Friday, November 24, 2006

Many Pages Now and Lost Opportunities Then

As I spend my Thanksgiving break frantically preparing for my exams I am once again overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material we have gone over. When I turn to the beginning of the course to start memorizing I feel like someone else has written the notes in the margins of my books, and someone else has typed up the close to 400 pages in case summaries. I tallied up 3 out of my 4 classes, and we have gone over more than 2,000 pages of dense, chaotic legal material (my fourth was more scattered so I didn't count it up, though it probably amounts to about 500 pages). Two of the courses are closed book, meaning all of that has to be memorized cold by the second week of December.

It makes me regret my undergraduate study habits. If I put just half of the energy into my undergraduate studies that I put into law school I would have been in the top %20 of my class if not better. What makes the regret so strong is that in college you were rewarded in proportion to the amount of work you put into the course. I was never once disappointed after working hard. This is not the case in law school.

I think there are two reasons for my not working hard in Undergrad - My unhappiness and my peer group. I was always unhappy, and one of my weaknesses is that I cannot work well when I am unhappy. I don't think there is any excuse for it but that is the way I am. As for my peer group, there were always a few kids in every class you could look at and say "at least I am not in his position," meaning you could always count on a few to do absolutely nothing - so if you just went to class and paid attention you were ahead of a few. That cushion does not exist in law school, and its absence has been one of the best things to ever happen to me.

But the lost opportunities due to my bad grades are manifold!

On another note, while I am overjoyed at my newfound academic discipline, I am worried about what it is doing to me as a person. I feel more and more alienated from those around me. I am spending so little time around people that I feel like I am losing the ability to relate to other human beings. I guess it will have to wait until after the bar exam...

Monday, November 13, 2006

On the Uses of Fear

"The Myasishchev-4 (M-4) went into serial production in 1954 but was a huge disappointment. It lacked the range to hit American targets because Myasishchev could not devise a reliable method to refuel the plane.
The Kremlin watched with Glee as a very helpful discussion of Soviet Bomber technology subsequently broke into the open in the United States. Led by Missouri Senator Stuart Symington, a former secretary of the Air Force under Truman with presidential ambitions, some congressman began decrying a strategic “bomber gap” between the United States and the Soviet Union. “It is now clear,” said Symington, “that the United States, along with the rest of the free world, may have lost control of the air.” Despite assurances from the Eisenhower administration that the U.S. Air Force remained ahead of the Soviets, some journalists and legislators began throwing around extravagant assumptions about the capabilities of the M-4
[...]Bulganin and Zhukov were given the task of preparing a major air show for Soviet aviation day on July 13. The country’s entire fleet of three or four M-4’s was to be flown in wide circles around Tushino Airport to convey the impression that the Soviet Union had at least 28 of them."

Kruschev’s Cold War: The Inside Story of an American Adversary by Aleksander Fursenko and Timothy Naftali, p 41-41

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Plan

Maybe I am just paranoid, but I have been thinking lately that part of Bush’s strategy is to lay blame for the Iraq war on the Democrats. Perhaps he has wanted to change course for some time, but waited for the Democrats to get in control of Congress to do so. That way it looks like he would have “stayed the course,” but those disloyal democrats came in and forced his hand.

If the new strategy (if there is one) does not work out, I have a feeling that all of the blame will fall on the Democrats. I am sure the Republican party has their strategy prepared for a backlash – “look the Democrats could not do any better” and especially the oldy but goody “we would have won but not for the disloyalty of those at home.” Pulling out of Iraq may be the messiest part of this whole affair. This is when we will see the true adverse effects of the war – perhaps total civil war, fundamentalism, Iranian control etc., and it will all occur under a democratically controlled legislative branch.

I find the republican position that we would have won Iraq (and Vietnam) if only people had been more loyal to be problematic. First, no one would deny that if we were to put all of the resources of the U.S. behind the war effort on a World War II scale and fight this war in the most brutal manner humanly possible, then we could probably win. However, to “win” in that manner won’t be much a victory. We would go down as a brutal and ruthless country, and if we were ever in a position of weakness, the world would remember our actions.

Second, this implies that anything is militarily possible, but look at the example of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. There was a country that could keep everything secret from the press and devote as much resources to the conflict as it saw fit and it still lost. There was no press to blame, it was just not militarily possible for the Soviet Union to subjugate Afghanistan.

I have always been opposed to the Iraq war both on strategic and moral grounds. Even if you are the paradigm of the flag waving Republican, you had to see that we were not going to be greeted as liberators. The other day I was watching the scene from Band of Brothers where the American soldiers enter an occupied town, and everyone has come out with flowers and the girls are all going crazy for the soldiers. I thought that this would be the perfect tool to use to explain to the American mentality to Europeans and others. This image is deeply ingrained in the American psyche. It drives American foreign policy as well as American behavior abroad. It will be interesting to see just what it will take for Americans to realize that this is not longer the case (and maybe never really was but for one brief moment).

