like to do more than post video clips of the daily show is bring up old conversations that never happened in hopes of making them happen.

WHY THE HELL DOESN'T ANYBODY CARE ABOUT THE CURRICULAR REVIEW?

That's the question I'm asking. People say they care, but they don't know anything about it, and aren't interested in having input in any meaningful way. Deans come to talk in houses and almost no one shows up. Outside of people I know at the Crimson or on the UC, no one even knows what's going on. And no, it's not a lack of information, the Crimson has actually done a pretty good job on this one. So what's up people? That's what this commenter wanted to know, that's what I want to know.

Friday, May 06, 2005

sometimes, I honestly don't know what to say...

A quick question: if you were told that a British memo was leaked that said that Bush had already decided to invade Iraq as early as July of 2002, knew that the WMD case was less threatening than North Korea, Lybia and Iran, and was having the intelligence and analysis molded to fit their case for war, do you think it would be news? Regardless of whether you thought the war was otherwise justifiable, would this be problematic for you?

Another question: Did you know that exactly that memo came out last Friday? It was finally picked up yesterday in the American press, but has gotten virtually no visibility. Anyone have any answers to any of my questions?

alright, one more

Last video clip before the weekend. This is a Daily Show clip on Laura Bush's suprise starring role at the recent White House Correspondance Dinner. This is probably the most vulgar thing I've ever seen the Daily Show do, but it's also quite funny. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

video extravaganza!

Alright, I know I'm on a bit of a video kick right now, apologies. It's just easier than actually reading stuff and thinking about stuff (I've got plenty of that with my 4 papers to write), so stop bugging me and enjoy the procrastination.

First, a video of Bright Eyes on Leno night before last singing his new song: "When the President Talks to God." Fiery stuff, good song. Maybe the closest thing to an intelligent protest song I've heard in a while. (you can read the lyrics here)

Second, Ann Coulter gives Harvard a shoutout, saying that of the dumbshit liberals who ask her dumbshit questions (and hate America!), Harvard students ask some of the smartest. Awww, thanks Ann!

Finally, a hilarious clip from Bill Maher on Jeff Ganon. Enjoy!

contrast and compare: democracy?

Remember those papers in high school where you were told to "contrast and compare" two different things? The Daily Show does a little "contrast and compare" on the British versus the American style of "town hall meetings." Man, is sure feels good to live in a staged democracy! Also, you can watch Samantha Bee (of the Daily Show, of course) interview Frank Luntz and make her own Town Hall meeting in an amazing clip a few weeks ago here.

UPDATE: You can watch the full clip (with some before and after the shorter version I posted) here.

HUPD Police Log 5.2.05

Well loyal readers, after last week's spectacular installment regarding our friend the "alleged self-fondler," this week's post is a little light. I guess after a report like that, there's nowhere to go but down. But fear not friends! As always, you're in for a smile, courtesy of the Harvard University Police Log. (see expanded post)
April 26:

8:17 a.m.—A report of a stolen home plate led an officer to a baseball field in Allston. The officer found that, in addition to the theft, a few sand bags and a tarp had been dumped onto the field.
An actual report about a stolen home plate? Sometimes, they make my job too easy...


(Even though the Police Log provides us with a hilarious insight into the dark underworld of Harvard crime, here at Police Blog we always appreciate the work and dedication of the HUPD officers)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Texas Legislature Combats Sexy Cheerleading

In a move designed to crackdown on an apparent epidemic of "sexy cheerleading," the Texas House of Representatives has passed a bill mandating that cheerleaders and other performers "may not perform in a manner that is overtly sexually suggestive."

Demonstrating an impressive knowledge of pop-culture
State Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, said one person's lewd act is another's legitimate artistic expression. Calling the bill a "monstrosity," he warned that the TEA would have to set up a "Cheer-ocracy" to figure out what sexually suggestive means.
I nominate Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku for the job. Get the classic quote in the expanded post. (more in expanded post)

Torrance Shipman: Courtney, this is not a democracy, it's a cheerocracy. I'm sorry, but I'm overruling you.
Courtney: You are being a cheer-tator Torrance and a pain in my ass!

You can find other great Bring It On quotes here.

there must be a God!

Do you know why? Because the Daily Show is going to have a spin-off talk show, parodying O'Reilly, Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity et al., staring Stephen Colbert. Colbert is hilariously deadpan (check out his coverage of Justice Sunday), even in the Times article:
A print reporter should have probably known better than to try to extract from Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert actual details of what the new show will be.

For example, when asked if he planned to be a guest on the program, Mr. Stewart snapped, "I don't stoop to start-ups." A moment later, suspecting that he had been too harsh toward his mentee, Mr. Stewart softened, saying he would consider an appearance "if the show gets its footing."

