Sunday, October 23, 2005

Hello from Mali

Quick hello to any who may read because I have 10 minutes left on a very slow internet conection. I am very hot. We are the unversal "toubab" here- purchasers of trinkets at inflated rates and purveyors of "bics" to small children. I had forgotten what it's like to be so conspicuous. We paid an immam to let us into his mosque- entirely made of mud and straw. bulging arches like I've never seen before. Our guide and I argued the merits of polygamous marriage. Best mutton in peanut sauce I've ever had. Good times.
Take care. Maybe I'll bring you back something, if you're lucky. Until then I remain your ever-so-red-sand covered (yeah, you know you want me)


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The World at 18

I am procrastinating. I'll be here until midnight at this rate. Still, the mind wanders. And inevitably, I meander over to Stephanie Klein's. A little torture, a little laughter. I read yesterday's post where she whines that she doesn't like feeling guilty about reveling in her accomplishments. The comments were a little harsh- I revel in my accomplishments, too, to some extent, except that my inner critic always whispers "you didn't deserve that." I also don't count things like "lead in the school play" as among the happiest moments in my life. But whatevs. It's not like I'm so great.

In her post she links to an earlier post (a painful habit of hers)- one that features a quote from William Jennings Bryan which she apparently put below her picture in her high school yearbook:

"Destiny isn’t a matter of chance it’s a matter of choice. It’s not a thing to be waited for; it’s a thing to be achieved."

Lovely quote, yes, yes. But seriously, doesn't this point to a lack of curiosity? She must have found it in some "notable quotables" book and didn't bother to find out who William Jennings Bryan actually was. If she had, she'd know that he was a prominent anti-evolutionist that argued against Clarence Darrow in the Scopes Monkey Trial. Bryan argued against the teaching of evolution in public schools. Of course, that was the 1920's, and of course, the mores of the population were quite different, Darwin wasn't the (mostly) acceptable quantity that he is today, etc.

Still, that's not a person whose quote I'd stick below my picture on my high school yearbook. Not someone I'd particularly like to be identified with. The question begs answering- was the 18 year old Ms. Klein guilty of a telling lack of curiosity? Or did she know this about Bryan, and still wish to quote him? I'm not sure which is worse.
Who did I quote in my high school yearbook, you ask? Why, the spectacular Omar Khayyam.

"Dreaming, when dawn's left hand was in the sky,
I heard a voice within the tavern cry:
Awake, my little ones, and drink the cup
Before life's liquor in its cup be dry."

Juxtaposing these two quotes now, mine and Stephanie's, I'm struck by their prescience. Stephanie's points to blind ambition- success at any cost, even if the inspiration for the success is somewhat... suspect. Mine presages nothing more than my present drinking habit. I thought I was being clever; Stephanie was being... well, what she is- predictable, un-subtle. But both quotes speak to our present situation more than either of us could've guessed at the time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Il est cinq heures au Mali

I can't lay these photos out for shit. Sorry. Here's where we're off to next week- Mali. Husband's aunt and uncle are intrepid travelers, and are along to supplement their African ceremonial sword collection. Husband is along because he's a great sport with a taste for the exotic. I'm along because -dude- this is the part of the world where I made my life decisions. I was living in Senegal and I decided to leave my then-fiance, quit my dream of academia, come back to America and go to law school. Good decision? Who knows- but it was a decision.*
So now back to the land of incredibly tall people who hold hands as they talk, 5am calls to prayer, spectacular music, more sand than you'd ever really want to encounter.
Anyone been to Mali? Any tips/recommendations?

*Obviously the leaving of the fiance was a good decision. Leaving of academia? Jury's still out.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Ok, peeps. Here's the call to arms (yes, I mean that ironically)(I know this post looks long and boring but please read)(via Andrew Sullivan):



Mr. MCCAIN (for himself, Mr. GRAHAM, Mr. HAGEL, Mr. SMITH, and Ms. COLLINS) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill H.R. 2863, making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2006, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:


(a) IN GENERAL.—No person in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense or under detention in a Department of Defense facility shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.

(b) APPLICABILITY.—Subsection (a) shall not apply to with respect to any person in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense pursuant to a criminal law or immigration law of the United States.

(c) CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the rights under the United States Constitution of any person in the custody or under the physical jurisdiction of the United States.SEC. __.