ADDENDUM - I just came across a detailed exploration of this idea here. Aptly titled: "Tin-foil hat time: Were Bush and Rove "The Producers" of an intentional flop?"

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I am going to a lecture about Melville later today. I looked up one of the lecturer's articles and came across this:

"One of the implications was that literature was no more or less worthy of study than any other semiotic system; fashion, gestures, sports could now serve as a "text" for the game of interpretation. But this view soon lost its playfulness, and turned into the dogma that literature, like any constructed system of meaning, must be assessed in relation to this or that "identity" (race, class, gender, etc.) to the exclusion of every other point of view. Here began in earnest the fragmentation of literary studies that is so evident today—and that has left a legacy of acrimony, and of intellectual and professional fatigue.
Deconstruction can also be seen as simply another phase in the continuing effort by literary studies to get respect from "hard" disciplines by deploying a specialized vocabulary of its own.
The field of English has become, to use a term given currency twenty-five years ago by the redoubtable Stanley Fish, a "self-consuming artifact." On the one hand, it has lost the capacity to put forward persuasive judgments; on the other hand, it is stuffed with dogma and dogmatists. It has paid overdue attention to minority writers, but, as Lynn Hunt notes in her essay in What's Happened to the Humanities?, it (along with the humanities in general) has failed to attract many minority students. It regards the idea of progress as a pernicious myth, but never have there been so many critics so sure that they represent so much progress over their predecessors. It distrusts science, but it yearns to be scientific—as attested by the notorious recent "Sokal hoax," in which a physicist submitted a deliberately fraudulent article full of pseudoscientific gibberish to a leading cultural-studies journal, which promptly published it. It denounces the mass media for pandering to the public with pitches and slogans, but it cannot get enough of mass culture. The louder it cries about the high political stakes in its own squabbles, the less connection it maintains to anything resembling real politics. And by failing to promote literature as a means by which students may become aware of their unexamined assumptions and glimpse worlds different from their own, the self-consciously radical English department has become a force for conservatism.
"In what is perhaps the largest irony of all, the teaching of English has been penetrated, even saturated, by the market mentality it decries. The theory factory (yesterday's theory is deficient, today's is new and improved) has become expert in planned obsolescence. And though English departments are losing the competition for students, they have not resisted the consumerism of the contemporary university, where student-satisfaction surveys drive grade inflation (it is the rare student whose satisfaction is immune to a low grade), and the high enrollments on which departments depend for lobbying power with the administration can sometimes be propped up by turning education into entertainment."

Sunday, November 05, 2006


See Also,1518,439766,00.html

Based on just my experience in the workforce right after college, I knew all of these things to be true. While the news channels spout statistics about US employment and economic growth, I have witnessed something different happening.

To begin, know of the experience of my grandparents is vastly different from my own generation. Back then, you graduated from high school, got a job, a house, and started a family. For just about everyone I know, that is something that is seems plain impossible now. They call this the “Boomerang Generation” because so many people are going back to live at home, but I don’t think the reasons for that are social. It is because getting a good job right out of school, and making enough to support your own home is tough. According to statistics though, we are supposed to be a much wealthier country than we were in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but somehow it does not seem that way.

There is a misconception in blue collar society that gives people the false belief that once you have a college degree you are made, but that is not the case. I graduated into a world of service jobs – something I did not foresee. When I began looking for employment I quickly found out that the only jobs available were demeaning and extremely low paying service jobs. Answering phones, waiting tables or working a cash register (did all three). It was truly a life changing experience. I had been told my whole life to stay away from the trades and get a college degree, but it turned out to be nothing more than student loan debt, a ticket to a cubicle and lower pay than if I had learned a trade.

I am extremely critical of the service economy, and I believe it is at the bottom of many of our social ills. When people have meaningful or well paying jobs, they are more content. But every year we lose those jobs and they are replaced with service jobs that consist of performing repetitive tasks for eight hours a day. Why are so many in the inner cities not working? I think that is an easy one. Look at what they are being asked to do – work a service job, slaving for the public to make peanuts. The fact is that many people would rather be homeless than choose that lifestyle. How can the independence and excitement of crime compete with answering a phone and performing the same process every minute for eight hours with no potential for wage growth?

What I have done personally about this situation is that I have gone double or nothing by going to law school (probably the reason why the majority of people go to law school). By the time I graduate I will have $160,000 in debt, and most of it is private. Since I did not place in the top %10-20 of my class, my job prospects are dismal to say the least (not something many people know about law school).

I have been looking to bankruptcy law lately for some of these reasons. Not only would I completely believe in what I am doing, but if I am right about the economic situation, there will come a time when bankruptcy lawyers will be very much in demand.