When told of Mr. Stewart's resistance, Mr. Colbert said his boss should consider himself unwelcome. (more in expanded post)
"His shadow is dark enough," Mr. Colbert said. "I don't want to ask the source of darkness for help. I'm not interested in that same liberal claptrap. That meow, meow, meow, ironic detachment."

"We're going to deal with truth on my program," Mr. Colbert said. "We're going to catch the world in the headlights of my justice."
Wow. I may cry with happiness.

curricular review: philosophy or anti-philosophy?

The Crimson had a great staff ed on the Curricular Review this morning. In it, they discussed the problems that the faculty committees are having agreeing on any sort of general framework for an education philosophy (one professor told me that on the committee there were as many different education philosophies as there were people, maybe more). Rather than pushing to reach any consensus, they recommended a more pragmatic approach: go tangible, start with what works instead of an abstract philosophy:
...instead of convening more committees, the Faculty and the administration should look at what types of classes already work best. There is no tried-and-true rule for what these classes look like, but for the most part they are broadly based, foundational courses that mix approaches to knowledge with important theories and their applications.
(more in expanded post)
Clear examples of these types of courses are Moral Reasoning 22: “Justice,” Science B-62: “The Human Mind,” and Historical Study A-12: “International Conflict and Cooperation in the Modern World.” In “Justice,” students read the works of a variety of philosophers and then apply these theories to modern day controversies and debates. “The Human Mind” introduces students to the main theories of psychology and then delves into some of the more interesting problems and controversies about human action, taking students through basic genetics, biology, and neuroscience along the way. Historical Study A-12 mixes political history with theory, using each component to complement the other through case studies. All three of these courses are highly regarded by students for both the knowledge and the analytic tools that they teach.
I'm partially persuaded by their approach, and their call to action instead of continuing the debate that will not lead anywhere. However, I'm not sure there wouldn't be something healthy about having a longer, continued debate-even if no consensus could reasonably be found-about what kind of philosophy should drive the Harvard College education. I think very few of us are particularly thoughtful about our education. We complain about the core, but mostly we just go on our way, find our area of interest and go to work. But this process can shake us loose from that unthoughtful tendency. Even if the process isn't necessarily going to lead anywhere, might there be value in the process?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

What's the Matter with Kansas?

Hello eveyone. In the current issue of the New York Review of Books -- a great periodical for nerds both literary and political -- there is an article by the guy who wrote What's the Matter with Kansas? I think everyone is pretty familiar with Thomas Frank's main argument in the book, but the article is still worth reading becasue of the way frank relates his thesis to the election of '04. Maybe this hits closer to home for those of us from red states, but I still think this is an issue of crucial importance for all of use to be thinking and talking about. Frank explains the frames of the parties thusly: (more in expanded post)
A newcomer to American politics, after observing this strategy in action in 2004, would have been justified in believing that the Democrats were the party in power, so complacent did they seem and so unwilling were they to criticize the actual occupant of the White House. Republicans, meanwhile, were playing another game entirely. The hallmark of a "backlash conservative" is that he or she approaches politics not as a defender of the existing order or as a genteel aristocrat but as an average working person offended by the arrogance of the (liberal) upper class. The sensibility was perfectly caught during the campaign by onetime Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who explained it to The New York Times like this: "JoeSix-Pack doesn't understand why the world and his culture are changing and why he doesn't have a say in it." These are powerful words, the sort of phrase that could once have been a slogan of the fighting, egalitarian left. Today, though, it was conservatives who claimed to be fighting for the little guy, assailing the powerful, and shrieking in outrage at the direction in which the world is irresistibly sliding.
I guess none of this is particularly new, but I think that another way of stating the same ideas is perhaps more provocative: conservatives are better at sounding like liberals than liberals are. And that is why a lot of people vote for them. (By liberal here I simply mean advancing the interests of and empowering and enfranchising individual people who are not currently so empowered, which is by and large what Democratic policies do and Republican ones don't, despite the rhetoric). When President Bush can successfully masquerade as the protector of the people and make Kerry seem hopelessly aloof and cold, it must mean that policy doesn't matter at all in elections, but that rhetoric (broadly defined) means everything -- and that liberal rhetoric wins. And this means two things: we liberals have to turn the debate into a policy debate, because then we win. And it means that we have do much better about making our rhetoric/packaging/image/whatever more aligned and indicative of what policies they are promoting. Frank has a brilliant example:
It didn't matter that the accusations angrily advanced by the "Swifties" (as they are fondly known on the right) crumbled under the slightest scrutiny, just as it didn't matter that the principal members of the Bush administration had actively avoided service in Vietnam while Kerry had volunteered for it, and just as it didn't matter that the Pentagon under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had botched the nation's current military effort and even sent insufficiently armored soldiers into action. The backlash narrative is more powerful than mere facts, and according to this central mythology conservatives are always hardworking patriots who love their country and are persecuted for it, while liberals, who are either high-born weaklings or eggheads hypnotized by some fancy idea, are always ready to sell their nation out at a moment's notice.
Given that, there is a hard road to hoe in order to redefine the Democratic Party, but an essential one. Also, Thomas Frank is going to be speaking in the Kirkland House JCR on Thursday afternoon at 6:45. Hopefully see y'all there. Anybody have any thoughts on this? Let's rock some comments!