(a) In General.—No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.[Page S10909]

(b) Construction.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose any geographical limitation on the applicability of the prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment under this section.

(c) Limitation on Supersedure.—The provisions of this section shall not be superseded, except by a provision of law enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act which specifically repeals, modifies, or supersedes the provisions of this section.

(d) Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Defined.—In this section, the term "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" means the cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as defined in the United States Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment done at New York, December 10, 1984.

The good news: this amendment (to a military spending bill) passed the Senate 90 to 9. That's great news, actually. Colin Powell has signed on, giving it his approval. Great support for a much needed piece of legislation.

The horrifying, frightening news is that Bush plans to veto it. Oh yes. However, if it passes the House with similar numbers, the White House may just be cowed into silence.

Taking a cue from Andrew Sullivan, I'm asking you to write your Congressperson to let him/her know how strongly you support this amendment. You can find out the stats on your Representative here.

Washington Post article here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Rumination --> Disgust --> Anger --> Depression

See, here's the thing with the Miers nomination. I want to enjoy it- I want to enjoy watching (reading) die-hard conservatives squirm, lament, suddenly realize that "even Kerry might have been better than this." And I do enjoy it, on various visceral levels. But this is the SUPREME COURT. Bush's intransigence in the face of scrutiny from within his party and without are amusing, in a cynical way, when he, say, appoints his "message nanny" (Karen Hughes) as "Undersecretary of State for trying to talk the Middle East into liking us." That was more funny than dangerous. Harriet Miers as the next SCOTUS justice- mmm... not so funny.

Michelle Malkin (yup) quotes a Randy Barnett editorial in the WSJ which sums up the educated conservative take on Miers and frankly my take as well. (As an aside, Randy Barnett is a law prof at BU and was the mentor of my favorite professor, Marcus Cole, a groundbreaking libertarian whose take on contract law is pretty revolutionary and who is now working at the Hoover Institute at Stanford (I think).)

"By characterizing this appointment as cronyism, I mean to cast no aspersions on Ms. Miers. I imagine she is an intelligent and able lawyer. To hold down the spot of White House counsel she must be that and more. She must also be personally loyal to the president and an effective bureaucratic infighter, two attributes that are not on the top of the list of qualifications for the Supreme Court.

To be qualified, a Supreme Court justice must have more than credentials; she must have a well-considered "judicial philosophy," by which is meant an internalized view of the Constitution and the role of a justice that will guide her through the constitutional minefield that the Supreme Court must navigate. Nothing in Harriet Miers's professional background called upon her to develop considered views on the extent of congressional powers, the separation of powers, the role of judicial precedent, the importance of states in the federal system, or the need for judges to protect both the enumerated and unenumerated rights retained by the people. It is not enough simply to have private opinions on these complex matters; a prospective justice needs to have wrestled with them in all their complexity before attaining the sort of judgment that decision-making at the Supreme Court level requires, especially in the face of executive or congressional disagreement.

Even a star quarterback with years of high school and college football under his belt takes years of experience and hard knocks to develop the knowledge and instincts needed to survive in the NFL. The Supreme Court is the big league of the legal profession, and Ms. Miers has never even played the judicial equivalent of high school ball, much less won a Heisman Trophy.
Ms. Miers would be well qualified for a seat on a court of appeals, where she could develop a grasp of all these important issues. She would then have to decide what role text and original meaning should play in constitutional interpretation in the context of close cases and very difficult decisions. The Supreme Court is no place to confront these issues for the very first time."

So while we Dems might be tempted to triumph at the confusion and disappointment going on right now on the right side of the aisle, we have to remember that this ill-qualified woman stands to influence all our lives. The Supreme Court is no place for cronies, no place to "reward loyalty," no place for a man or woman of questionable legal qualifications.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Lessons not learned- Bush's newest "Brownie Moment"

No time to post anything of substance today but some food for thought:

"Harriet Miers is a capable lawyer, a hard worker, and a kind and generous person. She would be an reasonable choice for a generalist attorney, which is indeed how George W. Bush first met her. She would make an excellent trial judge: She is a careful and fair-minded listener. But US Supreme Court?
In the White House that hero worshipped the president, Miers was distinguished by the intensity of her zeal: She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met." (my italics)
David Frum, National Review Online, via

This woman needs to... meet more men, apparently.

Also, note the source of this quote. This from the National Review?

My prediction: the Senate won't confirm her. Thoughts?