1.31.2005

Ah, the joy of welfare

Germany, that paradise of social welfare services, has implemented welfare reform in light of rising unemployment. If unemployed workers refuse to take a job, their benefits are cut. Germany also legalized prostitution two years ago.

Can you guess the logical result?

According to the Telegraph story, a 25-year-old woman is about to lose her welfare benefits for refusing to take a job as a sex worker.

Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit. Last month German unemployment rose for the 11th consecutive month to 4.5 million, taking the number out of work to its highest since reunification in 1990.


At this point the women are only being pushed into jobs 'related to sexual services,' but according to the article,
"Now that prostitution is no longer considered by the law to be immoral, there is really nothing but the goodwill of the job centres to stop them from pushing women into jobs they don't want to do."


This is a win-win situation. The government is no longer wasting resources going after vice crimes and there is also a disincentive to spend long periods of time collecting social welfare benefits.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...heh...

1.30.2005

If the question is wrong, the answer doesn't matter

Saturday's Thus Spoke Epictetus quote:

“‘What good do I get from following your teachings?’ What greater good do you look for than this? You were shameless and shall be self-respecting, untrustworthy and you shall be trusted, dissolute and you shall be self-controlled. If you look for greater things than these, go on doing as you do now: not even a god can save you.” -Epictetus, Discourses 4.9.17 [Matheson Trans.]


Armchair philosophers and pundits have rightfully decried those who focus their life energies on leisure activities and pleasures. Hedonism, even of the enlightened variety, is seen as a construct to justify man's baser nature.

Those who are seeking out the "big score" or the "right job" receive less criticism. Ambition is lauded in our modern society; it's admirable to want to be the biggest and the best.

As Epictetus points out, neither extreme is the correct goal. What good is the search for leisure or accomplishment if one has not virtue? And if one masters one's own passions, how much healthier will the enjoyment of pleasure or the attainment of accomplishment be, by being grounded in a personal framework of morals and ethics?

And thus, I will continue to work on being self-respecting, trustworthy, and self-controlled.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...live well...

1.27.2005

Marxist Limerick

Found in the comments of this insightful post about suicide bombing at The Virtual Stoa.

There was a great Marxist named Lenin
Who did two or three million men in
That's a lot to have done in
But where he did one in
That great Marxist Stalin did ten in.


Yours truly,
Mr. X

...giggling at the massacre...

Jefferson on Ancient Philosophy

Michael Gilleland has a wonderful letter of Thomas Jefferson's, opining on ancient philosopy.

As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurean. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us. Epictetus indeed, has given us what was good of the Stoics; all beyond, of their dogmas, being hypocrisy and grimace.


He has some faint praise for Seneca and bemoans the lack of good translations of Epictetus. There are compliments for Jesus, interspersed heavily with criticism of Christianity.

The establishment of the innocent and genuine character of this benevolent moralist, and the rescuing it from the imputation of imposture, which has resulted from artificial systems, invented by ultra-Christian sects, unauthorized by a single word ever uttered by him, is a most desirable object, and one to which Priestley has successfully devoted his labors and learning. It would in time, it is to be hoped, effect a quiet euthanasia of the heresies of bigotry and fanaticism which have so long triumphed over human reason, and so generally and deeply afflicted mankind; but this work is to be begun by winnowing the grain from the chaff of the historians of his life.


Jefferson rocked.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...back in black...

1.24.2005

Weekend Recap

Friday night was dinner at Alero, complete with pitchers of margaritas and a lot of overloud and inappropriate dinner conversation (thanks, Jaisen). After dinner I went home to prepare for the first year moot court competition in the morning. That was the plan, but after the sleep deprivation on Thursday night, I just sacked out.

Saturday morning I got up bright and early to get into a suit and tie and down to the law school by 8:15 am. The first snowflakes were starting to fall just as I was turning into the parking garage. After fortifying the free coffee with a generous slug of bourbon from my trusty flask, I read through the cases and rewrote my oral argument.

Moot court, for those not in the know, involves competitors arguing cases that have already been decided in front of a panel of mock judges. Points are awarded based on presentation, legal argument, and, most importantly, how well you avoid getting thrown completely off track by some judge interrupting your brilliant soliloquy on fundamental liberty with a stupid question. The secret of appellate argument: What you think matters doesn't matter; only what the judge thinks matters, matters.

It was a blast. I love public speaking and working under pressure. In spite of the fun I had, I was not one of the lucky few to advance. More free time for me.