a lesson in liberalism from the labour party

For liberals who are wondering how it is that you express liberal beliefs and values in an intellectual, principled, and new sounding way, I have seen no better example than this advertisement for the Labour Party. Granted, they have publicly funded TV time, and subsequently much longer and more thoughtful ads, but it's interesting to watch these ads and think about the success Labour has had in packaging themselves as pro-business and pro-government at the same time. You can watch other real Labour Ads (as opposed to the great fake ones Jamal posted on Saturday) here.

So, in case you don't read international news, Britain's general elections are this week, and it's going to be an interesting day. It looks like Labour will win, but it may be closer than many liberals would like. For a funny take on British public opinion, I recommend this poll. (more in expanded post)

Also, there's a great article in today's NYTs about liberal strategists and organizers (notably my old boss at both the Dean Campaign and the DNC Karen Hicks) going over to Britain to work for Tony Blair and the Labour Party. It's an interesting piece.

blogs at Harvard...

So, since the idea of the blogosphere (or whatever the hell you want to call it) is to expand the dialogue, I was wondering if people knew of other political (or other forms of non-diary commentary) blogs at Harvard. For starters, I have two: the College Democrats Official Blog, which is basically a series of posted articles on national politics with a paragraph or two of thoughts, and Bikinipolitics.com, a conservative blog kept by a fellow junior political junkie.

Any others?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Princeton's Filibuster

For almost a week now, students at Princeton have taken up filibustering, the old parliamentary technique of prolonged speechmaking, as a way to protest Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's threat to end the filibuster, which has often been used by Democrats to block confirmations of Bush's court nominees. And they haven't been doing it just anywhere, but directly in front of the $25mil student center that Frist's family donated to his alma mater.

Check out the webcam footage on the website here (they're still going!), today's WaPo coverage here, and listen to Rep. Rush Holt's own speech, delivered yesterday. And here's the WaPo's general coverage of the issue.

Sounds like a hot way to move things at a place not normally known for campus activism. Unlike my own bodyguard-thwarted attempt to get to Frist this summer, I think this may have some effect on that old tyme Princtonian, even if it just makes him cry into his checkbook.

I know they're trying to spread this to other campuses too. What do people think about this? Should the Dems and other groups follow suit? Will they?

Supreme Court to Hear Solomon Amendment Case

The title says it all. Read about it here.

Inherit the Wind/Summer for the Gods/Scopes Trial Redux

It appears that Kansas will be holding a courtroom style debate on the role of evolution in the state's public education system.

blogging as synthesis

Blogging is widely misunderstood. For many, a blog is one of two things: 1. a weird personal journal that includes things like "my mood today" and bad romantic poetry or 2. a place for partisan or ideological propaganda and community a la the Dean campaign. Both of those things exist, but the most socially important blogs are more interesting and thoughtful than that. As I wrote in my welcome to readers, Cambridge Common is trying to be a place for people to learn about what's going on in our community and exchange some ideas. Blogs of this types are places for synthesis: we try to bring together different information sources, ways of thinking, people, arguments, perspectives into some sort of coherent dialogue. So far, there are have a couple successful instances of just that (the racism conversation below for instance). (more in expanded post)

What blogging is not is a replacement for mainstream media. Whether on campus, nationally or internationally, the rise of the "blogosphere" has been viewed with envy or suspicion, as if blogs are trying to overtake mainstream media as the arbiters of social or political truth, the producers of reporting, or the guides of dialogue. This conception, while understandable, is widely off-basis.

One of the primary tenants of blogging is the self-conscious realization that the blogger is but one voice, and that commenters and members of a blogging community are in a conversation. The blog is an aspiring democratic tool for dialogue, for engaging mainstream media to improve, deepen and broaden context. Blogging, in this sense, is an inherently alternative source of information. Someone (in our case The Crimson) has to be doing the real journalistic work that produces common knowledge to be considered, augmented, criticized or supported. Blogs, with few exceptions, cannot do that. The hope of a blog like this is that it begins to construct a conversation that's occurring on campus by linking sources together, different forms of commentary, different ideas, different communities. Blogging is the act of trying to create synthesis by being an antithesis, pushing the thesis beyond its own previous conceptions and being pushed back in turn. You can't really have synthesis, however, without something that represents thesis.