By the time my session was done, the blizzard had come. Thinking ahead, I packed a change of clothes, so I hiked to the Metro station and hung out at Shannon's house. We watched The Funeral and had some food, along with bourbon-fortified hot chocolate. Once the roads were clear I trekked back to WCL to get my car and got home by 11:00 pm.

Sunday was devoted to cleaning the house (minor progress) and studying (also minor progress).

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...catching up...

1.22.2005

Thank you for driving badly

Washington, D.C. drivers have an annoying habit of speeding up, then stopping. It's like stop and go driving is their ideal mode of transportation. Owning a sports car has taught me to prefer the opposite, a smooth driving style of matching speed to traffic conditions to minimize stops and starts. As I commute every day, I try to set an example for others.

Driving to class through the snow on Inauguration Eve, I was going up a hill on Massachusetts Ave. Thanks to the drivers in front of me, I had to stop, since they were determined to maintain their bad habits in spite of the terrible road conditions. Aforementioned small sports car did not want to go again, since the road was icy and I was trying to start from a dead stop. I revved the engine and spun the wheels trying to get some momentum. Then the radiator exploded. Fountains of antifreeze and jets of steam shot out in front of my car.

After moving to the side of the road, I crawled around the back of the car with my front license plate, scraping a clear patch on the road behind each of my tires. After five minutes of bitter cold drudgery, I got back in the car and started driving back up Massachusetts Ave. After stopping once to let the car cool down, I made it to school with five minutes to spare.

After class, John and I went to Armands for food and beer. I then limped my car home, with a stop at the downtown Silver Spring Austin Grill for another beer (I had to let the car cool off).

Thursday was spent at home, while the car was in the shop, getting a new radiator. By 9:00 pm that night, I had my car back and had spent $400. Joy.

Severin called at 9:30 asking where I was (it was a hash night). Against my better judgment, I drove down to Wonderland to catch up with him and the rest of the hashers. One beer turned to two, which turned into good conversation with a pretty girl, which turned into one more beer at another bar, which turned into two beers, which turned into staying up into the wee hours talking with aforementioned pretty girl. Had I not had my car in the shop all day, I would have metroed down to the hash and would not have been able to avail myself of the good company.

Thanks to the asshole drivers in D.C., I had a wonderful evening on Thursday. And this is why I'm a stoic. We can't control what happens to us, only how we respond.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...smiling more...

1.15.2005

Rat Pack Cocktail Party

American Express has this points program to allow their loyal cardholders to shop for useless crap as a reward for charging lots of useless crap on their cards.

Wonder of wonders, I found a non-crap item in their catalog and I had enough points to order it. What, you ask, was the item? Three Rat Pack CDs: Boys Night Out, Eee-O-11: The Best of the Rat Pack, and The Rat Pack Live at the Sands. The CDs arrived and I was grooving to them. So much so that having a Rat Pack themed cocktail party on Saturday night seemed like a better idea than studying.

So, I broke out my smoking jacket, invited a few people over, and we had a swinging good time. Pictures:

Me with smoking jacket and flask.


Gabor and Jessica.


Josh and Allyson.


Jessica and Shannon.


Margaret and Severin.


We drank, conversed, and made merry with the soothing strains of Frank, Dean, and Sammy in the background.

Sure beats studying.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...starting the semester right...

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1.13.2005

Scalia v. Breyer

Having to work, I caught most of the discussion between Justices Scalia and Breyer held at my law school via C-SPAN (first on the web and then in the car), but I got to school in time to see the last bit from one of the multiple viewing rooms on campus.

As I was telling John, "I heart Scalia". I was quite pleased when he referenced the Framers' dim view of, "Continental powers who didn't trust their subjects with arms," as an example of why looking to foreign law was not necessarily a positive thing, even in 1789. He has a clarity of thought and delivery that was refreshing and insightful. Justice Breyer is also wicked smart, but in more of a gentle thinking out loud kind of way.

The event was highly entertaining, but it seemed as though the Justices were really talking past each other. Scalia was saying that foreign law citations should have no force in American Constitutional jurisprudence, whether one is an originalist or not. Breyer was saying that reading foreign opinions was helpful to understanding the law. They're both right, but in the end I agree with Scalia's conclusion of this exchange (from the Washington Post story):

"What does the opinion of a wise Zimbabwean judge . . . have to do with what Americans believe," Scalia asked Breyer, "unless you think it has been given to the courts" to make moral judgments that properly should be left to elected representatives. "Well, it's relevant in this way," Breyer replied. "They are human beings there, just as they are here. You're trying to get a picture of how other people have dealt with it."

"Indulge your curiosity," Scalia joked, "just don't put it in your opinions."


On the other hand, Breyer had the most stirring quote, a paraphrase of James Madison, saying the the American Constitution is, "a document of power granted by liberty, not liberty granted by power." The original Madison is longer and less eloquent, but the sentiment is the same.

I recommend watching the whole thing, which can be found at C-SPAN's website for the next 15 days or so.

There was a reception afterwards, but I had Constitutional Law class to go to (oh, the irony). I ran upstairs to get a soda before class. The soda machines are in an alcove behind the dining room (which had been screened off for the reception). As I was about to turn down the hallway to walk back to class, a Secret Service agent asked me to stand out of the hallway for a minute. I backed off and about 30 seconds later Dean Claudio Grossman, Justice Scalia, and Justice Breyer walked right in front of me, no more than five feet away. I got closer to the Justices by grabbing a soda than I likely would have in the press of the reception. More irony.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...back to studying...


UPDATE: Professor Kenneth Anderson has posted an excellent analysis of the implications of Breyer's position at his blog.

UPDATE: A full transcript has been posted on the WCL homepage.

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1.12.2005

OMG: No Weapons! Color me shocked.

Apparently after wasting lots of time and money on a wild goose chase, the White House has decided to end the search. About freaking time. But wait, there's more.

Chief U.S. weapons hunter Charles Duelfer is to deliver his final report on the search next month. ''It's not going to fundamentally alter the findings of his earlier report,'' McClellan said, referring to preliminary findings from last September. Duelfer reported then that Saddam Hussein not only had no weapons of mass destruction and had not made any since 1991, but that he had no capability of making any either. Bush unapologetically defended his decision to invade Iraq.

Bush has appointed a panel to investigate why the intelligence about Iraq's weapons was wrong.


Maybe they can get the panel that investigated the forged CBS memos. I hear that they're looking for work.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...blah...

1.11.2005

Libertarian Girl: Vapid and now Plagiarized

Libertarian Girl has been a busy blogger in the last month. So far she's done her best to associate the moniker "Libertarian" with vapid, insensitive, reactionary drivel. Examples:

Opining on GWB's judicial appointments without knowing anything about them:

I don't know the specifics of each of his appointments who were filibustered by Democrats, but I presume that Democrats didn't like them because they are strict constructionists when it comes to interpreting statutes and the U.S. Constitution. (I only hope his appointments aren't religious nuts whose only raison d'etre is prohibiting abortions.)


Whining about the lack of interesting content in the echo chamber while adding to the problem:
I've been looking all over the right wing blogosphere for interesting posts, but nearly every blog I read is posting about the same thing. "Look at how many hundreds of millions of dollars of tsunami aid we gave! We are not stingy!"

I think there's so much irony here. Right wing blogs have normally critized[sic] the left wing for caring about what Europeans think of us. Liberals would say "Bush is a bad president because Europeans don't like him," and then right wing bloggers would go crazy and write "who cares what Europeans think?"


Ignorantly criticizing criticism of a "conservative":
(3) It's a shame that a conservative black guy has to be the focus of public anger. I don't know exactly what Williams stands for, but if he's labeled conservative then he can't be all bad.


Taking a brave stand against "liberals who hate the United States":
Most of the opposition to the war in Iraq came from liberals who hate the United States and think our country is so bad and evil that we have no moral authority to take any military action. Liberals think we're really not much better than Iraq.

I disagree strongly with the liberal "hate the United States" viewpoint. Although I am extremely disappointed with our nation's increasingly authoritarian and socialist agenda, we are still a nation of freedom, and our nation was founded on freedom. Through freedom and free market capitalism, not by conquest or evil, we became a great superpower.


Now, despite her poor arguments and general lack of useful content, someone has stooped to copying one of her posts verbatim without attribution, perhaps to get on the Libertarian Girl bandwagon (recognized by its vile pink paint job).

At 7:14 AM this morning, Libertarian Girl posted about Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. At 9:21 AM, the exact same post showed up on New York Night Owl's blog. I guess she's looking to tap into the same group of fawning ideologues (see here, here, and here) who are willing to overlook the poor writing and thinking in favor of a pretty face.

Message to Libertarian Girl: The world can do without any more Ann Coulter clones. Find your voice, learn from your critics, and try not to post unless you have something useful to say. Ignorant vitriol and vapid nihilism are so 90s.

Message to New York Night Owl: Plagiarism sucks.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...vented...

Judgements over appearances

In my ongoing quest to find the right way to live I subscribe to Thus Spoke Epictetus, a service that emails an Epictetus quote each day. Today's quote:

"A man is not indeed like a stone or a log, that you can show what he is by just pointing a finger, but you show what he is as a man, when you show what are his judgements." -Epictetus, Discourses 3.2.12 [Matheson Trans.]


So much effort is wasted on external appearances when the true measure of a man is in the choices that he makes and how he lives. The same wisdom is echoed by Thoreau in Walden when he says:

"I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes." -Henry David Thoreau


Yours truly,
Mr. X

...contemplative...

1.06.2005

Balloons are the new clowns.

Be careful around balloons. Like clowns and Santa Claus, they will kill you.

Hat tip: Allyson.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...super freak...

1.05.2005

Satisfaction

Ministry of Sound has some seriously cool stuff.

This video by Benny Benassi has it all. Hot chicks, power tools, hard beats, and synth vocals.

Hat tip: cyberbutterfly.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...rocking out...

1.04.2005

Real Life vs. The Internet

Johnny Law sent me a link to this hilarious educational video from Red Vs. Blue explaining the differences between real life and the Internet.

Pardon me my friend, but I am Nigeerian royiltyn and I need you to send me money. Please ignore the fact that I don't know how to spell Nigerian or royalty.


Glad I got that reality check.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...the incredible edible Internet...

Parking ticket...or is it?

Walking back to my car from the metro tonight, I saw a foreign piece of paper lodged beneath my windshield wiper. Great. Another $20-35 donation to the DC budget for violating some obscure parking regulation.

When I got to my car, it turned out that the paper was not a dreaded ticket, but a business card. Great. Another freaking advertisement for a "Make Money At Home Super System!!!"

Wrong about that one too. Just a simple card with weird text.

Weird card

But being an ill-behaved woman doesn't mean you'll make history. It might just mean you weren't listening when your parents tried to teach you manners.


Nice to know that the people who park around Takoma Metro station see the value in bringing a little surrealism into my life.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...neither ill-behaved or a woman...

Tsunami = War on Terror Opportunity?

According to Colin Powell, American efforts to provide tsunami aid may help fight terror.

"I hope that as a result of our efforts, as a result of our helicopter pilots being seen by the citizens of Indonesia helping them, that value system of ours will be reinforced," Powell said.


I suppose I'm hopelessly naive and thought that maybe we were helping people hurt by the biggest natural disaster of my lifetime because it was the right thing to do. I guess the Hammer of Truth was just scratching the surface of just how cold and calculating the government is being with our tax dollars.

The United States bankrolls humanitarian relief in part "because we believe it is in the best interest of those countries and it's in our best interest," Powell said. "It dries up those pools of dissatisfaction that might give rise to terrorist activity."


I guess it makes a hell of a lot more sense than starting wars, but still, it's kind of icky.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...bah humbug...

Update: Tom Knapp doesn't think that U.S. aid efforts are going to be changing anyone's mind in the long term.

[E]xpecting US aid, governmental or non-governmental, to placate the Islamists is naive too. Jemiah Islamiya won't be coming to Jesus just because Uncle Sam represented with some clean water and a bowl of Uncle Ben's Long-Grained Rice. It may cut into their support base some, temporarily (and the tsunami itself certainly cut into their funding). But the people being helped almost certainly do want a hand up, not a hand out -- and once they're on their feet, they'll likely not want the Americans to move in with their DVD players and start watching NYPD Blue reruns and tracking mud on the neon green Marshall Plan shag carpet.

1.02.2005

Let's start a gulag!

According to a Washington Post article:

Administration officials are preparing long-range plans for indefinitely imprisoning suspected terrorists whom they do not want to set free or turn over to courts in the United States or other countries, according to intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials.


Okay, we're not going to try them, deport them, charge them with any crime, or set them free. Instead, we're going to build a prison where they will be held indefinitely without any judicial review. Looks like we're picking up the Gulag Archipelago torch where the U.S.S.R. left off.

The Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions, including for hundreds of people now in military and CIA custody whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts. The outcome of the review, which also involves the State Department, would also affect those expected to be captured in the course of future counterterrorism operations.


Lifetime imprisonment without trial or charge. I'm normally pretty mellow about government abuses, but this kind of makes me be ashamed to be an American.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...wtf...

Give some money to aid tsunami relief efforts

Sulekha.com is doing a dollar-for-dollar match for funds donated to Association for India's Development (AID) relief program for tsunami survivors. AID is a local NGO in India and in my experience, established local NGOs are more efficient in spending relief dollars than the big players who swoop in after a disaster happens.

Anyway, give some cash to your fellow man and have a Happy New Year.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...feeling good...